The Library

Let’s Do Everything Wrong Right?!

Taku Takemura
(P-Vine Books)

This book is a rare gem that I happened to discover by chance inside an over-flowing basket left outside a bookstore in Jinbōchō, the bustling labyrinth of literature located in the centre of Tokyo. At this point in my trip – due to my very simple and limited grasp on the Japanese language – I hadn’t had a real conversation with another human in days. At least nothing that covered topics beyond whether my coffee was to stay or to go or whether it was illegal to take a picture here or not. When this book stumbled into my staggered sleep-deprived path, it stirred up some much needed conversation about a particular culture that transcends the language barriers I was currently tripping over – the short, sharp culture shock of skateboarding.

In this book, prolific cultural writer who has worked and been a regular Sunday skateboarder in both L.A and Tokyo, Taku Takemura interviewed and featured a vast range of artists that draw influence from the urban aesthetics that regularly re-contextualise the definition of skateboarding in our sub-conscious. Though the interviews are in Japanese – intially I had been holding off this review in case an English translation (which Takemura is often asked for by friends and fans alike) surfaced – this is a book that evokes such powerful and timeless memories of a culture that has dictated the way many of us think through a visual catalyst.

It is a book I personally treasure, not just for the linguistically awkward but emotionally positive conversation it sparked between me and the shop-owner, but for its cultural capital. It has the power to accurately capture the definitive visual dialogue of skateboarding throughout its comparitively short but hugely productive history. Takemura has selected with expert precision a collective that could quite easily be labeled as the primary source from which many skateboarders’ influences are spawned. Indeed, the books full title is ‘A Way Of Life – Creator Journal of 28 Artists‘, and those 28 artists have made hugely significant contributions towards this lifestyle. Included are Aaron Rose, Rick Howard, Ed Templeton, Gabe Morford, Brian Gaberman, Bobby Puleo, Raymond Pettibon and Neckface amongst others.

Sadly, the book does not look like it will witness a release outside of Japan any time soon, let alone a translation. However, I heartily recommend you seek it out anyway as it’s a refreshingly inexpensive collection of the profound, strange, idiosyncratic and brilliant fragments that work to shape this thing some of us call skateboarding and others call life.

For some more information and some choice cuts from the book, follow this link for an interview with the author (in both English and Japanese).


The Library

Skateboarding 3D

Sebastian Denz

Anaglyph images are used to provide a stereoscopic 3D effect, when viewed with two colour glasses (each lens a chromatically opposite colour, usually red and cyan)

That’s what Wikipedia has to say about 3D images. 3D seems to be everywhere right now: in the cinema, on television, even The Sun have put out a 3D issue, but simply editing the images in his book to have a mild 3D effect isn’t enough for Sebastian Denz. A special bespoke camera had been created for these images, and it has certainly been put to good use.

The title of this book is perfect: Skateboarding 3D – the skateboarding part always comes first, and that ethic shines through in Denz’s work. Some of the images are in a regular skate environment, and some have been setup to show the full effect of the format. This project has been in the making for three years and with members of the Carhartt team along for the ride, Denz has traversed a lot of Europe to make this book. It’s also good to see some UK spots and skaters like Olly Todd and Ste Roe make an appearance alongside Pontious Alv and Scott Bourne to name just a few.

The standout shots for me are, of course, the incredible cover, but also Chris Merkt’s image of a tombstone/cross leaping out towards the reader in the foreground and the bowl way down the depth of field with a crystal clear frontside rock taking place in the background. Denz resists the pull to get too arty and sticks to the core of skating, shooting not only amazing tricks, but well structured shots of guys chilling, portraits and cruising back streets – definitely providing the reader with that all-important feel-good factor, and consequently adding a whole new dimension to skate photography, quite literally.

This book had been launched a couple of months back, but is finally appearing in a few shops as well as Prestel’s own website and out of all the skateboarding books out there this one stand right up there with the best of them. There is enough here to cater for photographers every bit as much as it does to skaters as the format is clearly investigated through a unique visual perspective, what it does and what it can achieve. Packaged in a nice slipcase cover the book runs at 120 pages and a few pairs of 3D glasses are bundled in too. This is a book you will certainly cherish for its style, as well as the pure clarity in which it captures the art of skateboarding at its best.


The Library

Subway World

Torkel Sjostrand

The title of the book says it all and that’s why this is such a great book to flick through. The trend that began in New York has quickly been taken all over the world and turned into integral parts of the graffiti landscape. Whilst many authorities are doing their best to clear the subway cars of this amazing art, this book allows you to see just how far the movement has spread, regardless.

