Interview Skylar Blum Girl Skateboards

Interview with Skylar Blum, Art Director at Girl Skateboards

August 25, 2022

It’s not often that you meet people who actually made their dream come true, but Skylar Blum is one of them. Working for Girl Skateboards was his lifelong goal, and he accomplished it in September 2021, by becoming the new art director for the brand. Let’s learn more about the journey of this great dude that all started with Yeah Right.
How did you start working at Girl?
I applied to an Instagram post, it was really random. At the time I was working for a merch company, basically just designing clothing. I was getting ready to maybe go solo and start my own thing. I’ve been trying not to be on it too much lately, but I happened to check Instagram that day and I saw this post that Crailtap was hiring artists, I was like, “F***, I have to apply for this”.
A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!
Yeah exactly! I remember that night, I was like, “I haven’t updated my website in three years or something”, so I just went through all my stuff, I probably spent four hours updating it. Then I sent them an email and the next morning, Megan [Baltimore] emailed me, she was like, “Let’s talk”. The process was super quick, and all of a sudden, I was working at Crailtap. It really was a dream come true.
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You did interviews with Megan Baltimore and Rick Howard?
I first had a few talks with Megan over the phone. She was super cool to talk to. Then I went into the Girl office and met Megan and Rick in person, and we just clicked, it was really chill. I was super nervous about that though, I was like, “I can’t blow this”. Since I started skating, all I really skated was Girl and Chocolate. I got a skateboard when I was six or something, but it took a few years to actually understand what to do with it, because at that time I hadn’t really seen anything other than Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games and stuff like that. One day, I saw Yeah Right, and that video really made me be like, “This is what I want to do”.
How old were you at that time?
I was 13, I remember my friend showed it to me and I was like, “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen”. After that I just got super into Girl and Chocolate, Spike Jonze, the whole culture just grabbed me. I was really focused on skating, me and my friends would try to make little skate videos. At first, I wasn’t too focused on artwork and photography and all these different things, and as I got a little older, I started doing more photo and video and putting together edits.
Interview Skylar Blum Girl Skateboards Illustration 1
Did you study after high school?
I went to a community college for a year in my town and I started studying filmmaking, because at first, I was like, “I want to make skate videos and shoot skate photos”. But then I got really into the art of photography, so I decided to study photography at Purchase College in New York. I really fell in love with that. I was still skating through that time in college, but my focus definitely started shifting to the artwork and the photography, and I did a few projects around skating. I got a BFA degree in photography. I was really into the fine art side of it. After graduating, I actually started self-publishing some photo books and I was like, “Okay I’m going to try to make it as an artist in the photography world”, but I was still super inspired by skateboarding.
Where are you from?
I’m from Poughkeepsie, New York, about an hour and a half north of Manhattan, a suburban area.
What made you move to Los Angeles?
When I was 18, I took a trip to LA by myself. It was actually going to be a skate trip with a couple friends for two weeks, but all of them bailed like the night before, we were supposed to leave and I was like, “What the f***!” [Laughs]. I just went by myself, I stayed in a hostel in Santa Monica or Venice, I think. The second I landed out here, it felt like home, I just fell in love with it, I was like, “This is where I’m supposed to be”. Over the years, I had been watching Yeah Right over and over again, seeing LA, I was living there mentally. So, then I kept going back to LA every summer until I finished school in 2012 and then I moved in 2015.
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You wanted to work in the skate industry?
The main thing was I just wanted to be out here, skate more, be around the culture that I was attracted to. I was really tired of the winters in New York, it’s like six months of the year [Laughs]. And actually, in all honesty, part of moving out here was that I wanted to work for Girl.
Really? That’s crazy!
That’s been a goal of mine since very early on. After seeing Yeah Right, it really did change my life. It was just the culmination of all the coolest stuff to me, and it showed me this whole new world I never knew existed. After that it felt like everything, I did was influenced by that video in one way or another. I feel like all the decisions I made in my life, I was subconsciously going in that direction with that goal in mind. Even if I could just design a single board for Girl or Chocolate, just being able to be respected as an artist in the skateboarding community, that was a big goal.
Did you tell this story to Megan and Rick?
