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Soy Panday, one of the men behind Magenta Skateboards, was kind enough to take some time to talk us through his background as an artist as well as his creative process when it comes to designing Magenta graphics. Read on to gain some insight into Soy's artistic approach, the concepts that interest him and some tips for spotting the 'tricks' he has begun including in his designs.
Which came first for you - art or skateboarding?
Art, I have been drawing for as long as I can remember. Had I not encountered skateboarding, which curved my path, I would have become a cartoonist, this was my original goal or my dream. Today, in the end, I am a cartoonist of sorts.
Did you study art or drawing at University?
No, I pursued Economics studies, where I was mostly drawing instead of taking notes. My dad thought it was safer that I study something "serious", and then if I still wanted to be a cartoonist and stay poor all my life, I could still do it after I finished my studies.
At this time I was skating a lot and not drawing much, except at school to pass time. I guess he thought that after my Masters I'd come back to my senses and decide to make money working in a bank or something like that, but of course, that never happened. I did one job interview in my whole life, for a bank, in a bad suit and tie, with no desire whatsoever to get the position. The experience was actually hilarious, I felt like a bad actor on a movie set with no idea what my lines are. Just looking around and thinking "What the fuck am I doing here?" I love this memory. Sorry I drifted. No, I didn't study arts at school. Still, I would say my whole life has been devoted to art.
Where does the inspiration for the Magenta logo come from?
I was a vegetarian for a long time, and influenced by brands with a hippy connotation, like IPath, Habitat, Half-Life, Rasa Libre, and so I wanted the logo to be organic. I'm also an animist and wanted to pay homage to the wood that makes up our boards, and so the idea of a plant came pretty naturally.
It's a symbol of life, it grows, plants, reacts to music, to vibes. I thought it was fitting. This is also why (pretty much) all boards show natural wood through the graphics, my way of thanking the trees that take part in what we do.
Meaning wise, it's a plant with one of the leaves highlighted. That leaf represents the individual in the group, the idea that he should bring his specificities, his "colour", to contribute to the growth of the whole plant - whether that plant represents our brand or society as a whole.
Do you approach your art and skateboarding in similar ways? Or do you view the things as being separate? Art, from an outside perspective, can seem quite a solitary thing.
I guess they are both pretty similar. To finish a drawing is much like filming a trick. It can be a struggle, you don't always know how to do it, how it's gonna end up looking, but you are motivated by the end result.
The act of drawing is solitary and then you share the end result with the world. Skateboarding is a social activity, but if you're struggling with a trick, the battle - or the game - is with yourself, so it's also sorta solitary in a way. In both I am motivated by the result, I like to have something to keep from it, or to share.
"with the last few series, I’ve now tried to add "tricks” which I had not seen before in skate graphics"
What’s your process when it comes to designing Magenta graphics?
There are many answers to this question. If you're asking for the concrete process, I'll have an idea of the graphic in my head, then will search the web for reference images to know how to draw the different elements, then draw every part separately, scan them, and piece it all together in photoshop then add colours. That's for the very down-to-earth process of it.
Another aspect is I've grown from doing single-board graphics to full series that tie together - so in a way expanding the size of the canvas - the same way artists like Evan Hecox or Ian Johnson had beautifully done before me and inspired me with.
Then with the last few series, I’ve now tried to add "tricks” which I had not seen before in skate graphics, like cinematography and optical illusions of sorts, where the eyes of the viewer are for example no longer watching a still picture but following a sequential movement from board to board (Leap series, Spring 2020), zooming in on a scene then into the mind of the character (Meditation/Penguins series, Winter 2019), zooming out to an infinite loop (Infinite Loop series, Summer 2020), following a storyline which together composes a new image which you have to spot (The Dreamer series, coming out Fall 2020), etc.
Actually, now that I think of it, Jim Phillips had also incorporated the cinematic with the Rob Roskopp series, this has probably inspired me subconsciously. He may not be the only one, I just haven't seen any other.
So anyway, another part of the process is I want to play with the people who watch/buy them, like have a little gift or surprise for the people who pay attention to them - there's a magical side to this. When you see someone inspect a graphic, discover something that had at first escaped them and start smiling, eyes illuminated, like a kid again, that's priceless.
Then underneath these visible/visual layers, there's a lot of encrypted meaning, philosophical ideas which I want to express through my artwork, among which the ideas of Yin and Yang and the role of dreams are key notions.
How do you approach designing pro graphics, do you speak with the riders or try to reference parts of their personalities in what you design?
I don't usually speak with them about it, I like to surprise them with the graphics - hopefully, they like it that way too. I'll always try to incorporate some aspects of the rider's life or their personality on each board, mixed with what I want to say with my art. It's most usually a balance between what I want to say and what fits a particular rider.
For example on Gunes' first pro board, I wanted to pay tribute to his Turkish roots and drew Istanbul's Hagia Sophia church as a Turkish Angora cat, because in Istanbul, beautiful and clean street cats fill the streets, something I’ve never seen anywhere else, and I thought this was interesting to share. By putting the symbols of all the main religions on the pillars instead of just Islamic moon crescents, the board also offers a glimpse on my take on history and on the history of religions. So the board is about Gunes through my personal perception of Istanbul and the place of the city in world history.
