After seeing several Element boards that challenged me without having the name of the graphic designer, I recently discovered (through Keflione) that Allister Lee was behind them. It was therefore natural to ask him some questions about what he does, why, how, etc…
Hello Allister, how is going the autumn in Toronto, Canada?
It’s my favourite time of year. My autumn jackets + sweatshirts + vests + sweaters + hats come out from storage and get put into daily rotation. I find all sorts of things in the pockets like money + markers + other forgotten little items that I stowed away the year before.
You are doing a loooot of things, can you tell us more about your job? And how did you got to this activity?
My overall job is to stay busy, curious + creative while using my abilities, experience + intuition to create good work for myself and for others.
I’ve liked drawing since I was young and just continued to develop skill sets, continued to make work that reflects my interests and inspirations, and continued to meet good people along the way.
You told me you worked on brand new boards, tell us more about it.
Last year I produced a series of graphics titled “Neon Night” – a depiction of team rider totem animals using a visual style inspired by Black Light posters from the 1970’s.
A couple of the graphics from that series sold really well so this year I was asked to revisit that aesthetic to make new artwork for Nyjah Huston and Nick Garcia. I used the same style and color palette, but changed the layout from vertical to horizontal.
Element is great to work with. They prepare great briefs that share aspects of each team riders’ personality and passions in order to shape and inform the graphic output.
Congratulations on 25 years of Element Skateboards!
I created a graphic for Atlas Skateboards that is part of their Fall Winter 2017 collection.
The graphic is inspired by travel and exploration and recreates the appearance of a selection of patch graphics as applied to a backpack canvas.
Ryen Motzek and the Atlas team have really great ideas and provide concise reference towards pushing the narrative forward. The final output is authentic, true to their personal experiences and adventures on the road, and representative of their local community.
Congratulations on 10 years of Atlas Skateboards !
The graphic references 1980’s G.I Joe packaging illustration and depicts a Chinese uniformed soldier character.
Tim Jun and Hero Skate have been consistently supportive towards positive growth for skate culture and industry throughout China.
Congratulations on 12 years of Hero Skate !
Atlas, Vans, Nike SB, LRG, Supreme, Adidas, És Skateboards, you have had a lot of clients connected to the skate scene. How did it go and what’s your relation with those brand?
Good brands are made up of great people.
All my opportunities working with the brands you mention have developed from personal relationships formed and maintained with the great people I have met throughout my life.
How do you consider skate graphics? Is it more powerful than other illustrations/supports?
Influential, inspirational and educational.
Not any more or less powerful than any other form of visual expression produced by any other culture or community.
Just doing it’s own thing and comfortably rolling along.
Beside, how do you work on a series? Do you have a special process?
Study + Research. Study the brand / team riders by looking at past graphic archives + articles + interviews + footage. Research what the series is supposed to be about to inform the process, aesthetic + design details.
Keep a Folder Going. Pull visual references. Pull colour references. Pull pose references. Pull type references. Pull layout references. Review the references + form ideas.
Arrangement. Sketch concepts + layout on paper. Create a digital mockup in Photoshop by cutting + pasting graphic elements onto art board. Move pieces around to create layout + positioning of graphic + type.
Trial and Error. Keep cutting + pasting + moving + shifting + tweaking towards the buildout of a working reference.
Execution. Using the working reference as a guide, I create the work over top of this layer, using whatever medium and materials are necessary to achieve the desired appearance.
Which series are you most proud of?
I am equally proud of every series of graphics that I have made. It’s an enjoyable process that allows me to experiment with different styles + mediums.
Are you completely separating your graphic and artistic activity or all that mixture?
Personal work allows me to develop styles, techniques and aesthetics based on my own passions and at my own pace.
Professional work allows me to implement these skill sets while expanding my knowledge and experience base.
It’s a nice mix of graphic busy-ness that intertwines and overlaps.
Do you have artists whom you admire, who inspire you, or who turn your brains completely at this moment?
Richard Scarry. Jack Kirby.
And for you, Skate Art what is it?
Expression of style + spirit + energy of the past + present + future.
What are your projects that you’re working on right now ?
Series of 3 Plant-themed repeating pattern prints for wallpaper.
Nike AF-1 Graphic Collateral for customization project.
Ryan Hemsworth Asia Tour graphic poster + Album artwork.
Hotdog Furcoat Exhibition drawings.
Olde Chinese Zine 002. Photographs editing.
Olde Chinese tee graphic assortment preparation.
Chinatown World Tour / New York + Vancouver prints research and assembly.
And a couple of short questions for short answers:
UNIQUE OR MASS PRODUCTION: I like creating unique one-offs but welcome the opportunity to expand on some of my ideas and create mass produced items.
PAPER OR TABLET SHEET: Paper. I’m used to it. I’m a slow adapter. of technology. I didn’t even have a wireless mouse until not too long ago. My light table up until earlier this year was an old glass table and an old gooseneck lamp shining up from the bottom.
SKATE & CREATE OR SKATE & DESTROY: Skate & Create.
WHAT BOOSTS YOU: Recently its this video clip.
FAVORITE TRICK: Casper Slide.
FAVORITE SKATER: Gou Miyagi.
YOUR DREAM: I was this werewolf and threw these big metal barrels around.
Thanks a lot for your answers Allister, a last word?
“Decide in your heart of hearts what really excites and challenges you, and start moving your life in that direction. Every decision you make, from what you eat to what you do with your time tonight, turns you into who you are tomorrow, and the day after that. Look at who you want to be, and start sculpting yourself into that person. You may not get exactly where you thought you’d be, but you will be doing things that suit you in a profession you believe in. Don’t let life randomly kick you into the adult you don’t want to become.”
Wishing all creatives continued greatness on their chosen paths.