Sean Cliver discusses "Disposable" re-release
For the typical skateboarder, insider glimpses at the business people and artists running the industry have always been rare, and usually little more than cryptic rumors. But in 2004, former Powell-Peralta and World Industries illustrator Sean Cliver released "Disposable: A History of Skateboard Art." The 244-page coffee table book, originally published by Concrete Wave Editions, lays out the stories behind generations of iconic board graphics, with guest essays and Cliver's own first-person narrative about moving to California for a drawing job in the then-volatile industry.
It's been a decade since "Disposable" first hit the shelves, and in a celebration of sorts, this month Gingko Press releases the 10th-anniversary hardbound edition, which hasn't changed content-wise but does have a metallic cover wrap. Also, the release is paired up with the drop of Nike SB's "Disposable" low top.
Now prepping for book-release events, Cliver says he's "currently living the freelance illustrator's dream, though it can be far from that and difficult at times." Since working on the "Jackass" movies, he's moved project to project. He also heads up social media for Jackass alum Jeff Tremaine's new production company, Gorilla Flicks.
For more on the book, XGames.com caught up with Cliver.
XGames.com: Back in 2004, how was the first edition received?
Cliver: Overall the reaction was positive. It was the first time the medium had really been done justice in print and authentically portrayed in a manner true to skateboarders and skateboarding. Almost everything else published up until then was haphazard at best. One of the unexpected upsides to the book's creation though, was not only fostering new friendships with artists I'd never met before, but having the chance to patch up a few relationships torched during my early years in the industry. Well, George Powell, specifically, so that felt good.
The book's a great way to write about skate history without boring your audience. Did you originally plan to spike the layout with history and guest editors?
My goal from the outset was to create the most comprehensive history of skateboard art in both words and photos. From my own firsthand experiences at Powell-Peralta and World Industries, I knew there were many stories to be told, and I could only imagine that other artists would have the same -- it's a very unique vantage point from within a company. So I spent two years tracking down boards, contacting people, and collecting all the various related stories between the two. This was something I picked up on while working on Big Brother skateboard magazine: the importance of having images to back up the stories. And of course it helped that I have an overwhelming OCD streak when it comes to such trivial things. Despite all my best efforts though, I still wasn't able to get everyone and everything I'd hoped into the first book when it was released in November, 2004. A few people and boards popped out of the woodwork soon after its publication, so the second printing of the book in 2005 received an additional 16-page makeover. Still, there were many others I wasn't able to establish contact with for a couple years to come. Those connections became the primary impetus for the subsequent "Disposable Skateboard Bible" release in 2009, which included stories from VCJ [Vernon Courtlandt Johnson], Mark Gonzales, Mark "Gator" Rogowski, Greg Evans, Christian Cooper and Art Godoy, to name a few.
With all those pretty pictures evoking dreamy nostalgia, people probably overlook your exceptional writing. Did you have a knack for it early on?
Writing was something I accidentally stumbled upon when Big Brother first started in 1992. The artist's life had pretty much nullified any outside social life, so the fledgling magazine down the hall at World Industries gave me an excuse to actually get out and have a life, which was always fun to put into words. Plus, there were so many other great writers involved, such as Earl Parker, Marc McKee, Dave Carnie, and Chris Pontius, that it provided a real inspirational boot down this other creative avenue. It also kept me from getting burnt out at the drawing table.
What's your favorite era of skate graphics and why?
Like most any skateboarder, it's probably from when I first started out in 1986. Every single board from that moment I walked into a skate shop, even the super crappy Kryptonics stuff, it's still the era of art I identify with most. Though the early '90s were a great time to be an actual artist in the industry, maybe just at World Industries, because Steve Rocco had no qualms about paying his artists top dollar. All he wanted was the best graphics in the industry. He didn't care or pay any mind to the numbers in accounting. Rocco understood the value of the art was more than just a line breakdown in a per-unit manufacturing cost. If anyone doubts this, just watch any skateboarder flip through the pages of "Disposable" to see how large of an impression these graphics left on them 25-30 years ago.
How'd the shoe idea come up?
In 2012, I did the design work on the Nike "Krampus" holiday release. The only reason I got involved with them in the first place is because of my friend Nick Halkias. He's a longtime rep for Nike's SB brand, but first and foremost Nick's a skater from Tampa, Florida, who has become a prominent deck and skate art collector. He was one of the first avid board collectors I met through the Internet in 2000, and a good portion of his collection was featured in "Disposable: A History of Skateboard Art." This book had formally gone out of print in 2010, so when Nick and I were throwing around ideas for future shoe projects after the "Krampus" release, we thought it would be cool to commemorate the upcoming tenth anniversary of the book. I'd been dying to find a way to get the book back in print. I still think it has yet to reach the full audience that it could, so the shoe collaboration with Nike SB seemed a good vehicle to make that happen for Gingko Press, and Nick is one of the main reasons it finally did. The bonus being that Lance Mountain is the featured cover skater on Disposable and just so happens to be sponsored by Nike SB.
Anything you want to add?
Of all my work-related things in skateboarding since 1989, this book is probably the one thing I'm genuinely proud of creating. In my younger years, I may not have entirely understood what the elders were talking about in terms of "giving back to skateboarding," but I think I finally realized that with "Disposable." Plus, I may be an artist in the skateboard industry, but I'm an even bigger fan of the art and other artists in general. I'm honored to have documented and shed some well deserved light on these individuals. I'd also like to thank Shari MacDonald, who not only convinced me back then that the book would one day get published, because I had a really hard time finding a publisher for "Disposable" in the first place. The skate niche in the book industry then was considered toxic at best by publishers -- but also introduced me to Eric Simpson, who ultimately handled all the graphic design chores and cover photography.