Then the rider will see when it comes out, and sometimes magic will happen then. For example, the Dream series from Spring 2018 talked about a man and a woman meeting on the Astro plane through their respective dream. The astrological sign I chose to represent the woman was Gemini because it looks like a couple, and that embodied the dream of the woman. In the narration, it landed onto Jimmy's board. When Jimmy saw the board at its release nearly a year later, his wife who I didn't know was pregnant had just given birth, and the child is a Gemini. Whether one chooses to see it as coincidence or magic is up to anyone, personally I prefer magic.
You were pro for Landscape in the 2000s, a company who also made use of organic imagery. Do you have a favourite graphic that was made for you from that time
Actually my favourite Landscape graphic was not done in-house but by Stefan Marx, for my first Landscape pro board. There was a typewriter immersed in Stefan land, filled with birds and smiling faces on everything. The graphic had originally been done for someone else, then by a chain of events, ended up being for me.
He didn't know at the time that his bird drawings were pushing me back into drawing, or that I was then writing a lot of articles for French skate magazines and considering trying to do something with my writing. Good thing I didn't, my writing sucks, but anyway, there was already this magic. Then I think I drew most of my following boards for them, with technical help from their graphist DJ Titchener because I knew nothing of Photoshop back then.
Do you still find the time to draw for pleasure? How do you approach this differently to work for Magenta?
Well, drawing Magenta boards is already my pleasure, and even for that, I don't have so much time, because the clothing part - design and production- is stealing most of it. We do 4 collections a year, so one every 3 months. In those 3 months, there's about one week I can focus and devote to doing 8-9 board graphics.
I also sometimes do original/personal work for art shows, but the global themes are the same, it's just a different medium, with no Photoshop involved. I need Photoshop to go faster, make changes, try different layouts etc. And so original work takes longer to make, and I really struggle to find time for these.
I see the board graphics/series I make almost as a draft of my personal work, which I want to at some point turn into original paintings or drawing, but for the moment I don't have the time for that. Perhaps I will someday, perhaps I won't. Yeah, I’d probably save some time replying shorter answers, good point! But I’ll still doodle silly cartoon characters to send to my girlfriend for example.
Do you have any favourite graphics or series you’ve produced?
The Leap series (Spring 20), and the Dreamer series (coming out Fall 20), mentioned above, are likely my favourites so far, because of those "tricks", which first and foremost amuse me to come up with - and then I hope it will amuse other people.
The Leap series shows the sequence of an animal, who changes shape/transforms into a different animal with every board, and who jumps from the real world, through a plant, into a world of dream and surrealistic visions. It was a challenge to make. I needed to find the right picture, in the right position, for each animal I wanted to represent so that it could look like it's a single animal jumping. And then the imaginary world he lands in, with which I wanted to share with people the memory of my ayahuasca experience, was also an idea that was easier to come up with than to actually draw.
Little known fact, Vivien's and my boards in this series, the last 2 boards of the series - so, once landed into the dream world- work with the 3D glasses we gave with the Meditation/Penguin series (Winter 19). My board, on which the animal is landing in the dream world, has a destructured 3D effect - meaning that it's 3D but not everything is in its right place yet.
On Vivien's board, where the animal is back to walking after landing, the 3D is all correct and you have this impression of depth - giving the feeling that this dream world is bigger than the real world we started with at the beginning of the series. We couldn't provide glasses for those, and so we didn't communicate on it, I’m pretty much the only person to know it. If someone had the 3D penguin board, then one of these, and tried the glasses on it, perhaps they got a feel of that magic I was talking about, discovering something nobody else has seen. And perhaps not. Who knows.
Magenta regularly works with guest artist, do you have a favourite of these?
I have many. They are all either friends or people who have inspired me. I'm a big fan of Mark Gonzales, and so to have him as one of our guest artists is incredible for me. Stefan Marx as well. Glen Fox regularly draws a board for us, and he's such a spontaneous artist, he draws like he skates, it's impressive to watch. It's difficult to say, pretty much each of them is a favourite, for a different reason.
"skateboarding managed to turn me from lazy to a workaholic, the way no school program could ever do."
Can you tell us some of the artists who inspire you?
So many here too. Gustav Klimt, M.C. Escher, René Magritte, Dali, Paul Klee, Moebius (Jean Giraud), Daniel Goossens, Franquin, Katsuhiro Otomo, Mark Gonzales, Evan Hecox...
How did you spend lockdown? Was it a creative time for you?
I spent it at my parent’s place with my brother, his wife and my nephew, and pretty much stayed in my room the whole time working. During that stay I drew the Summer 2021 board series, entitled "SLEEP", which is very lockdown inspired as it's basically the room I stayed in, spanning from evening to morning, and showing the sleep cycle and the creativity brought up by dreams. This is also one of my favourites, but it's a bit early to show it here.
I also did a lot of clothing designs and graphics, and as a result, our spring and summer 2021 collections are - I think - the strongest we've ever made. Could be wrong of course, it's hard to judge your own shit.
So, yeah, I enjoyed lockdown in fact, I could work a lot with not much distraction, and I enjoy that about as much as the distractions. I couldn't skate, but I could do something equally fun. It's funny to me that skateboarding managed to turn me from lazy to a workaholic, the way no school program could ever do.
Any projects coming up later in the year you can tell us about?
We wanted to have an art show to celebrate our 10 years, but with lockdown, it all got postponed, and we're not sure yet when we'll do that. With lockdown, a few of our plans had to be cancelled. But we're starting to work on a new video project, it should be a pretty interesting one.
All photos by Clement Harpillard @clementharpillard
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