AFQ - Don Pendleton

Welcome to the first edition of AFQ (A few questions). These posts will be 5 questions posed to artists, designers and friends of mine. The questions will typically be about their design and their art and probably be random as well. For the first round I invited friend and artist Don Pendleton. Don and I have been friends for a few years and that relationship started via email and eventually turned into art shows and collaborative projects. Now Don and I work together (at times) at Element Skateboards. Don has a slew of projects going on including a documentary about his work that is due out later this year. Enjoy the clips, art and the words.

1) Now that you are strictly freelance how do you go about “courting” new

I’m still fortunate enough to have them come to me so far. Which is what I prefer, because I never want to have to convince somebody to use my artwork for their company. If it’s a fit, I think enough people know that I’m available in select circumstances. I’m still really picky about who I’ll work with and that’s important to me. When I feel like I have to take jobs to make ends meet, then I’ll know I’m probably not loving what I do much anymore.

2) I can’t believe you still live in Ohio and manage to be a part of
skateboarding and it’s culture (cause it’s rooted so heavily in Cali). What
do you like about living in Ohio? What do you dislike about it?

I just like this whole area. The people are strange but in a fascinating way. As much as I hate the winter, I think it’s necessary to my life…all the seasons and having that literal change that happens regularly every year. I like the slow pace, I like being able to hide away easily. I like the fact that there are so few diversions and I can stay focused. No traffic, that kind of thing. Ironically, down deep inside I hate the cold weather. I hate that the economy is bad and that people can be so narrow minded. For the most part, I need this kind of environment to be who I am. I think if I ever moved too far away, my environment would change who I am to a degree and I don’t want that to happen. Plus, I’m close to my family and friends here. The importance of that can’t be understated.

3) Do you still think the gothic look is coming back? Shit, did it ever die?
Explain what it’s like to live goth.

Oh, I think it’s still alive and well. Especially in the mid-Ohio Valley. I think winter has a lot to do with it. People are still into that movie, ‘The Crow’ and still go to goth nights at bars to creep and lurk around. It’s so funny. I can relate to it all in a way…growing up feeling like an outsider, kind of demonized for being a skateboarder in a small town. That will always be a huge part of my personality. No matter where I get in life I still feel this weight of not being accepted weighing down on me for doing my own thing, being an artist, even though skateboarding is more celebrated now than chastised.

work by: Don Pendleton

4) If you could do anything but art and design what would you do and why?

Honestly, I have no idea. It’s been my life since I was a kid and all that I really focused on other than skateboarding. I’m not the kind of person who could be happy just going with the flow. It would have to be something difficult, something kind of against the grain. I wanted to be a stunt man when I was a kid but I may have tried to be a doctor or surgeon. I had a teacher in high school who really tried to push me into that after he saw me dissect a lot of animals in his class. I’ve always been a hypochondriac and always studied diseases and illness so I think it would somehow fit me well. My mom always thought I’d make a good doctor. Love the idea of helping others, hate the rigidity of that kind of profession.

5) If I was a kid straight out of design school looking to break into art
and design what kind of advice would you give me?

Wow. I’ve actually had people ask me for that kind of advice before. I really miss the good old days when artists were like skateboarders. There was a time when I would tell somebody that I was an artist and I’d get these really sympathetic looks. Looks that said, ‘I’m so sorry for you. I hope you’ll be OK. It’s a shame you’ll have to live by eating Ramen Noodles’…that kind of thing. And you’d almost be embarassed to admit you did art for a living. Now, it’s become some kind of cool thing to do. And even people who aren’t really artists try to convince people that they’re artists for some reason. There was an understanding that you had to commit to it…that theere would be hard times, suffering, potential starvation..and I really liked that about it. And now it’s become some kind of pseudo rock star job in the wrong areas. So it brings a lot of people into art that wouldn’t normally go for it and be willing to suffer for taking that route.
As a result, there is a lot of borrowing of styles, a lot of pop culture references in art, these horrible trends in art and design that just kind of spread like viruses. And that’s the bad part of art. The good part is being able to express yourself, rid yourself of the demons in your head; demons that nobody else has. Pushing yourself to the next level even though there’s no financial payoff. Artists are crazy! It’s been proven for years that they’re nuts for the most part. Who would want to become one?
I’d tell them that life is easier if you choose a more stable career. I’d tell them to sketch every single day. To develop their own style whether it fit into today’s ‘marketable’ art category or not. I’d tell them to take any job they can get to build their portfolio. Not to take themselves too seriously. Fall in love with the idea of rejection. Learn to live with yourself when you fall flat on your face. If you can do all of that and still love it, then go for it. If not, maybe you could try to start a band or something. Wow. That was the longest answer I’ve ever given to any single question.

work by: Don Pendleton


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