Australian label, Élan Skateboards, began working with us on the creation of board graphics back in 2008, the first commission being a limited edition one off design that then became a regular event, with SVPERVIXEN covering all of Élans design work, from individual board designs, motion graphics, apparel and web content since.
Searching for artists to create a series of limited edition board designs, Élan founder Andy Walker found an old illustration online that led him to our work. After some to and fro introductory emails, we were more than keen to help out. We are often approached by for this kind of work and unfortunately other commercial work often wins out for various reasons, but as they were a serious label, with a strong DIY ethos, we were more than happy to bring our work to Élan.
The first of many
Figuring it was probably easier to start from scratch than to adapt and already finished image, We created new imagery better suited to the longer format of a skateboard, in this case a Mech robot, wading through water with an almost Anime/Japanese flavour that ran as a limited run of 100.
Given that we were a new studio at the time, in a small apartment in NYC, much of this large scale image was drawn on the floor, in the bathroom, or where ever happen to have enough light at the time.
In the end, the image looked more like an ancient treasure map than an artwork. This is where extensive repair/post colouring came into the picture, and from then on, became the standard process to which we colour our board designs.
It went down well, the process was fun and looked forward to the next round, not actually expecting much more than a one off job. Andy soon mentioned he was after a series, this time girl illustrations, in a similar vein as the original image he found online that led him to us in the first place.
Girls - Series 1
We love to drawing images like these. Initially, the image has to stand out from the board rack in the store, sometimes it has to stand out from hundreds of boards. After that, in our opinion, if you're thinking, "I want to hang this on my wall but Im not sure if that will make mum/significant other angry" then we've hit the right balance.
The new boards were the Blue Girl, Hairless Pussy, and Stunning Views. Done in Pencil, and finished digitally.
The Hairless Pussy idea came from Supervixen's real life mascot, Fluffy, a blue Sphynx (hairless) cat that you may see on occasion hunting red laser dots in the hallways of the studio.
Shortly after we worked on a series based on darker themes, this was known as the Evil Series. The skull image being a large charcoal drawing, the bird being a pencil illustration, and the third type treatment, a quote from Iggy and the Stooges classic song of the same title. These last two sets of boards became the Girls Vs Evil series.
Wheels and Apparel
Along with the boards, Élan added more products to the labels lineup, expanding into apparel, wheels, stickers and other merchandise. of course all of this was catered for in a unique way, wheels being a particularly challenging format to work with.
Russian Tattoo Series
Another series that was a particular favourite, for its simple design and high impact, was the Russian Tattoo series. 3 boards, 3 colour ways, using a new transfer method involving transparent inks.
We referenced the concept of russian prison tattoos from the past century, these are usually very stylised with hidden meanings. The main goal here though was the experiment with transparent inks. In this case the Skullclops decks main red colour is actually see through, allowing the natural grain of the board to show through, thus making each design completely individual.
Time for something completely different. Everyone has a vice, why not Élan? We created this series focused on 3 vices, marijuana, pills, and alcohol. Given we had just completed a commercial for the Drug and Alcohol Association of Australia, we decided to go with the slightly less damaging "Pussy Liquor", a reference to the Rob Zombie track of the same name.
Girls Series 2
About the time of the second series of girls boards, the process we use to create the images had gone almost entirely digital. This sped the process up considerably and we were able to spend more time on the concept stage, and making the line work as tight as possible, with less time in clean up.
The extra time for concepting was not wasted with such gems as "Liquor in the front, Poker in the rear", "Saucin' your Sausage", and "Cream Pie". The introduction of the cute characters, now a staple of the series, allowed for further literary genius such as "OMG Totes" and "Élan WTF!?".
Kong and Godzilla
The Kong and Godzilla boards were a short 2 graphic deck series with an extensive line of logo decks in special inks, the focus again being in experimenting with different printing techniques.
For this series all the logo decks were printed in special metallic gold and fluorescent red inks for extra impact.
The Kong deck, where king kong wears a destroyed building as a crown, was one of those rare cases of a job being assigned in the morning and finished by the evening, a super fast turnaround made possible with our new methods of illustration.
When Jake Smyth was added to the lineup at Élan skateboards, we arranged a short intro/outro animation to go with the footage. Using the recent "Kong" style logo we rebuilt it in 3d to give it a cinematic feel.
Along with the series boards, when the opportunity arises, we are able to create signature boards for the Élan skaters, each designed specifically for the skater. Each board reflects the rider in ways sometimes we don't even understand, regardless, we love the idea of representing talented riders as best we can.
Along the way, Élan skateboards and Supervixen have been able to work on more one off special deck images, even involving some highly regarded artists such as Ken Taylor and his special limited run board.
To accompany the graphic board designs, each season sees a new series of logo boards, all running with the theme of the graphic boards in a variety of colour ways, and more recently with special inks and print styles.
Of course most importantly the videos that Élan makes get the Supervixen treatment, with motion graphic elements added to the mix, keeping brand style as different from the others with a high end style all its own.
Girls Series 3
Returning to the Girl series, this time a continuation of the girls in the series before in a Where are they now kind of treatment. Considering the success of the last round, this time we needed to up the ante and think about the possible outcomes that could happen in the space of a year.
The Cream Pie girl has eaten her way through the best part of a hundred cream pies to become big and beautiful, the liquor/poker girl has now gained the upper hand continues to take care of business, and the sausage girls obsession with sausages has spiralled out of control into a sausage fest.
We are straddling the line of taste with this series, in a good way. If there's a suggestion in the imagery it is more about perception of the viewer than what is actually in the image.
Feedback has been overly positive and we have much more of this series lined up!
Given the unexpected success of the Russian Tattoo series, we wanted to create a series that was equally iconic as it was simple in style. To do this, we themed a series on Animals. Animal based saying, to be more accurate. Sayings like 'Snake In The Grass' or 'Man's Best Friend'. After numerous ideas.. many inappropriate.. we created the three you see above.
From the outset, Supervixen saw their involvement with Élan and their merchandise extending beyond merely the visuals on their boards, and began working with Andy on wheel designs, stickers, t shirt designs, tape and truck graphics, all unified in look book for retail vendors, all designed with Supervixen.
The idea was to unify the look and feel of the brand, to keep the standards high and to stand out from the existing labels.
Each "season" brings with it a new angle, new themes and styles, some series re-emerge with new twists and new additions to the ´Elan lineup call for new concepts. As the Skateboarding industry changes with innovative materials, new tricks, new trends, we plan on catering to the demand, and pushing as much new creative as we can, so that Élan will stand out from the others on the rack, and continue to be one of Australia's Leading skate labels.
For all things Élan, head over to their website and pick up some boards while you're at it!