As the introduction informs, there are more than 140 subway systems across the world and many of them differ from each other, but what binds them is this art. Indeed, as the author states: “In the world of graffiti, there is no end station; instead, individual cities are interlinked, as if in one global subway system. A subway world.”. What better way to prove this statement than by showing trains from 75 cities in full colour shots with information on the city beside each one.

From Yerevan in Armenia through Caracas in Venezuela to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, the art shines brightly and the anecdotes certainly raise a smile. For example, in Lille, as Derick from SPK-Mutants says, you can work on the train without fear of a driver catching you, as the trains are driverless and in Warsaw, Bitch from EWC says there’s only one line on their subway system, so more progress has been made in the bombing than on the actual trains.

There are many interesting facts strewn throughout the book and they sit nicely alongside the brilliant photography. Well worth picking up!


The Library

London Burners

Jete Swami

You’ve seen those throwback videos, with the New York subway cars chock-full with graffiti, running across the skyline of the city. But those halcyon days are gone, especially over here in the UK. Very rarely do you see a tube train with anything more than a hastily scribbled tag and London Burners is a book which explains why.

The majority of the book features beautiful pieces, vibrant in colour and bold in design, on numerous tube trains by the likes of Acab, Rats, DWS, Lemon and more, showing the art before it’s taken off the rails and scrubbed clean. Once you’ve flipped through the whole book, acknowledging the talent and risk that it must have taken to get to that point, you go back and read the testamonials and see what it means to the writers themselves.

It’s not all as you’d expect either, with quotes such as “Yes, you should be punished for graffiti, but not with jail” and explaining that one of the reasons the police crack down so hard on writers is because they know how it’ll affect their parents knowing their kid is in jail with murderers and rapists. It is this that gets you though, seeing the force and intent the police put into catching writers and it really makes no sense whatsoever.

It’s a shame that this state of affairs has meant older, respected writers no longer go out to bomb or paint because they have too much to lose as they move on in years. The “missions” described in the book are great to read and the final outcomes are great to look at, so despite the decline in hitting tubes, it’s nice to know that, in this book at least, you’ll be able to appreciate the art that’s lost 99% of the time.


The Library

London Street Art Anthology

Alex MacNaughton

Opening up a book with a photo of some art with a stern looking military officer with the slogan “Art free zone by order of the Ministry of Misery: Free thought, self expression, creativity and enjoyment are strictly prohibited” is definitely a way to set out your stall when discussing street art, and is proceeded by a thought-provoking introduction which discusses the relationship of graffiti and street art and the general public’s views on both. says that the media “celebrates ‘street artists’ because they appear to represent something universal and safe” whilst Panik from the ATG crew discusses why graffiti artists feel the need to distance themselves from the “trendy art students” which is a problem that this “street art” label brings about, especially with Banksy’s celebrated style fetching thousands of pounds from people with more money than sense.

So, on to the art within the pages, something which is celebrated, despite the part-cynical attitudes of the introduction and which are all found in the capital of England, a place that Pure Evil says has a “dirt that helps things grow”. Where a lot of art books look to print very vibrant photos with lots of colour filling the page, this book isn’t afraid to print big photos of dreary looking walls, because the art stands out on its own merits, because of the dreariness.

From stencils in Liverpool Street to paste-ups in N1 to the graffiti of Panik, Sickboy and Sweet Toof, this book showcases the wide-reaching styles of art and the environments that London pulls up for them. Of course there will be people who are sick of the snobs in the media legitimising certain types of art and demonising others, but this book shows that London has a way of giving so much to the eyes of everyone in the city.


The Library

Art by Tattooists

Jo Waterhouse
(Laurence King)

These days, everyone has a tattoo. With television dedicating shows to them, celebrities showing them off at every opportunity and colourful arms, legs and everything in between on view everywhere, it would be easy to dismiss them as the latest fad. But what happens when tattooists feel their on-skin work limits them and their art? Well, this is the book to answer that questions, showing the artists’ work off-skin.

The foreward, written by Jesse Lee Denning, makes an important point right from the off – tattoos began as an artform outside the norm, we shouldn’t be looking at reality TV for it, but instead should consider their importance in cultural terms. Author Jo Waterhouse picks up the baton by discussing in her introduction the differences in working on and off canvas whilst pointing out that there are some tattooists whose on-skin work still heavily influences their work off it.

