Artist Proof: Roger Allen aka Crooked Walker is a graphic designer, wrter, and awesome photographer based in Vancouver. His work has appeared in numerous publications such as ADBUSTERS, Capital, Color, Ion, Style, Vorn and even my favorite VICE magazine! Recently he exhibited work in the touring exhibitions ‘A Rolling Perspective and Smile on Your Brothers as well as showing his work in exhibitions across North America.
Artsprojekt: What inspires your art?
Roger Allen: Crooked Walker designs are a reflection of over twenty years of skateboarding and the culture it defines and borrows from. In 1991, I started creating illustrations for West Beach. From that experience, I gained more confidence and continued to tackle larger goals, such as being part of a small team that created The Ladner Skatepark, achieving a Bachelor of Design degree from ECUAD, working as a lead artist at Electronic Arts, and launching my own photo and design sites. I currently work as a freelance illustrator/writer/graphic designer, as well as the in-house graphic designer for the Arts Club Theatre Company. Some of my interests include skateboarding and collecting books illustrated by Edward Gorey.
AP: What is the relationship between technique and content in your work?
RA: I am open to all techniques as I have had exposure to everything from printmaking to creating normal maps for PS3 textures. I do enjoy combining traditional methods like actually drawing with paper and photography with film with computer applications.
AP: Describe your first experience of making art and how it affected your life’s journey
RA: When I was a kid there was no such thing as color copier so I would take my older brothers records photocopy the sleeves and then colour them in with pencil crayons. I then would wallpaper my room with the coloured copies, people would often comment on how cool they looked and this inspired me to start drawing on T-shirts; which I began wearing to school.
I find the hardest part of creating art is coordinating with people. In the past I used to create hundreds of images of people in specific places but as I get older I tend to be more solitary in my process. My latest project was based on my history in skateboarding and specifically baseplates. This project was used for the cover of Color Magazine issue 6.6 “My initial thought for this project was to find a way to show how skateboarding has made an impression on me. While exploring this idea, I discovered I have more to say about how I have literally left an impression on skateboarding. When skating, the board should feel like an extension of the body. With experience, the skater knows to try and land with his feet over the bolts that connect the trucks to the deck. By doing this, he will know instantly whether he is going to wipe out or keep on riding. The baseplates of the trucks take the full impact and leave an impression of the day’s skating. The impression I have made from the baseplates are a record of every bail and every victory that has been inflicted on that specific board. I have been skateboarding for over twenty years and the impressions left by my trucks display a history of my life. My age, travel, interests, and how I skateboard, have all been charted in these prints.
My first skateboard came with slalom trucks. What made the most sense back then was to roll down hills with them. The nearest incline to my parent’s house was a ramp that lead up to the courthouse. People in cuffs and others in suits would be forced to jump out of the way, as my friends and I spent hours doing coffins and catamarans down the ramp. Skateboarding was so far off the radar; the cops never kicked us out. The slightest shift in weight would cause the trucks to turn sharply making them unpredictable (wiping out was half the fun). We later graduated to bombing hills in a near by town. The crummy bolts I had holding my trucks had to cope with ridiculous amounts of strain, since the increased speed caused massive vibration and the need to slide out of every corner. The history recorded on those baseplates is one of power slides, speed wobbles, and nervous laughter
Trucks increased in size in the mid eighties to match the new board shapes. The larger hanger of the newer trucks was perfect for grinding. I wore through coppers, right down to the axles of a few pairs of Indys on the local unpainted curbs. Skating home from school at dusk, Zorlac graphics, pivots on curbs, high school sessions, going for the lip at the East Van bowls, and the distant calls of “skaters suck!” are gauged into those baseplates.
Wheels, boards and trucks became very small in the early nineties. It seemed like every week I was severely twisting my ankle. I was traveling to places like The Res, Ape Shit, Blood Banks, New Spot, Art Gallery, and the Ladner Skate Park (the park I later helped to create) constantly. Skating for me was all about banks, flipping and manuals. The strain of attempting fakie heel flip variels over and over caused the trucks holes to shatter. Focusing boards, broken arms, skating by myself, avoiding security guards, fitted khakis & white t-shirts, and learning to catch it clean are all stomped into those baseplates.
My history has continued to be written in the 2000’s on technically built trucks and boards. Rediscovering how much fun it is to just be on a skateboard, rolling around hitting everything and utilizing aspects of all my experiences on a board, is what it’s all about now. I know my history will continue to be imprinted on my baseplates because, just like when I was a kid, I still daydream about the streets and doing the grind, sticking the manual, clearing the channel and catching the flip.
AP: Take us on a guided tour through a day in your life as an artist
RA: 1. Like most people, for me every day starts in the shower. Mornings can be tough as I usually stay up late. I like finding invigorating shampoos and soaps to wake me up.
2. I love all the product packaging found in grocery stores. I seem to be constantly ducking into corner shops searching for some new strange item and checking out the weird font treatments on cracker boxes. I never leave a store without buying some form of energy drink—often I don’t even know why. Am I addicted to them?
3. My first computer was a Commodore Vic 20. I was 11. By the next summer I was at a computer camp obsessively trying to learn how to create video games, and it was a dream come true to later work as a lead artist at Electronic Arts. How video games continue to push boundaries amazes me. There has never been a time when video games were not a big part of my everyday life.
4. Every day I work on just about every form of print material, from logos to bridge banners. The heavy workload can be really chaotic so I try to keep my desk uncluttered and organized. It’s also important to me to have some references to things that make me happy.
5. I attended Emily Carr, on Granville Island BC Canada, for seven years—three for fine arts and four for communication design. And now the studio I work at is also on Granville Island. I love all the paths that cut through the surrounding condos toward it. Every day I try to take a different route and most of the time I stop at the island’s b-ball court, an often overlooked and non-touristy corner.
6. When I was a little kid I would make mix tapes from the records that my older brothers owned. While listening to the music, I loved looking at the covers and reading the liner notes. I recognized right away that records were important and I started collecting them as soon as I could. Recently, I’ve been digitizing the rare stuff on a vinyl-to-MP3 record player, and the memories have come back.
7. Ever since receiving my first set of Micronauts, when I was 10, I have been collecting pop culture toys. I can be found daily scanning collector sites for rare Frankenberry, Snoopy, and still-in-the-box Baron Karza figures. Over the last seven years, I have been buying a lot of Be@rbricks; it’s awesome how many different ways the same shape can be presented.
8. Last summer I decided to face my fear of deep water and I enrolled in beginners’ swimming classes at Vancouver’s Kits outdoor pool. At the end of the three-week program, I still couldn’t swim, so this year I was really determined to learn. Three more weeks in the pool and now I can swim…kinda.
9. My wife and I love to cook, late night dinners and then reading in bed is how we prepare for the next day
AP: Where can we find you work?
RA: My work has appeared in Adbusters Magazine, Artsprojkt, Color Magazine, Capital Magazine, CBC Radio 3 website, Ion Magazine, Playstation Magazine, Vice Magazine and photo book, and Vorn Magazine. Recently, I exhibited work in the touring exhibitions A Rolling Perspective, and Smile On Your Brother, Stoked Mentoring, and soon to be One Way or Another
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