Skateboard art has been around since the first decks were put on wheels. In the 1950’s the fisrst boards were invented, originally as a recreation for surfers when the waves weren’t running. The first boards were shaped and styled like surfboards and were manufactured in Los Angeles California by Bill Richard in his surf shop. From the start deck design mirrored that of surfboard art, reflecting the culture of the sport and the personal design and style of the skater. Decks can be painted, being traditionally timber coated in fibreglass or polyurethane.
A popular design feature is to tattoo the design on the upper or underside of the deck and coat this with fibreglass. This is called a sublimated graphic and the fibreglass protects the graphic as well as strengthening the board itself. Skateboard stickers are also popular with the advantage being that they can be changed and updated as styles change and new designs become available. Computer cut designs are available in grip tape as well. This tape is like sandpaper and is applied to the upper side of the deck to give the skater more traction on the deck. This function can be combined with art in a range of designs and colours as well. The Penny Skateboard company offers coloured and computer cut grip tape as well as stickers online for decks. Penny boards are plastic rather than timber boards and because of the material used they are available in a huge range of colours and patterns as well as some very cool combinations of colours.
Every part of the board from the wheels to the deck, the truck (axle) and bolts can be custom coloured to suit the skater’s personal style. Penny boards signature style is inspired by beach culture, harking back to the origins of the skateboard. They favour a range of bright colours, a rainbow of designs as well as hand-painted boards. They also feature the only board that I have found online that are marketed and designed for girls as well as boys.
Skateboard art has made boards collectors pieces as well as sporting equipment. In the 1980’s Jim Phillips comic book style art was very popular and this translated into tattoos as well. The demographic for skaters is 85% young men under the age of 18 years and Phillips’ style resonated with this group particularly. Artist Vernon Courtland Johnson had an awesome style which had themes of skulls and skeletons and this came at a time when skating culture was associated with punk rock
Deck art has become highly collectable for these reasons with boards collected for their artistic merit as well as for the way they reflect the culture of the time. Most professional skateboarders have their own signature decks, often featuring their sponsor’s logos as well as their own artistic taste.