Daniel Clarke Interview

Last month we launched our new SkatePal deck and t-shirt series designed by London based illustrator Daniel Clarke. 

We love Dan's work and are stoked to welcome him to the SkatePal family. The boards are now available online (see below), so we caught up with Dan to talk about his design work and where he gets his inspiration from.

Dan in his studio

Dan in his studio

Tell us about your background -­ how did you get into illustration and designing boards?

It goes back quite far, around when I got into skateboarding about 14 years ago. I used to always paint my old boards and then me and some friends started making our own board graphics with spray paints and stencils. A couple of years later my local skate shop needed a new board graphic so I learnt how to use photoshop and did a series, unfortunately it never happened but it's not too surprising haha I was only 13 years old..

Nothing much happened after that until I went to college and studied graphic design, there I learnt how to screen print and started making my own t shirts, after this I went to Camberwell uni to study illustration and there I got really into illustration and printmaking. In my second year of uni Dan Magee (at the time he was running Blueprint skateboards) got in touch as he'd seen one of my prints through Jacob Harris. He then asked me to work on some boards graphics with him which really helped my design skills to develop. My first board was for Smithy and then from that I did 5 or 6 more for the rest of the guys on the team. 

Dan's SkatePal deck and t-shirt design.

Dan's SkatePal deck and t-shirt design.

The board in it's natural habitat: Palestine

The board in it's natural habitat: Palestine

How would you describe your work?

I'd say my work is heavily influenced by architecture and urban environments, more recently I've been exploring more natural forms too. The architectural influence comes from skateboarding though, as I'm always looking out for new spots to skate and in a similar way for my work I'm constantly looking for new shapes/ patterns and structures to illustrate, sometimes they both come together.

Heygate Estate Series

Heygate Estate Series

What made you want to get involved with SkatePal. Did you know much about Palestine or the charity before getting involved?

I'm good friends with Chris so he'd clued me up on it all and therefore I knew a fair amount about it. I'm really into the project so when you guys got in touch I was stoked, I'd actually been thinking of contacting you so it was perfect.

What's different or difficult about designing for a deck (and in this case a screen-printed one) over doing something for print / online etc?

I guess the shape of the board is a restriction, but restrictions tend to help as you know what you have to work with. Other than that it's all quite similar, just that you have to separate the colours and work with a limited palette. I've really enjoyed the challenge as it's allowed me to simplify my work a little.

Where did the inspiration come from for this SkatePal board?

The inspiration came from the landscape within Palestine and existing 'Visit Palestine' posters (below), whilst including traditional elements such as the olive branch and the pottery.

You obviously do a lot of pretty varied work. The majority of stuff you do is for clients outside of skateboarding right? How does your approach differ when designing for skate companies vs more corporate clients?

That's right, most of my work is for publications and clients outside of skateboarding. These clients usually approach me with a particular brief and sometimes there isn't loads of room to explore. However with skateboard graphics, there tends to be a lot more freedom as it's usually based on the aesthetic with a loose theme. I enjoy the freedom given when designing board graphics as it lets me come up with something that's more like my personal works. 

Arch & Fragment

Arch & Fragment

You recently did some designs for Habitat (which are great!). How did that come about? Would you like to be doing board designs more often?

Mark Suciu hooked this one up, so stoked on that as it's actually been my dream to do one since I was a kid, 12 year old me would be hyped. I've known Mark for a long time and I had some graphics I wanted to show to Joe at Habitat and he passed them on and a few weeks later it was going ahead! I'd love to keep on doing board graphics for sure.

Does design work pay the bills? How do you balance between work, life and skating?

It does pay the bills now yeah, it was a struggle for a while, balancing jobs and stuff which meant I didn't have a lot of time. Consequently I ended up skating less than I'd have liked to, but now things are a bit more steady and illustration is my day job I'm getting back on the skating a lot more.

What are you up to next?

I have a few things coming out soon, one of them is with the Barbican which will be dropping in a month or so, and then I'm working with Goma Collective and Gaurab Thakali (check his work!) on a project from a recent trip to Rio De Janeiro. This will be dropping in the next few months and will be along a similar vein to this Skatepal collaboration.

Thanks Dan! 

The Daniel Clarke SkatePal deck and t-shirt series is now available online at The Palomino and in-store at Parlour Skate Store and Brixton's Baddest Skateshop.

Check out more of Dan's work at daniel-clarke.com

Many thanks to Lovenskate for their continued support in printing our boards and t-shirts. Check the video (above) to see how the boards were made!