I think in my first email to them, the subject was like, “I was born for this”. This has been my lifelong goal. My work experience kind of led me here, and I knew I was ready for this. But yeah, I’m sure I brought up Yeah Right and the influence it had on me when we talked in person.
Interview Skylar Blum Girl Skateboards Concept Board Series
A Girl concept series from 2015
What did you do before joining Girl?
I was working as an art director with a merchandise company, doing clothing design and accessories. Before that, I was doing freelance illustration and working in a print shop that specializes in making props for movies and billboards and commercials. It was super detail-oriented printmaking, silk screening, so I got really familiar with the actual production side of printmaking. And prior to that, I was working on some freelance projects and was always pushing my personal artwork forward. I don’t know, all those things felt like the perfect preparation to get to this place. When I was talking to Megan and Rick about all the things I had done, it just made sense. The timing couldn’t have been better.
What has been the most exciting thing you worked on so far?
Probably Bunny Hop. The video was coming out right after I got hired in September 2021. I was working on that, getting stuff ready for the premiere. It was wild, I was at the premiere, the credits are rolling, and I see my name in there! I got a little emotional because I wasn’t expecting that, I’d only been there a couple months, it was just nice to see. I also got to design the Bunny Hop zine that came out shortly after the video, which was a lot of fun to work on. That was just a really exciting time.
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How is it to work there?
It’s been amazing, just day to day, getting to know Rick and Mike [Carroll] and Megan and everyone else working there. They’re just good people to work with, that makes it so much better. Especially meeting your heroes and they’re actually cool and caring people. But I’ll be honest, it was a little stressful at first, just the pressure that I put on myself. I was like, “Man, I have to live up to these standards in my head”, but no one else was really putting pressure on me.
Your first board graphics just came out for Girl, what’s the story behind it?
The Contour Curves is the name of the first series I did. It was inspired by a Matisse style of collage and artwork, a kind of paper cut out. It was one of my first ideas when I started at Girl, it just popped in my head. I remember I brought one in and Rick and Sam [Smyth] were really into it. You’re just making a bunch of ideas and then if Rick thinks it’s cool, if Mike is into it, or if any of the skaters come by and like what they see, then it’ll probably go.
Interview Skylar Blum Girl Skateboards Contour Curves Series
The Contour Curves series
Why is the Contour Curves series a five-deck series? What’s the process to pick the skaters?
Jamie [Housel], our sales manager, definitely has a say or a good opinion of who should get certain boards for each drop. It’s usually kind of natural, if I have a one-off idea in mind for someone, then obviously that would be for that person. For a series, it could also start as an idea for a one-off. Actually, for the Contour Curves series, I did Rick Howard first, I think it was pretty much exactly what his graphic is now. It felt like some of the older 90’s graphics, with the text fitting into the shape of the board. So, Rick asked me to make a few more and see what I’d come up with. Then one day, I went home and made all of them in a day. I was trying to figure out cool different ways that a figure could be contorted into the shape of a skateboard. So, I probably made twenty different poses, then picked my favorite ones and went through a lot of different color options with the team, that’s kind of how that one happened.
Is there a skater more involved than others in the art process?
Niels [Bennett] always has really good ideas, he gets really involved in the art process which is cool. He has a strong opinion on things, I like it. Breana [Geering] has also been sending me some of her own artwork for boards which is always great to see.
Tell me more about that concept Girl series you did.
I made it right when I moved out here in 2015. I was still really into photography at the time, and I had this idea of the OG Girl doll shadow casting on different surfaces as if you were the Girl doll seeing your own shadow on the ground. I remember I posted it on Instagram and the Girl Skateboards account liked it, and I was like, “Oh cool, they must have seen it”.
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How different is it to design product and boards?
I try to approach it in a similar way as anything I’m making, I try to think like, “What’s the best way, the best language to say what I’m trying to say”. While I was working for these merch companies, making graphics for musicians and stuff, I was always treating them as skate graphics. But I haven’t really designed skateboards for a brand until joining Girl.
Where do you find inspiration to create designs?
I can get inspired by anything really, I’m a big nerd at heart, I love video games and sci-fi stuff and fantasy and all that kind of stuff. I feel like I have a very open mind and I try to stay present in the moment and just let things inspire me in day-to-day life.