The majority of the book is a brilliant showcase of selected artists’ work in glorious colour. Each artist has their own page of answers to various questions, some with quotes, which gives a nice insight into how they view their own work. But it is the art that takes centre stage varying from more traditional styles by Mandie Barber and Lola Garcia, Angelique Houtkamp‘s vintage works, Japanese influenced art by Matt Hunt and the hyper-realistic Cody Meyer.

Having the chance to look through numerous pieces of art and see how tattooing has both been worked into it or the complete opposite, as Regino Gonzales does so that “you’re not art being directed by your canvas”, is a joy with this book. Even those not head-over-heels with tattooing will dig it.


The Library

The Art of Stop Motion with Tilman Singer

If you are intrigued by stop motion but wonder what all the fuss is about then this short article should make you aware of how impressive the results can be if you have the drive, a creative mind and obviously bundles of patience to achieve something special.

Looking back through the decades this artistic process has been used since 1898 where Albert E. Smith and J. Stuart Blackton created The Humpty Dumpty Circus which inspired different generations throughout the 1900’s to push the idea creatively decade by decade. The classic 1960’s era spawned extremely popular TV shows such as The Magic Roundabout and the Clangers which made kids go wild for animated characters and it is from here that the art form flourished worldwide.

Nowadays we see this animation technique around us daily, from Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox movie or from within our own scene recently with the colourful claymation intros from the Flip Extremely Sorry video where Edgar Alvarez and his amazing crew from Colombia stitched together hours and hours of tiny movements to bring the team characters to life. The results were impressive to say the least once you realise the amount of work that goes into these projects.

Recently, a new stop motion skate edit was put together and uploaded to the web by Tilman Singer, a 22 year old from Cologne in Germany. The beauty of the internet these days is that most people are quite easy to reach with email so within an hour of sending some correspondence Tilman popped up with a reply to give us a few words on the construction of this his animation…

So what inspired you to piece this web flick together?

Well, these days I do not skate as frequently as I want to anymore but nevertheless skateboarding has always interested and inspired me and it is a great way to prevent yourself from growing up. You could say that this is my first animation or maybe my first video art production and I would love to be able to carve out a living from this type of work and that’s for this reason that inspired me to put this together.

How long did it take to complete?

I worked on it over a three month period mostly at night but I think if I had gone about it without breaks it would have kept me busy for a full week.

How did you come up with the ideas for the scenes themselves?

I pretty much tried to imitate a skateboard video or just looked at the craft supplies I had to built my spots and then searched for fitting photography.

You must have gone through a huge amount of sequences, talk us through the process of elimination.

Well, I had about thrice as many scenes and I had to eliminate those that were without good flow in movement. I looked through all my old skateboard magazines and also bought some new ones whilst working on the video and found the photographs in magazines like Monster Skateboard Magazine, Limited Skateboard Magazine and Place Magazine. The first thing I did was look for sequences in which the skateboarder was shown in a clear understandable way, then I searched for tricks I liked and also spots I could actually recreate. Not every sequence is ideal for an animation like this because due to the design of the magazines some photos are smaller than others or have different colours or text on it.

Did you make your own music for it too?

Yes. Since my flatmate and I are both musicians you can find a lot of instruments and electronics for recording in our apartment. Creating the music was the easier part!

So which skaters feature in the edit?

You can see the bail scene recreated from Foundation’s ‘That’s Life‘ video. I took it from a video because I couldn’t find any bail sequences printed at all. I’m sure you identified Corey Duffel and Manny Santiago, I will leave you to name the rest of them!

The first person to contact us with a correct list of all of the skaters in the edit will receive a package of CF shit and also allow us to credit where credit is due…enjoy Tilman’s latest work here:

Skateboardanimation from Tilles Singer on Vimeo.

Preview The Library

Comic Art Now

Dez Skinn

Right, let’s get this out of the way before we go on: I’m a comic book geek. Yep, the type that bag and board every comic they buy so you don’t get creases and tears on the book. The type that doesn’t let anyone go near them, let alone read them. But there are reasons for this nerdy love of comics and Comic Art Now is a perfect showcase of those reasons.

In his foreward, writer Mark Millar (creator of Kick-Ass, Wanted and the soon to be released Nemesis) states that it is the art that is paramount above the stories, saying:

‘A bad artist can slit the throat of even the sturdiest story, but a great artist can resuscitate a corpse’

High praise indeed for a writer, rather than an artist. But within a couple of pages, with the splash of Ron Garney‘s Amazing Spider-Man: The War At Home with its vibrant depictions of Spidey, Iron Man, Sue Storm, Captain America and more, it’s obvious why Millar holds art in such high esteem.

