1. I was hoping that you might be able to share a bit about your artistic background. Have you always been artistically inclined? Did you attend art school? At what point did you see this as a career path?
I was always interested in art. I remember being in 3rd grade and celebrating Van Gogh’s birthday by trying to recreate his “Olive Tree” painting. He was the first artist that I really took to. I think it was the whole ear thing that was super crazy and intriguing to me. I did the typical art courses in high school but never thought much of it. Ironically it was a drawing course that almost cost me my diploma! I couldn’t stand the structure of the class environment and rebelled against it whenever I saw the chance. I did a portfolio review with the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and could have attended school there but at the time art didn’t hold my attention strong enough so I followed first love skiing and went west to Colorado.
It really became a career a few years ago, but I was pushing hard to do something with my art for the last 7 or 8 years. It was completely by chance that I rediscovered my love for art after a having surgery on my knee and being laid up. That’s when I had the big epiphany that this was what I was going to do with the rest of my life.
2. In my opinion, as artists, we have a compelling drive to develop our own, unique, style. We try to expose ourselves to different mediums and tools in order to hone in on it, and when we find it... in a way, we awaken. Granted, that is just my opinion, but I am wondering if you would be able to describe your artistic style? What are some of the tools that you have used to hone your skills and awaken the artist inside?
I never thought too hard about maintaining any sort of style. I have felt like that will develop naturally and change as you go. I really enjoy learning new mediums and experimenting with new techniques and have realized that my style will come through whether I try to force it or not. I have done numerous different mediums on numerous different surfaces and have been told that you can always tell what’s a Rivard, so-to-speak. As far as the art coming to life I have never really had look for it to awaken because I think that most artist generally have the knack that keeps them always thinking about what they can create or viewing the world around them with a particular vision.
3. You had mentioned, on your web site, that skateboards are the cornerstone of your work; that it sparked a re-interest in art. So why "skateboards?" What is it about this form of canvas that drives your artistic expression? Is there a back-story? Or is it just derived from a passion for the sport?
I come at the art world from a very different background than most. I wasn’t an art student; I was a student of the “Action Sports” world, for lack of a better term. I learned the action sports business and I applied what I liked about that business to what I was trying to do within it. I was always drawn to the marketing and promotional side of things and brand development and the art direction of a company. The skateboard was simply an available canvas at the time, and being a skateboard designer was like a dream job for me. I knew nothing about the art world when I started to really make a lot of art, but I took what I knew about the action sports world and used that as my model for business in the art world, marketing myself as an artist in a similar way to that of an athlete. Eventually I began to learn more and more, and study more and more of what was going on in the new contemporary art scene. Much like the way I studied skateboard magazines and ski magazines, I was now studying publications like Juxtapoz, reading every single coffee table book I could get my hands on, and other urban/art culture publications. I read them religiously and learned about every artist I could find and every gallery I could. The difference about me, I think, is that I didn’t study other peoples art I studied their story. I tried to learn how others were making careers, and what they did to promote themselves. I found an attraction to those that put themselves out there, those that didn’t wait around for someone to discover them.
Skateboards are the cornerstone simply because they happened to be the most available form of canvas to me at the time. It was a really special era for me around the beginning of 2004 because I experienced an outpouring of creativity I have never been able to match to this day. I drew something like 20+ skateboard illustrations, all by hand with Ultra Fine Sharpies, in a matter of about two months. Essentially I created a portfolio that I used for years in about two months. Most of the skateboards that people recognize as my art today were created within that time. I haven’t really made a skateboard in years, my art evolved into other areas and interests. This made for an interesting situation where I am now sort of pigeon holed as this skateboard artist.
4. I know that you are classified as a skateboard artist, but do you see yourself as that, or as something entirely different. For instance, the artist Basquiat is associated with forms of graffiti and yet, during his hay day, he would claim that his work was elevated above that status. Do you feel that your workshould be ridden... or perhaps more along the lines of fine art, being placed on the walls of homes, and/or galleries?
The skateboard artist label doesn’t really bother me… I love skateboarding, and as un-cool as it is to say, I love the business side to those types of lifestyles as well, so the label will never bother me. The art has evolved. The art I am making now is so far removed from those early skateboard illustrations and that’s simply a result of my progression as an artist. When I finish something new I always feel like it is without a doubt the best thing I have ever done. Then within a week it’s old and I don’t think it’s very good anymore. I think to compare with Jean Michel Basquiat (which I am very much humbled doing so), his early stuff writing Samo was certainly a tool that helped bring him to the art stardom that received. Art is like anything else, it takes practice. Kobe Bryant didn’t come out of the womb draining three’s. The interesting thing I think is that an artist like Basquiat, who I am not particularly impressed with his work, became famous for his story, because he had the charisma that was attractive and marketable. He drew people in. That in it’s self was a work of art, living your life in certain way that attracts other and makes people want a piece of “it”. Basquist had “it”. Warhol was the master of “it”.
