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Christopher Malik Pastras...Is Not a Blonde: Exclusive Chat

Juxtapoz // Thursday, 22 Apr 2010

Christopher Malik Pastras

Is Not a Blonde


Photos of Mr. Pastras painting by Chris Sippi.


I met Chris about 10 years ago skating in San Francisco and have been friends with him since. We’ve worked together on some fun projects and been general supporters and good natured hecklers of each other’s work. Over the years I’ve seen him do some great projects, make some wonderful artwork and push his limits in his art and skating.


Whether it is in the streets of S.F. and L.A. filming for Stereo’s upcoming video to filling a hotel room’s wall with his work in less than 72 hours, curating group art shows and dealing with the day to day of running a skateboard company. He comes through when it counts, cares about what he does and why he does it. In a career as long and varied as his (pro skater, art director, team manager, TV host, artist and amateur botanist), experience is something that can be relied upon to help guide the future. While others may have balked at the weight that Chris carries every day, he has been able to work with, around, over, and to the side and thought the quagmire of responsibility to make some great things come to life. I do not envy the jobs he has but I admire the spirit and smile with which he does them. --Isaac McKay-Randozzi


Isaac McKay-Randozzi: How many times have you been a blond?


Chris Pastras: I'm blond at heart. And yes, blonds do have more fun.


Are you trying to harness the inner Californian that you’ve always wanted to be?


Not really, I can't wash off the New Jersey in me even if I tried. Although I have been having some very California moments with the stark contrasts in weather this past winter. It would be like 30 degrees with snow on the ground back east, and we'd all be stuck inside at a bar shivering. Then I'd fly back to LA, and it'd be 75 degrees and sunny the same day. That's when I blast Bob Segar, roll down my windows, and drive to the skatepark just thinking..."fuck, this is total California moment isn't it? Well, enjoy it while you can, Jersey boy."


As a child you were exposed to a fair amount of art and music, more than the average kid. How much of that early exposure has had a lasting impact on you?

A lot I would say, I mean, whatever shapes you into who you are never really leaves you. Maybe with shock therapy it does. But no really, I was lucky to have cool parents who encouraged me to write and draw at a really young age. And I'm glad they were into Jazz and Picasso, and not like Disco and airbrush art. Thanks Mom and Dad.


You’ve had a long career as a pro skater. At what point did you decide to spend large amounts of your time on your paint and illustration? Was it conscious or something that came on gradually?


A little bit of both, but once we started Stereo I had the reason to do it again and that's when it really picked up. I did a bunch of artwork as a kid and in high school, but I had stopped for a few years to do nothing but skate and watch skate videos like the typical skater. But eventually you get hurt or just bored out of your skull of watching skate videos, and that's where hopefully art or music comes in when you have free time and you are a skater. You’re surrounded by artists and photographers so it's a pretty natural progression, especially when you can't skate for a spell. For me, once Stereo started up it really opened back up the door for art again, and my interest in it peaked back up.



What kind of art education do you have? School and classes or self taught?


I took art classes as a kid, but that's pretty much it. I'm backing school though. I got my AA degree from City College of SF, CCSF Class of 2002 baby. It only took me 7 years of part time classes; I think that might be a school record. The whole time we did Stereo up in SF no one really knew but I was taking 2-3 classes a semester. I'd have like Native American History, Basketball, and Botany. It was radical.



If aliens exist, do you think they’ll bring back Elvis?


No, they'll bring back James Brown.


What is your favorite subject to paint and why?


Man, I don't really have one. It changes all the time. I did some paintings awhile back of Michael Jackson, Liza Minelli, and Woody Allen, for pretty much no reason at all other than for my own amusement. And if you can make other people laugh in the process, that's even better. Sometimes it's really not that deep, and other times I do have a very directed meaning. When I do have a meaning I'm not one for subtlety, and I usually include words because I'm impatient. At that point, I don't want to draw two different circles to represent "racial disharmony", then sit around and hope people understand the meaning. If I do have something to say, it's usually more like, "this shit in society is totally fucked, now read what I think about it!".



Cityscapes have been a feature of your work for a while; do you think it comes from growing up in the shadow and on the streets of NYC?


Not really. If anything it's maybe the opposite. I'm from a pretty rural area, so with cityscapes it's probably more like "wow! Look at the big buildings!" Plus they just look really cool, I love me some architecture, especially old stuff. Europe and New York, a lot of times I'll just stare up at the buildings and want to's really amazing what they used to do and how much detail went into them.


What do you hope the viewer gets from looking at your work?


Most times I only hope to express whatever I was thinking in creating it, and you hope to evoke that same feeling in others. When you do, that's even better than impressing yourself. To share in a laugh over something you've created for that purpose is one of the best feelings in the world.


Bush and Woody, for some reason they seem to go together.


Is art just for pretty, or should it mean something? Both?


Both. Just like music, sometimes you want to listen to classical and zone out to clean the house, sometimes you want to listen to Yanni at the Acropolis and contemplate life's deeper meaning, and sometimes you want Black Flag because you wanna ride your skateboard or kill squirrels. Oh, and I prefer country music when doing landscaping. I like to pretend my yard is a farm.



If you were on a boat and it started to sink and as you were getting into the last lifeboat Yanni, John Tesh, Celine Dion, Kenny G., Zamfir (pan flute guy) and a K.K.K. grand dragon run up and wanted aboard but there was only room for one – who would you take?


Duh, Celine Dion! And make her sing that song from The Bodyguard while I rowed her to safety.


Your color palate’ has always been bright and cheery and the content is mainly positive and usually elicits smiles. Do you intend for your work to be an escape or is that a side effect?


I'm not really sure, but I would suppose it has something to do with my generally cheery disposition. I like the idea that it's an escape but I don't really create it for that particular purpose. I just gravitate toward brighter colors and I think it works well with most things I do, maybe because they're generally pretty simplistic.


At Stereo, you’ve been a creative part of it but also a business part. Best and worst thing about working with artists on a business level?


Best thing is, you’re not slanggin' pizzas, selling car insurance, or doing something else you don't love. Worst part of it is that you ARE doing what you love for a living, which means you have to navigate through the sometimes tricky financial matters of something you'd be doing just for fun. That can sometimes sour things a little especially when times are rough. But at the end of the day, anyone would be crazy to say that would rather not do what they love for a living. We're the lucky ones. To be surrounded by skateboarding and artwork all day everyday is pretty nuts; I wouldn't have imagined it possible in my wildest dreams.



How did the Shepard Fairey/Stereo decks happen?


A lot of shots of tequila, just kidding, no Shepard has been a friend of mine since I've been back in LA and he's based right near Stereo, so we're always running into each other at art shows and what not. I really dig what he does and always wanted him to do something for us. And I guess when he found the time he blessed us with a whole series or two. Amazing, very honored and stoked it happened. And one thing most people don't know, Shepard was a total east coast skater kid and still skates a bit now.




You and Jason have been friends for a very long time. Your lives have intersected, gone apart and reconnected at various points over two decades but it seems as if there has always been a brotherly bond between you two. How would you explain it?


We have the same sense of humor, even after all these years, when the two of us get together and start joking about stuff, no one else can understand it. His wife and my girlfriend just roll their eyes because we speak in our own language. I think that's the secret.

Chris painting a mural at Paul Rodriguez' private park.


His career path has taken him down one route and yours another. While his became high profile (or whatever you want to call it) fairly quickly with his movies etc., yours remained in the skate industry even after a short break to go to school. As history has shown over time, some people can become resentful and jealous of a friend’s success. Outwardly it doesn’t seem like that has affected you. Has it ever been an issue?


Fortunately no and I really enjoy what I'm doing and where I'm at. It's been really fun to watch Jason do the things he's done and achieve a large amount of success outside of skateboarding, it's amazing really. And when you watch him do what he does on a set or even just goofing off in front of a camera, you know he deserves every bit of it. No one can make people laugh and simultaneously own a room like that guy. He was born to do what he does with acting, just like he was with skating. And at the end of the day, we're still just old buddies who make each other laugh with or without Stereo, movies, art, or any of it.




You are curating the Modern Primitive[s] show, how did it come about and is there any specific theme or idea behind the show?


Its Modern Primitives...with an S Isaac, come on buddy...not really, but I guess to me it describes the creative vibe of my friends somewhat. We're all cavemen at heart. The gallery owner wanted me to put together a group show of people based around skateboarding, so I just reached out to my friends and people whose work I admire. Once again, it really wasn't that deep. Just a good excuse for some friends to get together really and show their stuff off, and it always helps if you can raise a few bucks for a good cause while people get drunk off PBR. Why not?

Being the genius' we are, we did figure out the show fell on Earth Day, so we've switched up the charity as such and part of the proceeds from the art and posters are going to The World Wildlife Fund. I know; we're true hippies, now go hug a panda. But in all seriousness, I've been doing these group shows for years, and it got to the point where I was just like "great, another skate art show, just what the world needs, more meaningless conversation, and another pointless hangover." So I decided anytime I got involved with something like that I would do my best to attach a charity or reason for putting the show together. And then hey, if people want to come have a good time, see some cool stuff, and drink some free beer, at least it's benefiting something or someone, even if it's small. Every bit counts.

Pastras room at the Hotel des Arts.


You’ve put together a couple art shows over the years, what’s the hardest part about putting one together?


Harassing people to send stuff on time. I try to pawn that job off on someone else if I can.


What’s one the plate for you in the next couple months?


Penne with asparagus and pancetta, spring time gardening, and some old man sessions. Planning a few trips to ride cement and film a few things for the Stereo video while doing so and hopefully making some art too. I'm taking part in a show at the African American Museum here in LA, called How We Roll. The show is about based around Afro Amercian skaters and surfers and the art and culture around them. I believe the show opens around July 1st and I'll be do a mural and helping them get in touch with some key people for the show.

And now a few images Chris at last week's Modern Primitives show...








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