Snowboard's Art Director John Alvino sat down with Cody Comrie, co-founder of THE/END and a highly talented artist who works across multiple mediums to create art that goes beyond the canvas.
Interview: John Alvino
Artwork: Cody Comrie
Originally featured in Snowboard Mag Vol. 10, Issue 3 | The Cerebral Issue
Cody was born in Canada, raised in Salt Lake City and now lives and works in Los Angeles. He is co-founder of a new clothing line called THE/END and works in multiple mediums including painting, illustration, sculpture and installation.
Let’s make this simple, when did you start making art?
My dad would draw classic 70’s cars that were really sick. He had so many sketchbooks where his perspective was perfect; so much talent. He just had it. I didn’t just have it; I had to practice over and over for years to be able to draw like that. The first car I drew was a ¾ view, which is really hard to draw. I think I was 6 or 7; it was a black pickup with flames on it. And I still draw cars. I used to do realistic watercolors in high school, that’s how I got a scholarship to college. But now my art is weird, people say it’s kind of dark.
When did you switch your art from doing it for aesthetic purposes to having something you wanted to say? Because there is a difference.
In high school I started doing watercolor paintings. My teacher was an amazing artist and he kind of took me under his wing and gave me credit for 4 classes for just doing watercolors. Those paintings are what got me a full ride scholarship to college.
Where did you go to school?
The Art Institute of Seattle. The watercolors were so cheesy, but that’s what got me into college. Then I started doing Industrial Design. With that I got an Associates Degree, but it took about three years, because it’s really involved. When I graduated, a littler older and smarter, I didn’t want to work for a giant corporation. So I just went snowboarding. I moved to New York for a little while and then I went back to Salt Lake.
Also see: The Untracked Mind: Snowboarding, consciousness and the ultimate reality
What was Team Thunder about?
It was just a group of really close friends that grew up together. We made two videos and everyone got sponsored and it was fun, but then I broke my collarbone and moved to LA. I was 24 and felt like I was too old for that, but most of those dudes went pro.
Did moving to LA make you feel like it was possible to just be an artist? Would you want to only make art… if money wasn’t an issue?
Yeah, that’s what I would feel the most fulfilled by. Art for some reason means something to humanity. Every city has an art museum. It’s part of us. It’s something that I love. You make art to say something that you can’t put into words. But I don’t think I’m at the point where I can make my life just that. I’m getting closer to where I can see that I could. I would love to get to where I’m spending most of my time doing art. I’ll continue to do it, whether or not it becomes the way I pay my bills. But I’m not there yet.
Do you feel like it’s tough to balance paying the bills with the brand and just secretly wanting to do art all day?
Yeah, I do feel like that. I enjoy the design aspect of making clothes. It’s a physical thing you can touch and hold and people wear. But there are a lot times you just wish you were in your own place creating. When you create, things come out of you and teach you what you need to hear. When you’re working on a brand all day, which I do love and get a lot out of, you can also feel like you’re missing something. It’s about designing your life to have balance, you can do both, but I’m just trying to figure that out. I need both in my life.
Do you pay attention to other people’s art or do you just do your own thing?
I don’t pay close attention, which sounds selfish. I know what’s going on and I see things, but to each his own. When I see a piece of art that I like and I think is genuine I feel it and it’s instant.
When it comes from a genuine place?
Yeah, like they made it and they aren’t trying to make it anything that it wasn’t. You see a lot of art around and it’s witty art, which is cool, but I like the art that is more abstract and isn’t trying to prove a point. I love Andy Warhol… he was making a statement. He had an agenda and it was a valid agenda. The world needed to see that. I think too many people feel like they need to have an agenda too. There is so much good art out there, but there is also art that is trying to piss someone off, talk shit or be funny. I think art is a poetic experience, you just feel it. I don’t know that I’m necessarily that competent with my art yet, but that’s the art I want to make. I want it to be something that you can’t explain, it was just an experience I had. I hate so much art. I hate all the work I have right now.
Your own art? Why do you hate it?
You know the painting that you have, I like that painting and then I got stuck on it. I’ve been trying to replicate it. Trying to get something as good as that. In a sense I’m trying to fuel my own ego, like it was so good I’m trying to do it again. That one meant something to me and it was genuine and now I’m chasing that almost.
Did you produce that one after the accident or before?
After, but that was the best piece I’ve produced since my accident. It meant a lot.
Will you talk about your motorcycle accident? What happened?
It was a yellow light and I took a left in front of a woman in a Prius and she t-boned me. I don’t remember anything for about three weeks. They sawed my skull out and put it in my stomach, and then they took it back out and put it in my head. I definitely have some complications from it.
Do you think it’s affected your art?
Is it different than before?
I haven’t delved into it enough yet to answer that. I’ve had a few shows, but I’m still trying to catch up. Since my accident, I’ve been so worried if it’s going to be as good as it was. But what I’ve realized in the last couple of months is that I just need to make my art. I was putting too much emphasis on that moment. Should it be linked to that moment or should it be different now because of it? Instead of making art from my heart, just how I was. I think I get anxiety about whether or not I can still do this. There are things that I can’t do, so it’s taken me two years to realize that. Now I’m excited to make new shit.
Do you think making art helped you get through those two years?
Of course, it fulfilled me, it gave me something to do and people wanted to see my art. You know, you doubt yourself when you want to do something like that. You doubt your abilities. But the pieces I’ve been doing are genuine and the people around me are stoked I can do this. Cause they were worried about me. It’s good for me, I’m stoked and ready to move on and do new shit that doesn’t relate to my accident before or after. It will always relate to my mental state and how I think about life and death. That will always come out.
How do you see your art evolving, what’s the next step?
The technique that I spend time on is drawing; I’m good at that. I know that. But another is lights, material and the subject matter. Right now it’s taking on all the things I’ve learned and felt and this bigger picture that I’m trying to understand. I have no idea what I’m going to do next; I just know it’s something different than what I’ve been doing. I don’t care to know what’s not actually there; I want to experience what happens. That’s the exciting part about making art. You start it and you don’t know what is going to happen and then all of a sudden when it’s done, it’s done.