Getting back to the question, yes, I do think what I did six years ago was shit. But there are still those out there that love it. For instance when I started Rivard Art Inc. it was as a company to legitimize my skateboard business. The interesting thing that happened when I finally got skateboards on the walls of the shops was that most people bought them as art pieces to hang rather skateboards to skate. Ultimately I’m just happy knowing that the work is appreciated. The first time I went to the skate park and saw some kid skating one of boards I was so damn happy! It was a very validating feeling.
5. In my original email, I mentioned that this book is about storytelling as it applies to the visual arts. For me, all designers are visual communicators, and in turn they are storytellers. In your email, you mention that storytelling plays into every part of what you do, contributing to, from what I can see is, your well-deserved success. But I was hoping that you would elaborate on this subject a bit more. What specifically about story telling drives you? In what ways does it play into your work? What message(s) are you trying to convey? What do you want people to take away from your artwork?
Storytelling is everything! If your art isn’t conveying something it’s just scribbles. Being able to tell a story is what makes great art great. People don’t buy a canvas with paint on it, they buy an emotion. Being able to create an emotion is the tricky part. I did a show years ago at a gallery in Seattle and for this particular show (which I was in WAY over my head for!) I knew I had to offer something more. So I decided to that I would handwrite little descriptions and stories about each skateboard. This really stemmed from my second show ever where some girl came up to me and explained that she was an art psychology student and could tell all this stuff about me through my work. She proceeded to tell me what all of my art meant and she could not have been more wrong. Luckily for me I really love to write, writing is my favorite form of expression, and I used this show as a chance to showcase that medium and offer further explanation of what was drawn. It proved very successful. The written descriptions were a highlight and a point of discussion throughout the show. This can also backfire. For instance if you tell a story in a certain way and someone else sees the piece differently you may have just ruined their perception. It is very difficult to tell artist what their art is supposed to mean. They have to tell you, not the other way around. However, I have definitely realized that if you disclose too much you may just be taking away from the piece as well, the art has to be able to speak for it’s self. Storytelling is what makes art intriguing, it’s why we can stare at a picture and not feel crazy. Art in all mediums is a translation of thoughts.
6. What are some of the inspirations behind your designs... is their a specific source? or is it more a development from the randomness of life?
I am inspired by a million different things every second. Lifestyles inspire me, human nature inspires me, and sex, drugs, and rock and roll inspire me. Though I hate to admit it, relationships have played a huge roll in my work. There is something about the urban landscape that I am still trying to figure exactly how to articulate that I am very much drawn to. Did I say sex? Women are beautiful, they definitely inspire me.
7. Are you willing to share some of the stories behind a few of the boards that you have designed? Do you have a favorite? What is it, and why?
I think I’ll use my board “Broken Lance” as an example. I drew that board when I was living in Breckenridge, Colorado and going through a crazy transitional period in my life. There was a lot of alcohol, very little positive direction, and a serious lack of ambition. That particular board is a great example of pure emotion being translated into my art, and I really love the piece I wrote to accompany the board. Very few people understand that significance of literature, but the ones that did truly related. Here is the written portion:
“He stood abruptly from the snow bank he was sleeping in. Confused, he looked around but nothing registered. He looked up toward the blinding sunlight and a sharp reflection hit him in the eye. It was a street sign that spelled the words “Broken Lance”. He then realized he’d been in this strange place for eight years. He was aging but not growing. He looked to the surrounding mountains and understood the attraction, but the town reeked of stale under-achievement. “Has this really been my life for all these years?” he continued to ask himself. The funny part was the question had a literal sense because he couldn’t remember many of the nights this town had served up. He brushed the snow off himself and began swerving in a slight gallop down Broken Lance. He swerved right into a new day, a new month, a new year, only this year would be different. This year he would leave the stagnant under-achiever behind. As the hangover wore off and Broken Lance faded in the distance the clock in his head kept ticking, always clockwise regardless of whether his life sometimes went counter………”
8. I am attending art school in NYC, so naturally your NYC board caught my attention. What is the story behind it? Is this the only board that you created, or is it just one in a series of designs?
That board came out of my first trip there. The bridge is based off of one of those stone arch bridges in Central Park. I remember being in NYC and realizing that there were very few places where someone couldn’t see you, hence the ghostly eyes looking down. I am really excited about doing more NYC boards, I have recently started a new series of boards based all on skylines. I haven’t done skateboards in quite a while but the timing to re-explore not only skateboards, but also skylines feel right.
9. I saw, somewhere, that you may have already had an exhibition in NYC. The details were a bit difficult to track down. Did this event already happen? Do you foresee any exhibitions, in the New York City area, in the near future?
Yes, in February of 2009 I was part of a show in Chelsea. It was the inaugural show a new gallery called Art Raw, and I was floored to be invited! One of my biggest regrets in life is never having lived in NYC, I love the city so much, it is such an inspiring place to me. I have always wanted to find more ways to connect myself with NYC, and showing there again is most definitely a major career goal.