For the second installment of our Artist Series, I speak to Chris Piascik, a 38-year-old rollerblader, BMXer, and Illustrator living in Manchester, Connecticut. Chris is a prolific artist who has been posting daily drawings since 2007. He has released three books of his drawings, illustrated for BMX and inline skating brands, ran Print Brigade, and has worked for such clients as Nickelodeon, McDonald’s, Google, Nike, Facebook, and Cartoon Network. After a ten-year hiatus, Chris came back to blading with a reaffirmed love for the sport. He has since relaunched his clothing brand under a new name and documented his return to skating through YouTube and Instagram.


When did you start blading? Give us a brief backstory on how you got into skating.

I started skating around ’93 or ’94. At the time, I was really into BMX and had recently started racing. I didn’t really like racing, but I liked cruising around, jumping curbs, etc. I ended up cracking my frame, and the bike shop was able to warranty it—I just had to wait six weeks for a new one to arrive. When you’re a kid, six weeks is an eternity. During the time I had no bike, I saw rollerblading on TV; I don’t really remember what it was—but there couldn’t be too many options given how early into “Aggressive Inline” it was. I thought it was so cool, and my friend had some rollerblades in his basement that we took turns trying to roll around on and jump over things. From there, I was hooked. 

Chris skating back in the day. Photos by Tony Luong

What was your first exposure to art? Does art run in your family?

I just loved drawing as a kid, and I did it all the time. I’m not sure what initially sparked my interest because no one else in my family does it.

When did you realize that art was something you wanted to pursue? 

When I was a kid, I would take apart the packaging of my parent’s record albums and recreate my own. One time when I was doing this, my uncle (I think that’s who it was) said something like, “Hey, you’re going to be a graphic artist one day.” I told him I didn’t know what that was, and he explained it was the person who made the album artwork. It blew my mind that it was a job. I couldn’t understand why anyone would choose to do something different. 

Mural and Illustrations for Barry’s Shop, An Experimental Art and Retail Space in Boston

How did your love of lettering and illustration develop? What inspires you?

When I would redraw the album packaging, I always loved drawing the band’s logos. Initially, I think that’s what attracted me to lettering. I thought it was cool that you could make a word expressive without drawing something else.

What education and training did you receive?

I went to the Hartford Art School at the University of Hartford and got my BFA in Visual Communication Design.

Travel Series Illustrations

What were your biggest inspirations early on in your artistic career?

The things that had the most significant impact were a very early Simpsons activity book I got at a school book fair, Ren & Stimpy, Beavis & Butthead, and the Green Day Dookie album cover.

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Have you made any sacrifices in your life to get you to where you are today?

Sure, there’s been some—but certainly not as bad as others. I took on a crippling amount of student loan debt because my family didn’t have enough money. I lived off of beans and pasta for a couple of years when I moved to Boston to work at a studio for a salary that could barely cover my 300sq ft apartment’s rent. 

Car Illustrations from A-Z

What were your first jobs out of school? When did you go freelance? 

I worked at a couple of small design studios after college; the first was in New Haven, the second was in Boston. I went freelance at the end of 2009; when the economy crashed, it took the studio I worked at with it. In 2007 I started a daily drawing project, and at that point, I was getting somewhat regular illustration work as a result of it. 

What are the pros and cons of being freelance compared to working under someone? 

In terms of pros and cons, for me, the pros dramatically outweigh any cons. I’ve been full-time freelance for over ten years now, and I honestly can’t even imagine having to get a job again—it terrifies me to even think about it. I don’t do well working on a set schedule and being stuck in the same spot five days a week. I love making my own schedule and doing what I want. Also, going to skateparks in the morning on a weekday is the absolute best.

Daily Drawings

How frustrating is it to work with non-artistic people trying to art direct you?

Hah, I’m sort of used to it—but it can be annoying. It seems to be more common with smaller projects for individuals or small companies—and I don’t really do a lot of that anymore.

Who was your first significant project with, and what was it like to get work on that project?

A couple of months into going freelance, I got a project designing some shirts for Nike. It was especially amazing because I needed the money badly. It also reassured me that I’d probably be able to make the freelance life work.

T-Shirt Illustrations for Nike

What medium and process are you using for your art?

I pretty much do everything on my iPad now. I either draw in Procreate or one of the Adobe Mobile Apps or draw in Photoshop on my iMac with my iPad connected via the Astro Pad app to use it like a tablet.

What was your largest project you’ve worked on in your career?

That’s a tricky question because there are a few different ways to answer it. My first thought would be a campaign I worked on for Mcdonald’s that included a ton of varying hand lettering compositions. But the new show preview I worked on for Cartoon Network a couple of years ago really stretched me. 

Work for McDonald’s

What are your biggest pet peeves when working with clients?

Hmm, maybe casually asking me to do something that’s clearly not possible within a current composition. 

What was the most difficult project?

