Skateboarding is inherently creative. From the visionary masochist who first decided to screw wheels to wood, through inventors of flip-tricks you're yet to learn, to modern innovators doing wild shit like double-kickflipping up stair-sets, skateboarding has always attracted inventive, imaginative individuals. Which is perhaps why, historically, it has also attracted so many artistic types.
The No Comply Network is a London-based, UK-wide network of artistically creative skateboarders, founded by Birmingham-born skater Jason Caines. Starting this week, we'll be profiling No Comply members every week.
Mark "Fos" Foster has played a huge role in the aesthetics of modern skateboarding. The founder of Heroin Skateboards, he also created the visual identity of both Altamont and Deathwish – visual identities you might know as both "rad" and "also kind of sinister", like the scratchy graphics from a 1970s slasher movie poster.
Originally from Rawtenstall, Lancashire, Fos moved to New Cross, London in the 90s, where he started Heroin 20 years ago. Now living in California, he's still addicted to skateboarding and making art non-stop. Here he is on 20 years of Heroin, the release of their sixth video, Magic Sticky Hand 2, and why up-and-coming artists have always got to hustle.
My urge to skate, paint, design, film tricks and edit videos all come from the same place. I think skateboarding, making art and my creative process are all related. That was my problem with art school – they're so quick to pigeonhole you into one discipline, but creativity shouldn't be so narrow. Look at David Lynch – he studied painting and is now an incredible film director who makes music and all kinds of other artistic things.
I grew up loving Neil Blender, Mark Gonzales and Ed Templeton. They've always been incredible skaters who are creative artists in their own right. There's definitely something appealing to me about pro skaters who have a creative voice; it makes me feel that they're more invested in some way.
The No Comply Network is a good thing. There wasn't owt' like it when I was growing up in the days before emails and social media. I pitched my first graphics by sending a letter to Ed Templeton with some ideas, and it turned out Ed was into them, and that's where I got my start.
Lately, I've been busy, on a mission with a few art projects for various people. I bought a house out in the desert recently too, so I've been working on that, and Heroin is 20 years old this year, so I've also been working on stuff for that.
Just last year we put out Heroin Skateboards' sixth video, Magic Sticky Hand 2, so we've been grafting. Not that it does any good... I was at the premiere for MSH2 and this kid asked me when the next video was gonna be out, you know what I mean? Kids are hungry, man. I was like, "Chill out, mate, we only just finished this one, I need a holiday."
I've recently been creating some log cabin drawings, which are influenced from work that I made when I was around 16. I used to create watercolours of my hometown, Rawtenstall, in Lancashire, England, so it's something I’ve always been interested in.
I bought a cabin up in the mountains a few years ago, so I walk around the neighbourhood looking at all these cabins and loving the architecture of them – and the fact they're in the woods is rad, as it makes it a challenge to draw them, but super fun too.
I've also recently created a new series of The Smiths lyrics-inspired boards, tees and prints. I think the reason The Smiths still inspire me is because – well, they're good northern lads, firstly. Secondly, Moz is an amazing lyricist. He calls stuff out in an incredible way. I was never into 'em back in the day, but got into them working at Slam [City Skates] in the early 2000s.
This year, 2018, is Heroin Skateboards' 20th anniversary – and, to me, it means that somehow my vision of skateboarding is shared by other people, rather than just me and a couple of mates. It means that despite everyone telling me that it'd never work and that the name was bad, that having vision and drive and belief in yourself and what you're doing matters more than anything else.
If I could have given myself some advice 20 years ago I'd have said, "Buy more property. If you have £20,000 in the bank, maybe put a down-payment on a house, no matter how much you want to make a load of skateboard wheels!"
To any artists out there who want to make a career out of it, you've got to hustle. To this day I hustle. That's what it is, and if people reject your ideas and art, then there's someone else out there who's gonna want them. Don't be discouraged easily – you have to be thick-skinned. I pitched work to Anti Hero, Spitfire and Scarecrow and got rejection letters from all of them. Toy Machine was the first company that put my graphics on boards.