Artist Profile: Mark Kowalchuk
Originally featured in Snowboard Mag Vol. 10, Issue 4 | The Olympic Issue
Credit must be paid where credit is due. Boasting artwork that oozes style, a portfolio brimming with striking graphics and a plethora of impressive collaborations, Mark Kowalchuk’s talent demands attention.
With an ink brush in hand, Kowalchuk creates the bold, aggressive line work that defines his style and has earned him notoriety across the snow, skate and music industries. Drawing inspiration from old school skate art, music and the mind-bending stylings of artists like M.C. Escher, this triple-threat has become a go-to artist for brands like YES., Volcom and DYE while also working in tandem with Globe and creating album covers for the likes of Trouble Andrew, Hieroglyphics and In Flames.
In the meantime, the self-described “coffee tweaker” also runs Artschool, a skate company he founded with a friend and works full time as a graphic designer. Though Kowalchuk has planted firm roots within the artistic realms of both the board sports and music industries, he leaves art-world domination dreams at the door, instead maintaining a clear-eyed dedication to simply doing what he loves most: creating.
His perspective is both inspiring and refreshing, as he states, “To me, it’s just about doing art, and as long as people respect it that makes me happy. It’s not about climbing the corporate ladder and becoming rich and famous. I don’t want to lose the love for drawing and painting, so I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and see what happens.”
Mark Kowalchuk, ladies and gentlemen.
Your art has a very distinct style — what inspires your designs?
I would say music is one of my biggest influences along with old school skate art. My art has a bit of an edge… I think that stems from a lot of the music I listen to. I would say my biggest art influence would be the art of M.C. Escher; he is the master of print.
How have you cultivated your style? Has it changed much over the years?
It’s definitely changed a lot and is still constantly changing… I think as artists we all strive to find our style. My new works are cleaner and more focused. Before I was drawing and doodling for fun and now it’s more of a serious career. More people are watching what I’m putting out which forces me to raise my own personal bar.
What is your favorite medium?
Definitely ink. Ink pens and Indian ink with brushes are my favorites. I like how you can vary your line; it’s smooth and a rich black. In my opinion, the dark heavy black lines and line work is what really defines my style.
What was your first large-scale project?
My first big gig was with Trouble Andrew — he liked my art from day one. The first thing I drafted for him he loved, but looking back it was brutal… I’m not sure why he ended up sticking with me but he did. Then I designed some more recognizable things for him like his current logos. Trevor is friends with Romain and DCP of YES. Snowboards, and that helped open the door for me with YES. as well.
What companies have you worked with thus far?
Ha, oh, a lot! I’ve done work for Volcom, YES. Snowboards, Herd, Sandbox, Nixon, Electric, Spy, Globe, Dye, Ekumenik, Artschool, Mountain Dew, Airblaster, Levitation Project, Somewon, GRA skate wheels, Trouble Gang and In Flames to name a few.
Which collab is your all-time favorite?
Tough question. I recently completed a collab with another Volcom artist, Matt French. We both equally put our own style into one design and you can see both distinct styles. The graphic was used as a new feature artist T-shirt coming out this fall in the women’s line. It was just fun to work with another artist and create something random because we created something completely different than if I had done the design solo.
What projects do you currently have in the works?
I’ve been concentrating a lot on music lately. I have a real appreciation for music even though I can’t play any instruments or anything. I would say In Flames, Trouble Andrew and now Hieroglyphics are some big projects I have on the go.
“I think as artists we all strive to find our style. My new works are cleaner and more focused. Before I was drawing and doodling for fun and now it’s more of a serious career. More people are watching what I’m putting out which forces me to raise my own personal bar.”
You’ve worked on album covers for Trouble Andrew, clothing graphics for Volcom, insole designs for Globe and snowboard graphics for YES. What type of product has been the most fun to work with? Which has been the most challenging?
I think honestly Artschool has been one of the most fun and challenging projects for me. It’s a skate company that I co-own with my friend Jeff Talbot. It’s fun because it’s ours, and we can do whatever we want. We started it five years ago, and the idea behind the brand is really fine art driven graphics. Whether Artschool stands the test of time or fades away it doesn’t matter, because we did it and we created something and I’d say that is a valid thing.
Describe your dream collaboration… who would it be with? What type of product?
I try not to think of it that way. To me, it’s more about just doing art and as long as people respect it that makes me happy. It’s not about climbing the corporate ladder and becoming rich and famous. I don’t want to lose my love for drawing and painting, so I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing and see what happens. Opportunities usually have a funny way of presenting themselves.
Where do you see your art taking you? In an ideal world, what do you want to be creating and doing with your work?
I want to be the first artist on the moon!
More features from The Olympic Issue: Olympic Pipe, You’ve Changed | A coach’s perspective on the Olympic Games: an interview with Ricky Bower | My Dream: Slopestyle makes its Olympic debut | Olympic History: The Halfpipe