NATAS DESIGNARIUM DECKS BY DAVE THE CHIMP

NatasBothGraphicA few days ago i received an email from Dave The Chimp including a really cool story he experienced about skateboard graphic and passion in life….The following are his own words. Trully inspirational!

In 2011, legendary 80’s pro skateboarder Natas Kaupas came to Berlin to skate my concrete sculpture “Papa und Ich”. After skating together, he asked me if I would like to make a graphic for his “Designarium” project. The obvious answer was “YES!”
I had two ideas, and decided to just go ahead and make both of them and let Natas chose his favourite. He chose to make both of them! I designed appropriate shapes, and then handed them over while Natas fixed up the business side of the deal. It took a while, but NHS finally manufactured and released the boards at the end of April 2015. And they sold out almost immediately!

As if it wasn’t enough of a trip to make shapes and graphics for one of the most innovative skateboarders that ever lived, the cherry on the cake came in the form of a photograph, shot by Steve Rodriguez, owner of 5Boro skateboards, of Mark Gonzalez riding one of these boards in NYC! It’s two weeks since I saw this photograph, and my brain still reels! The two pioneers of street skateboarding – and me! If nothing else, it tells me I was right – don’t listen to your parents, and follow your heart.

NatasGonz

Natas “1991” deck

My first idea for a graphic was to reference the classic Natas graphics from the 80’s, with the panther, triangle, leaves/wings, etc. I decided to try and pull in reference from those first nine boards.

First thing to do was make the triangle into a pyramid, as pyramids are symbols of power, with unusual abilities (meat stored under a pyramid shaped box stays fresh for longer than meat stored under any other shape!)

I really liked the idea of the crystal ball, first used by Wes Humpston in 1987, as we don’t know what the future will hold. I never imagined, as a grom living in a small town, that I would ever be making skateboard graphics, let alone graphics ridden by legends!

I drew a severed, rotting hand holding the crystal ball as a comment on how much of the craft and hand-skills involved in the creation of skateboard graphics, that captivated us in the 80’s, have vanished from the art of skateboard graphics due to computers, transfer printing, and the constant turn-over of new graphics required by the industry.

The cat bursting forth from the pyramid was a problem. I tried to make it look aggressive and powerful like the classic black panther, but it wouldn’t work. Then I thought about Natas, and what struck me about him was that he was always smiling – so a happy cat, with a Cheshire Cat grin, was the obvious solution! The cat is playing with a ball of wool as in Jimbo Phillips “kitten” graphic from 1989, a reference to the friend I grew up skating with, who pushed me and inspired me, and who had this board.

At the top of the graphic my worm/ghost characters replace the wings originally used by Humpston, themselves a replacement for the palm leaves on the 1986 to 1988 models.

A tiny monkey, making the “hang loose” hand sign, peeps out from behind the cats tail (Jim Phillips put a monkey in the palm leaves on the ’87 graphic) and he also appears on the top graphic, holding a surfboard, as the strongest image I have of Natas is of him skating curbs at the beach, from the only skate video I owned in the 80’s.

The tail of the board features nine gravestones as a reference to the first nine graphics, a cats nine lives, and the 101 graphic by Erik Brunetti (the board that supposedly saw the end of the cat!) My name features on one of the gravestones, as it has done in a few other graphics I’ve made, the knowledge that I will die keeping me humble, while the memorial etched in stone keeping me living for ever!

Finally, the type work on the banner wrapped around the wrist of the severed hand references the type on the original 1985 graphic by Kevin Ancell.

The shape of the board is based on a few shapes (mostly Alien Workshop shapes) from 1991, the year of the last cat graphic, and a shape I really like.

Natas “Pig” deck

While trying to solve the problem of the cat on the “1991” graphic I got thoroughly pissed off and thought “This is bullshit! This is not what I do!” So I had to ask myself, what DO I do?! The answer was – I fuck things up! And that’s how the “Pig” board was born.

I really like the first board Natas had in 1985. This fat shape with no nose reminds me of the first “real” skateboard I ever saw, reminds me of the Beastie Boys, Back To The Future… it just feels right. And there is something really pure about the first Natas graphic. So I decided I wanted to make a modern version of this original.

Now to the “fucking things up” part. The first thing I did was flip the classic triangle upside down, and replaced the panther with Jesus! Jesus was allegedly a carpenter, so I always imagined that he would be building ramps if he was a skater. I drew Jesus banging in a big nail, as I like the idea he could be building something useful like a ramp, or banging nails through the wrists of people being crucified. This “Create/Destroy” theme repeats in the top graphic.

The inverted triangle reminded me of a martini glass, which gave me the option to use the middle “T” of Natas as the stem of the glass. But of course, it also had to be inverted, and if we’re going to do that we HAVE to make the T into a cross! Natas used to get a lot of shit from Christians back in the day, as his name backwards is “satan”. Putting the T upside-down meant the whole name had to be flipped, which kind of makes it read “satan” – the perfect compliment to an image of Jesus!

The type on the tail references the “Santa Monica Airlines” on the original, as does the fully dipped yellow paint job, and the deck is completed with a huge top graphic. Job done! And I’m as proud as hell that this is the board The Gonz chose to ride!​

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