As he opens the back of his car, we hear the crumple of construction paper and smell the strong aroma of frequently used spray paint cans. Palo Alto High School senior Josh Donaker explains how he designs and paints vibrant skateboard decks while operating out of his trunk in places such as the Paly parking lot. Donaker has painted 13 decks so far for his AP Art and Design portfolio — each centered around a specific theme and art style.
Verde had the opportunity to talk with Donaker about his unique hobby, here is what he had to say.
1. How did you first start creating skateboard deck art?
“I’ve always really liked the bottom of skateboards. I thought that was a really cool medium. … Over quarantine, I had a lot of time on my hands, so I learned to skateboard because I wanted to paint the bottom of the skateboard deck. So I assembled and painted my very first skateboard after learning to ride.”
2. How would you describe your own personal art style?
“I use a lot of color and lots of bright contrast. … I’ve tried a bunch of different artists’ styles as well and taken a spray paint, modern spin on it. … I also really like the practical art style. … I like art that you can really interact with because I think it’s a lot more fun and cool for someone witnessing it.”
3. What is something unique that you have taken artistic inspiration from?
“I really like old signs; old signs are pretty neat. My second piece is inspired by … this one sign [I saw] when I was driving down to Poplar Beach in Monterey. It’s an old Pepsi sign. I also like seeing street art with graffiti on walls. I have one [a skateboard] that’s themed after cargo or freight cars that are covered with graffiti.”
4. Have you done any other forms of art besides designing skateboards?
“A few years back I designed my baseball glove which was pretty sweet. … I also designed the senior jersey for this year’s class. … I think those projects are a ton of fun and a big range of projects is all the more fun because every project is so different.”
5. Are you driven by a purpose or goal when creating your artwork?
“Personally for me, art is just about the fun of it. There’s no massive, bigger picture. … It’s also super cool to see which ones people like and which ones people aren’t as much of a fan of because it’s so subjective.”
6. Can you recall one memorable moment in your artistic journey?
“I was going to do a comic book, pop art style board and then I brought it home and my mom saw it and she said it looked like a Piet Mondrian painting. He’s the dude who does the blue, yellow and red squares. … I already had some blue squares down and then I changed it up. That’s probably one of my favorite boards.”
7. What plans do you have for your art in the future?
“Hopefully I’ll have time in college to keep doing skateboards. … Trying realism a little bit could be fun down the road, but I think I’ll always stick with this more pop, bright art style. … I would love the opportunity to do snowboard art. Someone reached out to me in the past about their snowboard so hopefully I can do something like that soon.”