Many of you may have seen Todd Bratruds work through the years on skateboard decks and shirts. He did several collaborations with Nike SB, Flip Skateboards, Volcom, Consolidated, The Skateboard Mag, Burlesque Design of North America, and his own projects with Teenage Runanway and Tickled Pink Magazine. You will see the true nature of skateboarding and art. Rough and bloody! So puke blood and get tears in your eyes. Bratruds work is a nice reminder of the silliness in life.
More about Todd: >>SkateboardMag-Todd-Blog
Can you tell us a little bit about your parents and the way you grew up ?
I grew up in a little town in northern Minnesota which was a kind of farming community with nothing much around instead of farms and dirt roads. As far as skateboarding there wasn’t much going on.
My little brother had a skateboard and got into it and I kind of latched onto that and kept with it. I was probably the only one skating there for almost 4 years and I just tried to get all the magazines I could, which was pretty hard from there, but yeah like I said: small town !!
My parents were pretty cool. They were supportive all along. I guess they didn’t see much of a future in skateboard art or skateboardnig at all but they never said to me not to do it. As I got older they just kind of gave me the hint to maybe quit at this point and find something normal. Because like I said in our town it was a really odd thing to do and I didn’t see much of a future in it myself. At that point there were so few skateboard companies and so few artists doing their stuff that there was really no room to do it. I only knew I liked it so I just went for it.
I guess until recently they were hoping I was doing something which was not skateboard related but they were always wishing that I could manage to make a living out of it. I mean obviously skateboarding is not some massive money maker. It is not the way of really getting rich. You can pay your bills but that’s about it.But I am content with that. I only think they would like to see more for me in life.
So was it skateboarding that got you into drawing or did this happen apart from that ?
I guess I liked to draw before but I didnt really know what to do with it. It was just fun and I wasn’t really good at it. But when I started seeing Thrasher magazine and seeing all the Pushead stuff , like that "Pushzone" section he did, and Andy Jenkins with his "wrenchpilot", that was the biggest part that got me into it for sure! I wanted to do that. I mean not to do the same style, but just to make this kind of graphics. So yeah it was totally skateboardnig that brought me into art !
You grew up in a farm area. Was this the reason for doing all those graphics which show dead or punished animals ?
I don’t even know where all of that comes from. I mean you see a lot of that stuff out there on the country roads, like dead animals and shit. When I saw something next to the road I always took photos of it. But I think I just like the shock value of those graphics. It is not too terrible but it is enough so that when you look at it you either like it or not but at least you will remember seeing it. I guess it does the trick!
Have you been to an art-school after recognizing that you like drawing and wanted to keep on going with it ?
In that time skateboarding wasn’t big (it was around 1992) and it didn’t seem that there was a chance to make a living out of it. It just seemed to be cool you couldn’t see much of a future in it.
So I was just trying to figure out what to do and I went to art-school. This only lasted 3 months and then I dropped out. I hated it from the first day. It was awful because I knew how I wanted to do things and they were always telling me to do it in a different way.
Especially in skateboarding I don’t think that having an art-school diploma is gonna mean anything. So I just quit and started to freelance a little bit, doing a lot of odd art jobs that weren’t cool at all.
Did you do skateboard related works before you hooked up with Consolidated ?
None that I got payed for. There was a skateshop in Minnesota called „Phobia“ which started in 1994 and me and some friends got into it and started to get a team together. I did a lot of shirt and sticker graphics. Also some board graphics and that was my kind of jumping board into it. My first taste of art that went on skateboard related stuff. But there was no money in that. It was strictly for helping the scene out and to do what I coud to contribute to skateboarding in that area. It was a good starting point and made me realize that I definitely wanted to do something in skateboard art. I mean I always knew but it was that much more of a push to really make something happen.
So how did you get to work for Consolidated then?
That happened really randomly. My room mate at that time Billy Karm was riding for Consolidated and they sent me one or two boards in his boxes once in a while because I talked to them on the phone when they called for him. So I sent them a „thank you“ letter once with a drawing on the envelope and after a little while their artist Moish Brendman called me and said: „Hey that thing you sent, we wanna do a board graphic with it. Will you give us the permission to do it?“
And of course I said Yes because for me at that time (and still is) Consolidated was the raddest company. Everything they represented and what you saw visually on the boards. So that was top of the heap for me and I asked them if I could send them more stuff and then it kind of snowballed from there on. Randomly their artist who had been there for five or six years didn’t want to do it anymore and I was at the point wanting to do as much as I could. So I just kept on sending them graphics everyday and they asked me if I wanted his job. I moved out in between two weeks and went down to Santa Cruz
Did the work there also change something in your way of doing art ?
Yeah definitely. I mean before that I can’t even tell what kind of strange art jobs I was doing to pay the rent. And suddenly there was somebody liking my style and not giving me any limitations, saying do whatever you wanna do. So I got to do all this stuff which I couldn’t have done before. Where else for example would you find a home for a drawing of someone squishing a little chicken..!?
So it was a lot of a push in the good direction! It opened up a lot of new doors for me. I had tons of ideas for new board graphics every day.
What do you think about the hype of skateboard collectors who are willing to pay huge ammounts of money for certain boards and graphics ?