What makes a good board graphic for you?
Probably something the second you see it, you wanna skate it or hang it on your wall. Maybe it makes you laugh or just sparks some joy, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a smile though, if it sparks something, then it’s successful to me. There’s always a place for any type of artwork on a skateboard I think, it’s just a fine tuning that makes it work for Girl or Chocolate or another brand. But there are so many different things that could make a graphic successful, there isn’t one right answer.
Interview Skylar Blum Girl Skateboards The Art Dump
The Art Dump (Carlos Gutierrez, Ben Petersen and Skylar Blum)
Do you collect boards?
I don’t have a great collection of boards because I don’t have a lot of space to put them. But that’s something I’m thinking about now, I’m gonna have all these series I’m making, I’m gonna have to get a storage site or something [Laughs]. I also try to live minimalist in a way, not holding on to too many material things, but there are certain things you want to hold on to. Gino [Iannucci] was always one of my favorites and I remember when his last board for Chocolate came out, I got it, and I don’t know why I skated it. I always wished I didn’t, I should have held on to that one.
What’s your favorite Girl graphics of all time?
That’s such a hard question. It’s probably from the early 2000’s, because that was my era. Those are the graphics that are the most memorable to me. I remember there was a series with each guy’s head with a girl’s hair on the doll body, with some newspaper clippings in the background. For some reason that one sticks in my mind.
What about Chocolate?
Hecox was always a huge inspiration for me, so really any of his series, the portraits are always great. If I had to pick one Hecox series from the 2000’s era, maybe the one with the cars, he had some really cool car illustrations. Also, some of Carlos [Gutierrez] graphics lately have been really sick, it feels very Chocolate. Some of those already feel like classics to me.
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Chocolate wouldn’t be the same without Hecox.
Hecox artwork is so recognizable as Chocolate, that’s the challenging thing I guess now. We’re working for this brand that’s one of the most respected brands in skateboarding, it has almost 30 years of amazing graphics and history, and the challenge is to live up to that and do it justice. I try not to think about it too much, I keep it in mind that this is legendary stuff, but I really try to not let it overwhelm me. I think all of us at The Art Dump, Ben [Petersen], Carlos, and myself, we’re trying to stay true to the brands that are loved by so many, the artwork, the history of art behind them, but also bring something new. Hopefully we can mash those together, bring in new influence and make some really awesome stuff.
Do you look out for other skate brands? Especially the new ones that the younger generation seems to be more into.
That’s kind of fun, sometimes at lunch we’ll go visit a shop and check out some of the boards that are up and see what other people are doing. But I try not to look at what other people are doing too much because I don’t want to subconsciously get them in my head or something. We’re trying to make artwork that we like as artists, that we feel good about. Ben, Carlos, and I have talked about this a few times, we’re always thinking of ourselves as a kid looking at the boards on the wall, trying to create that feeling for kids of this generation, but that’s also not the ultimate goal that it should be kid focused.
Interview Skylar Blum Girl Skateboards Illustration 2
What do you think about reissues?
I think reissues make sense at times, it’s a little odd to me to reissue everything. But I think for Girl and Chocolate, it makes sense to do some of these classics, like some of Hecox classic series, or some of Jenkins OG Girl series. It’s just timing to me. But a lot of it just comes down to Rick or Mike or a skater being stoked on that. The idea pops up one day and then they’re like, “Yeah let’s do this reissue”, and then it could be a decision of, “Is it going to be the original team on those boards or are we going to update those graphics a little for the new team?”.
So you love video games and it looks like Breana Geering will be the face of skate. (Skate 4)? Did you think about having some of your board graphics in the game?
Damn, I didn’t even think of that, that would be amazing! I feel like these past few months have been so surreal and gone so fast, these nine months at Girl went in a blink and sometimes I feel like I haven’t had a chance to actually let this amazing opportunity sink in, I’m so grateful for it. I’m just super excited for this beginning of my time at Girl and Chocolate and that would be so cool to be able to play skate. with one of my graphics!
Check out more of Skylar’s designs on his website and on instagram.