Optimism Rides with Skateboard Art

Skateboards may be vehicles for aerial stunts, rail stands and kick flips, but in Professor Leslie Cober’s Pictorial Problem Solving class they’re another type of canvas. For their final projects her students experimented with alternative mediums for designing skateboard decks to the theme “optimism.”

Yarlen Paulino. Photo by: John Gutierrez
“I like drawing pretty ladies and using limited color palates. I also love glitter.” – Yarlen Paulino @lemoncremeart

A skateboard deck is a departure from what’s most commonly considered as a showcase for illustrations. We’re attuned to seeing illustrations in publications, on posters, advertisements, book covers, and children’s books.  “But illustration also covers art assigned for music, fashion, merchandise, home goods, paper goods, and drawings for package design,” says Prof. Cober.

Cynthia Gaviria. Photo by: John Gutteriez

“”Long live the stupid, corny radical 90s aesthetic that I unironically love so much.” – Cynthia Gaviria @mettamaxie

Matthew Anderson. Photo by: John Guttierez
“I feel most optimistic when I’m at the ocean, so I submerged my subject in it.” – Matthew Anderson @MatthewDrawsPeople

Prof. Cober acquired 20 blank decks for the students to work on. The skateboard itself has three major parts. The deck being the board, usually made of wood, is what the rider stands on. The other two elements are the “trucks” holding the wheels. A skateboard can have any number of decks.

Niko LoPresti and David Wetstein. Photo by: Anna Fitzpatrick
“To me, ‘good vibes’ is a tacky, neon bowling alley carpet from the 90s. It captures the feeling of happy and carefree fun.” – Niko Lopresti @WLZARDS
“My concept was to communicate a sense of balance. I thought that mermaids would be an effective way to fit inside the unique shape of the canvas and provide an illustration that could be viewed double-sided. Both sides contrast each other while still sharing elements of the other.” – David Wetstein @dvidsteinart
Rico Ford. Photo by: John Gutierrez
“I wanted to capture the essence of adventure. College is all about discovering the unknown, so it’s up to you take flight.” -Rico Ford

Students began by creating pencil and pen sketch ideas on paper. After final revisions they recreated their work on their decks, using mixed materials.  “They spent time discussing, conceptualizing and sketching their ideas that would align with the assignment theme of ‘optimism,'” said Prof. Cober.

Sarah Haskell. Photo by: John Gutierrez
“I wanted to visually express inclusivity. The hands spell out love in sign language, and the rainbow signifies acceptance no matter your sexuality. People are climbing the hands to express overcoming the obstacles that love can have.” – Sarah Haskall @art1ofakind

The project and its theme are timely. A new film about skateboarding girls in Afghanistan has an emphasis on optimism and empowerment in a very rough part of the world.  “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)” just won an Oscar for best documentary short subject at the 92nd annual Academy Awards.

Emmanuel Agwam.  Photo by: John Gutierrez

“I think students need to be encouraged to think in an optimistic way; it’s about motivation and encouragement.  It’s part of being a teacher to be able to get students to think as artists,” says Prof. Cober.

Elizabeth Yun. Photo by: John Gutierrez
“It can be hard to be optimistic in the current world, but it shouldn’t hold back pleasures in life,” says Elizabeth Yun. “I want to experience unforgettable moments and have a positive outlook.” – Elizabeth Yun

Photography Professor Curtis Willocks arranged for student photographers John Gutierrez and Anna Fitzpatrick to photograph the students with their skateboard decks.

Prof. Cober’s Pictorial and Problem Solving class. Photo: Rachel Ellner

These and other skateboard decks from Prof. Cober’s class, are on display outside the Illustration department office on the third floor of the Pomerantz, “D” building.

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