I think it’s cool. They were never made and sold for collecting but to skate. The fact that there is still so many boards around which never have been skated is great. It is a tribute to the company and especially the artist. But the newer ones have partly been produced in very little ammounts. So you might have a favorite graphic which you see in a magazine but maybe never see it in real life because they’re all sold out by the time.
And if you then coincidently do find it you naturally might be much willing to pay a lot of money for it. So if you want a special one you have to go and get it, otherwise they are gonna be all skated and gone.
Which of your graphics do you think could be one that people will lick their fingers and pay a lot of money for in 10 years?
I don’t know; artwise I can imagine that people won’t really give that much about my stuff. But that „Giving tree“ series I did, a lot of people made a big thing over that. Because Consolidated got in trouble with the Sean Silverstein association (He was the writer of the book which the graphic made fun of) and had to Stopp making the boards. So everybody liked to have that series but couldn’t get it anymore.
We recently had a special exhibition called "MADE FOR SKATE" -displaying the history of skate shoes. The shoes were arranged in a timeline - telling the story of the shoes back in the days until today. Well the timeline ended with the shoe you did for Nike SB called the "Todd" Dunk next to the Consolidated BS Drunk. There is this kind of war/battle between the consolidated "don´t do it " army vs. Nike SB. So what´s behind all that.
Oh yes I know the story behind it but I don´t know how much of a battle it is. Consolidated is trying to keep skateboarding pure, keeping it all skateboarding only - which makes sense. I completely agree with that and it is a good thing. But at the same time I half don´t really care - I mean not that I don't care, it is just that skateboarding has changed so much over the years; as it has always been changing. It changes everyday. And Consolidated just did the same thing they were always doing: they saw what they didn´t like in skateboarding and try do what they can to change it. I don´t think (I can be wrong) but I don´t think it is anything personal against Nike necessarily. I think Nike is just getting their name used in Consolidateds' little campaign as an example for a big company doing business in skateboarding which with them is the most recognizable thing I guess.
There are a lot of rumors around that consolidated got mad about you using the same colors as the Consolidated cube. Maybe you can clear the fog.
It started happening as a sales person at Nike called it or said something about Consolidated and Nike doing a project together - and that turned to this whole big thing - Consolidated got all upset about that.
So were you choosing the color combination because of your all time favorite skate shoe, the Airwalk Prototype model "Bruiser? - (we know 'cause you did the "MADE FOR SKATE" Artwork with that shoe ) - Was that the idea behind the colors blue black and white?
Consolidated does not even know that. At that point I don´t wanted getting Nike and Consolidated in any more trouble so I left the whole Bruiser thing out of it - but there is a bunch of reasons why I chose these colors. There is a comic book called "The MAX" with a character, a burgular wearing a black blue and white scarf who is one of the first persons you see getting killed in the comic.(the shoes were originally supposed to come with a scarf) And I wanted so much to have this kind of scarf.
Well, a stupid reason. And around that time I have often gone to hockey games to see the Sharks team play which has the same colors - so there were a bunch of reasons for me to choose those colors. Well obviously I´m not dumb and I knew it was Consolidates colors too - but I didn´t gave it a whole lot of thought.
At that time Seth McCallum and Emeric Pratt were riders for Consolidated and both rode for Nike as well. We all talked to Birdo and he said - I wish you did not ride for them but I don´t really care. If they pay and take care of you it´s ok.
The "don´t do it" campaign was meant to educate people like "be aware what this is and what´s happening
If you care ,cool - if you don´t - fine.
He always said we did our part - and it is how it is and I feel good about what I did in the past. That people know what´s up. And if they wanna like Nike its fine - if they don´t, that's cool too.
Someone said the wrong thing and it turned into a total mess..........
Whatever - It was a completely dumb move on my part. You know I knew that this were the same colors as Consolidateds' but at that time they had a bunch of other meanings for me too. I just never saw it would turn into what it did.
I guess that was the failure and once I did it there was no turning back and therefore I never brought up the whole "Bruiser" thing. So call out Nike for ripping off Airwalk and it was me doing the whole thing.. So I know Nike did not know about that.
Well I just thought that shoe was the coolest. I had seen Mike Vallely was wearing the "Bruiser" and he was my favorite skater of that time. And I never could never get the shoes, so I said I make the shoes look like them so I would finally have them.
So point plank - I really wanted to make a shoe that looked like the "Bruiser". And I don´t wanna say it was all for the best but in a way the whole thing had pushed Consolidated to do what they kind of had not been doing for a while.
And I think skateboarding needs this kind of voice because there tons of kids out there who need someone to speak up for them. I´m sure there are allot of kids who hate Nike and hate sporting goods and so Consolidated can speak up for them.
And for me it has been good too. To do other and new things.
I loved what I did there and it was one of my greatest times ever and I´ve done so much new stuff which I wouldn't have thought to do before.
But now this new kid there at Consolidated who I helped learn to do that stuff as much as I could along the way gets the same chance I got before. So I guess at the end it all had made a good sence!
The whole thing is definetly a bummer but I guess it happens.
More infos about Todd Bratrud you will find here at MySpace: