Since starting work at Santa Cruz in 1975, Jim Phillips has established his name as the seminal skate and surf artist, helping shape Santa Cruz‘ own visual identity, as well as applying his work to countless other brands, boards and more. The strength and character of his work is such that, in a way, he basically defined the look and feel of skate graphics – and in doing so, played a large part of the industry’s graphic evolution. The folks over at designboom recently caught up with the legendary artist. Check out a short extract of their conversation below and head over here for the complete feature.

What was the thing that initially made you want to become an artist?
I grew up on army bases and we frequently moved. I went to eight different schools by the second grade so it was hard to catch up academically and I basically just gave up. Since they give you paper and pencil and require you to be quiet, I spent my class time drawing. During those days, in the ’40s, television was not yet available so to pass time at home and entertain myself I drew characters inspired from the newspaper funnies, and it set in motion my style and humor content. My grandfather heard about my drawings and sent me a book from the Speedball Pen Company titled “Pen Tips on Cartooning”, which showed various cartoons with illustrations of the various pens (pen tips), as if they were drawing each particular line. I bought my first bottle of Higgins india ink and became good at drawing cartoons. Through my early life it was the only thing I was any good at besides surfing, so you could say I didn’t have many other options available to earn a decent living.

What do you do to keep your ideas fresh?
King Solomon said there is nothing new under the sun. That was three thousand years ago, and it’s still true to this day – there is nothing fresh. To make matters worse, an artist must compete with every artist who’s ever lived because their works always remain and continue to be held up to the highest standards. The modern artist’s job is simply to fall in line and do the same old stuff – maybe in a new way, maybe with a twist – and hope for the best.

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