For 3 weeks in September, 2018, I was invited to paint a pump track, a skate park and an 85 meter wall at the grand opening of the Skateboard Supercross (SBSX) Academy for the Ningbo Zhicheng International School in Ningbo, China.
A MARRIAGE OF ART AND SKATEBOARDING
The pump track was painted with visual patterns reflecting the 3 dimensional contours of the flowing surface like a river. The skate park transitions became gradient ramps launching riders to the skyline, above the clouds and onto the coping. Finally, the surrounding 85 meter wall was painted with the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac. The short film above demonstrates how the artwork and skateboarding came together for the grand opening.
The pump track
In the same way that the banked turns are visually the most impressive and dominant part of the pump track they are also the most dynamic to navigate as a skateboarder. Several things are happening at once. The rider must extend their legs to prepare for the compression of the upcoming curve. As they compress their kinetic energy takes them up the wall changing the major axis of their body and their speed slows. Once they have cleared the apex of the turn their legs extend again and they gain speed again leveling out. This dynamic movement is reflected in the way the pattern stretches and condenses under the riders feet.
Three Dimensional Aesthetics
Every compound surface (a surface that curves in two directions at once) has a major axis and a minor axis and is accented where the curvature is at the point of most acceleration. The patterns on the pump track were applied at the major banked turns where the compound surfaces are the most dramatic. The patterns were designed so that they expand and contract in a visual way that corresponds to the movement of the three dimensional surface.
The skate park
Drawing the eye
Using gradients, the flat inert bottom of the skate park transitions into the bright colors of a skyline going from night to day. This draws the viewer’s eye to where the most action is happening (near the coping) as the riders are flowing up and down the transition or doing tricks over the clouds.
The SBSX Academy is a place to teach skateboarding. The skate park needs to have visual references for the students to use as markers so that they can judge how high they are going or communicate where they are supposed to turn. Having color blocks and clouds gives students and instructors a way to have shared reference points in the park.
Inspiration from nature and Chinese philosophy
It was important to look at themes that imply motion so that the mural made sense in a skate park. My initial proposal included a dragon motif, but it was decided that it might be unlucky to skate on the back of a dragon. Natural themes appealed to the school. In Chinese Taoist philosophy water can be aqueous and yielding, but can also generate concentrated energy when it is channeled in a river. Clouds, represent the heavens and "good luck.” The Chinese word for cloud (yun 云) is pronounced the same as yun (运) meaning "luck" or "fortune". The cloud is often seen repeated in a pattern to symbolize endless fortune.
The palette was inspired by the range of colors that can be observed at sunset or sunrise (as in the image above). These are primary colors intended to illicit a feeling of excitement, mirroring the energy of skateboarding. The blue and red colors tie back to SBSX branding as well as the color scheme that already exists on campus.