The most difficult project I’ve worked on was for Adidas. I created artwork for the launch of their recent UltraBoost shoe, and part of that was an animated sequence. I do all of my animation frame-by-frame, so there are no shortcuts, and edits are usually difficult. This project had a super tight deadline and a lot of revisions—I think I ended up animating the sequence six different ways. And then, in the end, I had to make it work in 16×9, 9×16, and 1×1. Each of those required almost a complete redo.

What was the most complex project?

The music video I recently worked on for Fitz and the Tantrums may have been the most complicated project I’ve done. I animated a minute of it frame-by-frame by hand in less than a week. It nearly killed me!

How many music videos have you worked on? Is it something you’d like to do more with?

Just that one! I don’t know if it’s something I’d like to get into. It’s fun but tedious. Animating on top of the video is much more fun.

Chris’ animation starts at the 1:02 mark

Have you done any art instruction? 

I’ve actually been teaching a class each semester at the University of Hartford since around 2006. I teach illustration for advertising in the fall and illustration business/promotion in the spring. But this might be the last semester I do it.

Tell us about Skillshare and the classes your offer through them.  

Skillshare is an amazing platform where you can take all kinds of classes in your own time from some amazing people. Anything you’d want to learn about in the creative field is on there. I have a few classes about simple frame-by-frame animation on there, and I’m currently working on one about incorporating lettering into a photo.

Check out Chris’s Skillshare classes here.

You started your daily drawing project back in 2007 and documented this project in your book “1000 Days of Drawing” that you launched on Kickstarter. What was the process of this Kickstarter project like? Did it go as you expected? 

I used Kickstarter because the book was too ridiculous and massive for a traditional publisher to gamble on. Because of my design background, it was easy for me to put it all together and work with printers. I was terrified no one would back it, but they did, and it was amazing.

One of the people to purchase the book was Matt Groening. How did you react when you saw he had backed the project? 

I’m not sure where you found the Matt Groening info—sneaky! But he actually didn’t back my book on Kickstarter; he bought it from me in person at the ICON Illustration Conference! I tried to give it to him for free, but he insisted on paying, lol.

Daily Drawings

Since starting your daily drawing project, how many days in a row have you drawn an image?

Last year I stopped numbering and them and loosened my structure a bit. Before that, I had always done them Monday through Friday. Now I still post 5ish drawings a week, but sometimes I’ll do them on the weekend if not on a weekday or something. I did them every Monday through Friday without fail for over 12 years. 

Have you released any follow-up books?

When I reached 2000, I published “Another 1000 Days of Drawing,” and when I reached ten years, I published “10 Years of Daily Drawings.”

The books 1000 Days of Drawing, Another 1000 Days of Drawing, 10 Years of Daily Drawings

Did you use Kickstarter to fund your two follow-up books? 

“Another 1000 Days of Drawing” was funded through Kickstarter, but “10 Years of Daily Drawings” was made available on demand through Amazon.

Have you had any issues with people ripping off your art throughout the years? If so, have you been able to do anything about it?

Yep, plenty of times. Usually, it’s some obscure shop in China or something, so there really isn’t much I can do. 

Daily Drawings

Are there any other artists that inline skate whose work you follow or would like to collaborate with in the future?

Jeremy Beightol is great. We have pretty distinct styles, so I’m not sure how well a collaboration would work—but I’m definitely a fan of his. I’d love to work with a brand like Them or do some wheel graphics. Strangely I haven’t really done much within the rollerblading industry.

How did Print Brigade get started? What were your and Jamie Murrett’s roles in the brand? 

Print Brigade was initially just a joke between a friend and myself because we were always screenprinting stuff in Art school. It expanded into shirts, and then mainly was just me carrying it on. It ended up being associated with rollerblading just because I was a part of rollerblading. Jamie Murrett has been one of my best friends since I was a teenager. He started helping me do everything aside from designing the shirts. He helped print, ship, promote; he even made screens to print with. 

Print Brigade booth at Bitter Cold Showdown

What was the concept behind the brand? 

There never really was a concept—it was just me making stuff that I thought I was cool.

How long was Print Brigade around? And what was the reason it ended?

Print Brigade was probably around from ’04 to ’10ish—but it never officially ended. I kept making stuff; I just abandoned the name because it was sort of meaningless and only ever got promoted in rollerblading—and no one in rollerblading was buying anything from us anymore.

You were out of blading for many years. Why did you quit, and what brought you back? 

I was out of it for ten years or so. I didn’t stop all at once—it was more of an organic departure. I didn’t just wake up and quit one day. I think I was just a bit burned out, and rollerblading felt so toxic at the time. The negativity on Be-Mag and RollerNews just made me feel like I had nothing in common with the majority of people that were rollerblading. I know that was sort of silly because that wasn’t representative of everyone rollerblading—it just felt that way. I’ve also always dabbled with BMX and have gone back and forth between that and rollerblading over the years. During my time away, I was doing a lot more riding. I’m not sure exactly what brought me back to skating, but I think starting to ski initially made me start to think about it again. At one point, my wife wanted a pair, so I got some too and just being on them again brought back all the old feelings.

In the meantime, did Jamie continue skating, or did he also take a hiatus at some point?

