Why You Can’t Look Away: Exclusive Interview with Todd BratrudJuxtapoz // Monday, 19 Apr 2010
You're a well-know illustrator and graphic designer for the skateboarding industry. It seems like you've worked with almost every established skate company and boarder in the scene! Can you briefly give us some insight into your story: your background, your choice of medium, and how you ended up where you are now?
Lets see, I grew up in Northern Minnesota in a little town named Crookston, pretty much a beet farming community. I started skateboarding in about ‘88 and right away I was attracted to the art on the boards and in the magazines. From that point on, all I wanted to do was skateboard graphics.
In about ‘99 my roommate was getting boards from a small board company, and at one point they started sending extra boards for me with his board boxes. I sent a thank you letter to them and included a little drawn picture on the envelope. A while later, I got a call asking if they could use that image for a board graphic. I said yes, and from there I did all I could to do more and more graphics. I guess it worked in one way or another.
I moved to California to be closer to where most the skate industry was located at the time and that was that. I’ve been drawing skateboard graphics all day, every day sense then.
Being a skateboard artist can, at times, be a label that follows you for the rest of your life. Are you comfortable with being so closely tied to the skateboarding community? What do you think of the current scene?
All I want is to be attached to skateboarding. Skateboard graphics are all I’ve ever wanted to do and it’s all I wanna do still. If the label sticks for the rest of my life, I would die happy.
As for the scene? It is what it is. As a whole I guess it’s cool, but really, the scene is what you make it and I choose to surround myself with like-minded people who are just trying to enjoy all the highs and lows of all things skateboarding.
Skateboarding has expanded into a highly respected and popular sport in the past 30 years. Where do you see the art form, culture, and focus heading in the next decade?
I would guess that it’s gonna get worse looking for the most part, with more and more mindless logo graphics. I understand it all goes in that direction as skateboarding grows; more average or ‘normal’ kids are getting into skateboarding and they are not attracted to the same stuff all the fuck ups of skateboarding’s past were attracted to. My stuff isn’t gonna mellow out and I’m sure a lot of other skateboard graphic artists aren’t gonna change what they are doing. Hopefully “graphics” don’t become unnecessary, but I could see it going that way unfortunately.
Your piece created for Gatorade involves a lot of color and included bone imagery. Can you tell us a bit about the process and inspiration for this logo? Why bones?
My theme was “ALL DAY” and how that ties into what I do within skateboarding. I’m lucky enough to be able to spend my days drawing things that are more or less summed up as bones splashed with bright colors. That’s skateboarding to me: gross and obnoxious. Sometimes it’s what you don’t really wanna see but at the same time you can’t help but pay attention!
What was it like working with Gatorade? Have you worked with them in them past?
This is the first time I have worked with Gatorade and it’s been a pleasure for sure! I hope to work more with them in the future. Maybe get a signature “Bratrud” flavor? Yeah, I’m thinking big.
You obviously do a lot of commercial work; do you spend much time on personal artistry? How do you approach commercial versus fine versus personal work?
It’s all personal; there have been SO few times I have taken a job that I’m not 110% excited about. For me the key is to just try and work with people that have skateboarding in mind, or if not skateboarding, they gotta at the very least embrace the raw vibe of what it’s all about. I’m not about to dumb down what I’m doing just to fit some commercial work. What I do fits skateboarding to me, that’s all I care about. If I’m doing commercial work its gotta the same vibe, otherwise I’m not gonna waste my time.
What do you have lined up for the rest of 2010?
More of the same: a lot of time on the road and a lot of time spent drawing.