What comes across so well in this book is not simply the brilliant reproductions of the art, with 3/4 page and full pages dedicated to the characters, but the variety within the covers. From the superheroes previously mentioned to the 50s styled Lass Vegas by James Hodgkins and manga influenced Maxwell Cockswagger by Ben Ang, art is seen in a league of its own, rather than the cheap pulpy image it once had.

Standout pieces include the image of X-Men villain Magneto by John Watson, explaining that looking out at the reader from under angry eyebrows and the slight sneer on his mouth are the subtle ways of portraying a bad guy. Such small but thoroughly well thought out details give a lot more dimension to the work.

One of my favourite artists, Ben Templesmith is also featured. Having seen his exquisite work on Steve Niles’ 30 Days of Night turned into a succesful film, his style continues to stand out amongst his peers. Focussing on slight glimpses of light on otherwise black backgrounds, he achieves the perfect balance between atmosphere and dynamism as shown in a page from his brilliant Woormwood: Gentleman Corpse.

Finally the chapter on Noir comics go to show that work on a page is just as effective as creating suspense and moods as shots on film. Sean Phillips‘ black and white Lawless and Cliff RichardsEchoes of Dawn are perfect examples of this.

So there you have it. Comic book art is not to be laughed at and should, in fact, be revered and enjoyed. If you aren’t sure, check this book out, it’s a perfect entry into the styles to be found out there.


The Library

New Skateboard Graphics

J. Namdev Hardisty

If you are one of those skaters who loves a coffee table book in your living room then you will be stoked on this new arrival.

New Skateboard Graphics kicks off with a foreword written by Michael Leon from Rasa Libre and from there onwards on it is jam packed with over 400 illustrations and graphics from a range of artists including our very own Mark ‘Fos’ Foster, to Jason Adams, Evan Hecox, Mark Gonzales, Ed Templeton and many many more. You are also treated to interviews with various heads that also include Jamie Thomas, Yogi Procter and Michael Irving.

This book features tonnes of deck art from various company spotlights covering Girl and Heroin to Alai and Zero and even looks back to recent skate companies that had amazing product but are now defunct such as Popwar and Bueno.

Every time you turn a page in this mammoth piece of work you are reminded of the decks you have seen over the years, reminiscing on the times you had shredding, sitting in skate shops watching vids, applying your griptape and such. But the beauty of this book is the fact that all the decks that are featured are fairly new. It’s not the usual look back into the world of classic graphics of the 80’s, it’s not a retrospective on the amazing art of one or two famous skate graphic artists, it does what it says on the tin.

New Skateboard Graphics is stuffed full of the best new skate art out there and if you are in need of a lift this month, treat yourself today and have it delivered in time for the weekend. You will not be disappointed.

Emilio Gonzales

The Library

Art & Sole

(Laurence King)

In a world where elephant dung on a canvas constitutes art and a messy bedroom garners plaudits from across the globe, it seems strange that one of the most creative art forms goes almost unnoticed save the few who immerse themselves in the subject matter. The customisation of trainers has grown to be the bedrock of modern art especially when the major companies – adidas, Nike, Reebok, Puma etc – go out of their way to encourage it from both renowned artists and simple consumers alike.

This book provides a whole array of different aspects of sneaker art to consider from work by famous artists, such as the Japanese manga artist Katanya Terada, whose work was a story spread across both shoes and came in a laser-engraved box to the musical duo UNKLE to skate legend Mark Gonzales. However, the book’s pages aren’t simply filled with beautiful custom shoes showcasing talents of various artists, they also cover the custom ideas put forward by the shoe makers.

Nike’s laser series which sees the range completely engraved by laser is an incredible sight, especially with a full page showing the process in stages. adidas’ adicolor series not only allows the buyer of the white shoe to customise it themselves with pens, but a series also came with replaceable tongues and laces meaning a completely new shoe could be made in a matter of minutes. It’s not just the sportswear names that are involved in this book, Vans’ line of Simpsons tie-in shoes are given a 2 page spread, showing the vibrancy and colour that came with each individual artist’s techniques.

And finally, the last part of the book looks at other collaborations, some for promotion outside of the shoe itself which proves the vast range of possibilities trainer customisation has the potential to reach. In the lead-up to the 2007 Transformers film, Nike were involved in making some 13 centimetre kicks that turned into, you guess it, autobots and decepticons. One of the most striking images in the book is the Onitsuka Tiger advert which contains a huge illuminated shoe made up of the Tokyo skyline – truly a joy to behold.

So, if you’re into your footwear, like a bit of art and fancy seeing over 230 pages of the two combined, this is definitely a book for you.