Calgary native John Antoski is the man behind the creative artistic direction for Transworld SNOWboarding. In addition, Antoski utilizes innovative techniques and inspiration from the people and places he’s seen to create colorful pieces of art. As one of the featured artists for Billabong’s annual Design For Humanity event, Antoski takes center stage with vibrant pieces that conjure feelings of a colorful, carefree summer. Antoski shares his inspiration, method and views on living every surfer’s California dream.
The Surf Channel: How has living in California affected or changed your artistic style? Are there any Cultural differences in California from your native Calgary, Alberta, Canada?
John Antoski: I grew up where the prairies meet the Rocky Mountains, this contrast always fascinated me. I was content in that drastic environment. I took comfort in that within an hour from my house, I could be hiking in the mountains or fishing the river. Calgary is separated by Indian reservations that extend along the Trans Canada highway. There’s a cultural contrast between us and the natives much the same as the rocky cliffs bordering the rolling fields of grain. We were told never to go on the reservations. But for us it was the one safe place that we could be young and free. The cops rarely ventured out there and the locals were welcoming in their own unique way.
California and Mexico have similarly contrasting environments and cultures. Each place offers a different set of risks and rewards. I get excited about adventuring more around Mexico and drawing from it. There’s an interesting narrative that is created out of forbidden territories. It’s rich with experiences and unknowns. Each of us will always return from these borders with our own stories and new perspectives.
TSC: Are you self taught, or do you have a formal art education?
JA: I’ve made things all my life, as far back as I can remember. I was suspended from school for drawing on the desks and painting on the walls. I took advantage of being a student of art for 5 years in college, and now I take advantage of being a designer in my career. I would say that I was never taught but have always known.
TSC: Your work for Billabong’s DFH features 3D components. What’s your favorite medium to work with?
JA: I have never been able to walk into an art supply shop and purchase materials for creating work. I drift around the store waiting to get inspired but it never happens. On the other hand, I can be in a thrift store or antique shop and be stimulated by objects to create new work. I hit up Craigslist every once and a while to see what people are discarding. I work with wood as a primary medium for creating work, and I find it in random places, both digital and physical.
TSC: Describe your artistic viewpoint in 3 words.
JA: High Low Art
TSC: Briefly describe the process in creating a new piece—what inspires you? What’s had the greatest impact?
JA: It starts with a feeling of wonder or intrigue. I see connections in everyday life and human behavior that are on some level seemingly unrelated. The way someone dresses or the way they fold their hands across their chest is a gesture I use to present an idea. These gestures are telling signs of character and experience. My sculptures employ these kinds of gestures pointing to a larger narrative. Environment has the greatest impact on me–surroundings, people, and the interactions between them.
TSC: Billabong’s DFH benefits the Cultivate Foundation. What causes and programs are you passionate about?
JA: I am passionate about people, all types. I have been a part of Keep-A-Breast for a number of years and have donated art for friends dealing with health issues and huge hospital bills. If I can use my creativity to help a worthy cause, I’m always down.
TSC: As the Associate Art Director for Transworld SNOWboarding, what does a typical day at work entail?
JA: My workday is a lot like swells. It can be forecasted to a certain degree and direction but there is always a level of unpredictability until the waves show up. I also work with my best friends so that’s a definite bonus. We all hang and create together. We share the latest bullshit online looking to one-up each other. It’s like art school never ended but now we get paid for it. My job keeps me youthful and happy. I really can’t complain.
TSC: Now that you’ve lived in California for quite some time, are your roots still in snowboarding or have you found yourself gravitating towards skate and surf?
JA: Living in SoCal has definitely re-shaped my mind and body. It’s true I don’t get to the mountains as often as I used to however, I have been able to shred locations that were unreachable for me in Canada. I think it’s a great trade. I can skate and surf everyday and snowboard places far removed in between. I needed that change. I felt a lack of progression with snowboarding in Canada. My friends drifted and had less time for it, and I lost my obsession. I stopped watching the videos, reading the mags, and traded that time for the pursuit of art and design.
I had to relearn once I moved to SoCal. The pros that I was into had quit. I guess I was reborn into a new world that had evolved without me. This environment offered me new progression, one that was fresh, foreign and interesting. Surfing became my new snowboarding. I was drinking from the fountain of youth again. Happy and growing with every new experience. Five years later I’m still at it! I’ve surfed in Hawaii and Nicaragua, and up the coast to San Francisco and back. I lust for the ocean. It’s the great cleanser and purifier. It can wash away negativity and quench my creativity. I’m in love with her.
-End of interview
All images courtesy of John Antoski.