We all know the saying “looks aren’t everything”. But doesn’t it make you happy when the the board you desperately want has some sweet looking
graphics too? The reality is that many people will buy their board for how it looks rather than any of the technical features. These days some of the board graphics can be so impressive that you want to hang your new pride and joy on the wall instead of ride it!
In the last few years many companies have stepped things up and employ a more creative process when designing the top sheet graphics. Many of you will remember some of the early female specific boards, chuck a few butterflies and maybe some flowers and we’re good to go. Some companies look after the graphics in house, many employ external graphic design
companies and some approach artists directly to work in their new lines.
Whilst searching for something completely unrelated I stumbled across the work of Amy Ruppel and her work seemed familiar to me. Then I saw that she was responsible for the graphics of the 08 Burton Lux and the GNU B Nice in 09. I was keen to know a little more about her, her art and how she got involved with snowboard design, and thought some of you might be to…so here it is…
Tell us a little about you… where you are based and what is your art background?
I am an artist/illustrator living in Portland, Oregon USA. I’ve been in this brilliant city full of self-employed creatives for nearly 15 years. I grew up in rural Wisconsin, where my love of nature was honed and developed. I attended college in Milwaukee – first for a Marine Biology/Biology degree, and then changing to a Fine Arts/Poetry major, when I realized I should just stick with what I know best. And the math got hard.
What is a typical day in the working life of Amy Ruppel?
I am a very early riser – like, 4:30 or 5am early – and I like to get to
the studio before all the commotion starts in the building, and begin my day with the sun. I have weeks where I work 14 hours a day, seven days a week, but then there are the days, like today, where I’d just rather be home gardening, or heading to the Columbia River Gorge for a hike, which is about 20 minutes from my front door. But when I do spend a day at the studio, I spend a huge chunk of the morning, latte in hand, answering emails and interviews, and making a schedule that I probably won’t follow 😉 Some days I want to be on the computer, some days I want to be standing over hot pools of wax and painting. I like going with what I am feeling for that day. When there are no deadlines, that is.
You have been involved in a whole range of projects, from a Target holiday campaign, Converse shoes and also designing the graphics for the 08 Burton Lux and 09 Gnu B-Nice snowboards. How did you get involved with these projects?
I have been lucky enough to just be sitting idly in my studio, and get these calls for projects from out of the blue. Since the start, I have really pushed myself to be visible al over the internet and make myself look available (for work, that is 😉 I haven’t had a physical portfolio for years… It’s all online, published through myself or others. So I am always surprised and honored when someone calls on me for a project that (always) sounds exciting, and a challenge. I love a good challenge.
Explain a little about the design process, do you have the freedom to do as you wish or are you restricted by what companies want?
It depends. Every job is different. For the Burton board, JDK (the design firm behind it), already had an idea of what they’d like from me, down to altering the colors in house for the variance of the line. Whereas for the Gnu board, it was more of a “do what you feel” kind of design after a few tips on what they liked in my work.
A lot of your work seems influenced by the environment around you, birds and nature etc. What else inspires you both artistically and in life?
I took a lot of Art History classes, and those classical paintings are etched into my brain. Their compositions and colors are always pulled up in bits and pieces of memories as I am working. I also adore Scandinavian design and pottery, and my own version of their surface details seen on many a pot or vase are always appearing in my illustrations. I am constantly amazed by all the work out there. The line between fine art, illustration and design is fading fast.
Is there anything that you would particularly love to do but have not had the opportunity yet?
Oh yes. I would love to do some design work for IKEA, be it of a product or just a pattern for textiles or dinnerware… And “Swede” my name as the name of the product. Like RÜPPL or something. heh. Another is to create a design for Marimekko. Once I do those things (fingers crossed), I can rest. I also would like to write/publish more poetry. I miss it, but it’s happily coming back into my life.
Do you have any advice for any of the readers who want to follow a similar career path?
Work hard. Be kind. Be observant of everything. Write it down and sketch it or any idea that comes to mind. Listen to your client, and get to know
them outside of the business proposal. Study the classics: There’s a reason we have museums, and that the images of these masterpieces are repeated endlessly in the pages of books. Make plenty of mistakes, and don’t be afraid to do so. It’s the only way you learn, and in our line of work, happy accidents are a pencil lead break or paint spill around the corner.
What are you working on at the moment, only if you can or feel like sharing?
I have a few projects I’m not at liberty to mention as of yet, but they will be surfacing soon. I am currently working on some personal projects and collaborations, like the Portland BINGO game set I illustrated and designed with Bishop Lennon. It’s nice to come back into your own after working with a big company for awhile. I recently had three paintings/illustrations surface on the desktops of many an HP netbook.
They turned out very serene and look beautiful on screen.
Lastly, you have designed two lovely snowboards, do you snowboard yourself?
Oh, I don’t. And I live so close to Mt Hood. I have skied now and again, but, I’m more of a “spiked hot cocoa in the lodge by the fireplace” kind of gal 😉
Seen any graphics that you particularly like? Let us know and we might be able to find out the story behind them.