From Skateboarder # 109
Just like George Costanza needs a protégé, sometimes in life all you need is a mentor. Chris Miller got one in his early days, teammate Neil Blender. “He was the one who encouraged me to do my own graphics,” Pipeline’s adoptive son, now 41, remembers. “I would never have thought of that. I mean, I liked drawing, but I would never have considered doing graphics.” Funny, especially when you come to think that since this very early-‘80s day, he’s never not drawn his own designs –besides once, see below. Modern day ledge ballerina mandatory warning: this page contains such incongruitous names as G&S, Schmitt Stix, and Planet Earth. Here are Chris’ favorite pro-models.
“G&S made me a first board but I didn’t like the graphic, so I ended up doing this one. I had a friend shoot a photo of my face, printed it and enlarged it, then I just drew over the photo. The little guys falling through space and time got redone by one of their in-house artists, he kept changing the original sketch and making the face look all cartoony. He even gave me this one where it looked like some Batman or Joker thing, and I was like, ‘No, that’s not how it’s supposed to be…’ Anyway. The final result was cool.
I like how G&S did a lot of variations so all the graphics would come in different colors, there are unique colorways all over the place. That’s when Randy Janson was screen-printing for them, he went on and ran Gullwing for a while, then became a well-known tatto artist, he would do cool stuff like that.
On the bottom left corner, the “1” with the clock kinda represents time, and the next symbol represents a cycle. The original idea was to have this on each board, changing the first number every time. But I ended up having it only on this board. I have no idea why.”
“This is the second pro-model that I drew. The cool thing with this artwork is that it’s a linoleum cut, like a wood cut. This was all hand-carved and I made a print out of it.
I still have the actual block at my house, I gave this whole board collection to my son Lucas, he has the original ink block too. I was still in high school when I was doing this. As an artist I was just young and trying different things. It doesn’t have a specific meaning.”
“I get a lot of questions about the meaning of this character, but really, I was just inspired by the idea of this half-animal, half-human creature. I don’t even know where the Christmas tree on the nose idea came from… When I was younger I was into surrealism, and also I always liked Max Ernst, he had all these paintings from post-WW2 period of human figures with bird heads and animal heads, I probably drew from that.
I think it’s interesting to represent a human with animal features, it says something more exaggerated. I also like this board cause I’m pretty sure that it was the first one with a true upturn, kick nose. Paul Schmitt was responsible for that though. At first I wasn’t sure I was gonna like it, it looked so weird back then. But this board sold really, really well.”
“There’s a lot of messages on there, based on thinking about humanity and what was going on in the world. So you have a George Washington face on there, representing money, and different characters from different cultures. For instance on the left, it’s a charcater from a book I read called Ishi: Last Of His Tribe, it’s the true story of a Native American whose whole tribe [The Yahi] had been killed off, he was surviving quietly in the forest and hiding, and eventually somebody found him. But noone in the world was talking his language. He was the last person in his whole culture. I would recommend anybody to read this book.
Then there’s this character asking why, it’s probably me. Finally at the bottom is this hand with the fish, I used it on other boards later. To me, it represents the mystery of creation and life. It came from the idea that if you have fish in a bowl, it won’t be aware of the hand or the arm connected to it, the fish is only aware of the fingertip that’s in the water. So you have this prospective of how we perceive things, but maybe we only see the fingertip. We only see what we can, or what we want to see.”
“The funny thing with the name Planet Earth ist that people thought it was purely environmental, but really it wasn’t, it was more thinking about our place on the earth. It almost goes back to the Schmitt Stix Faces board -even though it was kind of a take on the Ecology symbol from the ’70s. I am not sure about the E backwards, maybe it was saying that the world wasn’t a perfect place or something.
Anyway, this is probably my favorite graphic that I did. The ghost of the bird has come back to haunt this huge cat I use to have, Rascal, a really good hunter. I thought it was funny how cats spend their days killing all sort of animals, but do they ever regret it? Or do they just enjoy it and their instinct catches over? So in a weird way, on a more serious note, I was facinated with the idea of our consciousness or our own guilt over our actions, our own feelings of what’s right and wrong.”