Artist Profile: comforting the disturbed with Sketchy Tank

It is Saturday, 9:30 am. Donning a familiar black shirt with a white graphic, you leave the house for the coffee shop two blocks away. You sense unease from the couple in line behind you, then you catch a person pointing in your direction from the corner of your eye. Standard. But on your way out, there’s a nod of approval from someone clearly seeking a remedy for last night’s regrettable encounter with Jose Cuervo. The Grim Reaper on your back flashes the patrons with a warning carved into the tombstone beside him.

“Party’s over, motherfucker.”

666VAN

Enter the world of Sketchy Tank, a place where the disturbed are comforted and the comforted are disturbed. “When I see something shocking, it’s memorable and even if people hate it, it’s in their brain. They can’t get it out, they know who I am and it works.”

sketchy tank snowboard

Jesse getting inspiration at Baldface. Or maybe just getting high.

What is now a style, movement and symbol, Sketchy Tank arose from humble beginnings on the computer of artist Jesse Dawber where he kept an inspirational folder on his desktop dubbed, The Sketchy Tank, “a tank full of sketchy shit.” Bad tattoos, ironic photos, stupid graffiti, the kind of images that, when compiled in one place, are internet gold. Thus, sketchytank.com was born and a cult following began to emerge — likeminded people that were able to appreciate levity in the otherwise nefarious themes present in life.

sktechy-tank-snowboard

“I always found something funny about the contrast between dark humor and light situations,” Dawber explains. Taboo, vice, death — this is the motif of interest for Jesse — thoughts that trigger feelings of distress, but twist into an idea that anyone can relate to, laugh at, embrace. As popularity and traffic grew, he saw an opportunity to share his work with the world by offering shirts for presale on the site. This happened in 2009, while Dawber was holding down a Lead Product Designer position at Electric, working directly alongside its Founder and then CEO, Kip Arnette.

sketchy tank snowboard

Jesse holding the Grim Reader — a CAPiTA Charlie Slasher undercover, with a graphic he designed for Snowboard Magazine.

Over the next four years, two landmark events occurred in Jesse’s life: Sketchy Tank shirt sales surpassed what he was earning as a salary, and he became a father. It was then that he realized that it could become something bigger and saw how art could be a means to support his family, something few people are able to achieve. Jesse left Electric in February 2014. Instagram then replaced his blog and became the epicenter of all things sketchy.

sketchy_tank_DEAD_WINTERBK

It was pouring gasoline on a fire. Sketchy Tank is now in 300 stores worldwide. Internet presales create demand while eliminating overhead, and he has done selective collaborations with Volcom, KR3W, Vans, Celtek, Hansen Surfboards and RIDE among others. The goal, however, is to keep it tight, small, simple and to never stray from the fact that it is real. There are no suits and no mood boards. The art is a balance of politically incorrect fun and anti-establishment that doesn’t cross into maliciousness, all from Jesse’s unfiltered creative stream of consciousness. “If I make somebody take a second out of their day and laugh at something, that’s worth more than any dollar amount,” Jesse believes. Coincidentally, that is a major element in the success of Sketchy Tank.

goodtimes

“I hate calling it a brand — it is more than that — it’s a feeling. The ‘Good Times, Bad Friends’ graphic has by far been my best one. I don’t think there’s a fucking person on this planet that it doesn’t resonate with. We all know we like to be bad and we all have fun. You know drinking twelve beers in a night isn’t good for you, but you still do it anyway.”

That honesty permeates into the art because it comes from an individual who is grateful his life entails making people laugh while others may cringe. So if someone gets worked up over the Sketchy Tank graphic you’re wearing, say, “Relax, it’s just a fucking t-shirt.”

Comments

Up Next

September 21, 2022

Watch: Ride Snowboards Presents the Teaser for Sincerely Yours

Last winter, the Ride Euro team spent the season filming on their home turf and put together Sincerely Yours....

September 12, 2022

Joey Leon Talks Spotheads, Filming on the East Coast, and White Castle

"If you have ten dollars, you're rich as hell at White Castle."

September 7, 2022

Red Gerard Wants to Go Pro in Surfing

Can you blame him?

August 23, 2022

Big Air to Big Waves: In the Line Up with Judd Henkes

As one of the Southern California-bred pro snowboarders on the competitive slopestyle circuit, Judd Henkes is no stranger to...

August 18, 2022

Burton Shuts Down Bloomberg

Bloomberg may have thought they had a scoop when they posted an article on August 17th speculating that Burton...

August 18, 2022

The IRA is the Largest Climate Bill, Ever – POW Founder Jeremy Jones Responds

Earlier this week, the Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law by President Biden. While the name doesn’t sound...

August 16, 2022

The Chronicles of Catfish: The Tale of Chas Truslow

In the internet age (that sounds incredibly dated to say, but it’s accurate), the idea of a meme is...

August 5, 2022

Emily O’Connor Talks Raking and Rope Tows

The Never Summer rider and Trollhaugen local has rake in one hand and snowboard in the other.

July 28, 2022

Playing Through Summer with Madison Blackley

In which Madison talks summer activities and Vacationland.