Jamie kept skating for a while after I stopped. But he took a bit of a hiatus as well.

Chris on his BMX bike

Have you experimented with Big Wheel Blading?

Only a bit, but I just got a set of Compass 80’s when I was down at the Balance Distribution Warehouse painting a mural. I’m excited to try them out. I do want a rockered 90 setup, though. I’d love a Wizard setup, but I can’t justify the cost until I know I’d actually use them. I’m also really intrigued by the new Kizer Element 90.

Has your style of skating and how you view skating changed since coming back? 

I think it has a bit. I certainly skate in a slightly less risky way now that I’m creeping on 40, and it hurts more to fall. Also, I don’t feel like I have anything to prove in regards to rollerblading at this point in my life. I never imagined it would even be an option. So I’m just focused on having fun—which has been easy because I enjoy skating more now than I ever did in the past.

A selection of FKPB shirts, which can be purchased here.

Since returning to blading, you’ve relaunched Print Brigade under a new name, FKPB. Is Jamie involved with its reincarnation? What made you decide to bring it back, and how did you come up with the new name?

Yep! That was mainly due to people asking us to do another run of some of our old designs—most notably, our “I Still Rollerblade” design. Jamie is definitely still involved; it wouldn’t be the same without him! The name is kind of a joke; it means “Formerly Known as Print Brigade” but also looks like “Fuck Print Brigade,” and I think that’s funny.

How much has print on demand changed the world of t-shirt printing? Have you used Print on Demand services? If so, how does the quality compare to traditional screenprinting?

Print on demand has come a long way, but it’s still not as good as screen printing. We definitely leaned on it to relaunch but have recently pulled our traditional print-on-demand designs. We’re still using print-on-demand, but we’re only using the dye-sublimation process, which provides much better print quality that won’t fade or disintegrate over time.

A sample of Chris’ work for Nickelodeon.

Which of your projects stand out as your favorites?

The stuff I’ve done for Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network definitely stands out to me because they were both dream clients before I worked with them.

Do you have an all-time favorite drawing you’ve done?

Hah. Hmmm, no, I don’t think so. I usually don’t like any of them for that long. It’s partly why I make so many. I’ve gotta keep making a better one.

New show preview for Cartoon Network

How did you end up getting the gig designing for GT bicycles? Growing up riding on GT Pro Performer myself, I was pretty excited when I saw you did work for them!

My friend Ben is the head of design for their BMX parts department. I got the GT Bicycles job by him reaching out to me for some illustration work. That was when I first made the junk food pattern for them. After that, their creative director reached out to me to do more stuff for them.

Did you get one of the GT Performers your designed for your collection?

Yeah, I had it on my wall for a while but eventually gave it to my nephew to ride. I kept one of the seats and a set of tires.

Junk food pattern and animation for GT Bicycles

What other BMX brands have you worked with in the past?

In BMX, I’ve done illustrations for Standard Bykes, Odyssey BMX, Circuit BMX Shop, and GT Bicycles. I also did some work for the non-BMX brand State Bicycles.

You had previously stated that you hadn’t done much work in the rollerblading industry. What projects have you worked on in blading?

Back in the day, I collaborated with Denial, and I believe I did a couple of designs for Dub Caesar Apparel. I created the DVD packaging for Gabe Holm’s video “It’s About Time.” I used to do the exercise illustrations for ONE Magazine. I’m pretty sure I didn’t get paid for the ONE stuff. Recently I created the Back to Blading design for Lawrence Ingraham, painted a mural at his Balance Distribution Warehouse, designed a t-shirt for Ricardo Lino’s Wheel Addict shop, and did a shirt for Oak City that hasn’t been released yet.

You’ve produced a lot of drawings about politicians throughout the years. When did you start venturing into illustrating political cartoons?

I’ve always done political stuff. I was doing George W. Bush illustrations back in the day. I started doing my daily drawings at the beginning of the 2008 presidential election, so I was doing a ton of political stuff that whole time. I even released a zine called Election Collection. I did one for the 2012 election too.

How have people reacted to your political cartoons throughout the years?

I definitely got some nasty comments and crazy DM’s in regards to my illustrations during this past election, but I built up a thick skin at the end of 2007. During the 2008 presidential primaries, my website was assaulted with comments and threats organized by users from a Glenn Beck message board. They left tons of nasty messages anywhere they could.

What are your skating plans for 2021?

Jamie and I are both filming street sections for 2021. Starting soon, I’m excited; Jamie got a new camera and everything!


Links

  • Visit chrispiascik.com to see more of Chris’s illustration work.
  • Make sure to follow him on his Instagram for his art to keep up with his daily drawings.
  • To follow his inline skating adventures you can follow his blading Instagram.
  • Check out Chris’s Skillshare classes here.
  • You can purchase FKPD clothing at https://teespring.com/stores/fkpb.
  • To watch some of Chris’s skating edits visit his YouTube Channel.
  • You can also support Chris in his endeavors through his Patreon.
  • Contact Big Wheel Blading for any questions, suggestions, story ideas or to contribute content.

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