The latest brand to get the Mark Ward touch is Nike with its Nike “Be True” campaign. We caught up with Mark as he completes a massive live installation in front of curious bypasses, street cats and art lovers for two straight weeks. In this world of Big Brother and Reality TV, Nike and Mark Ward have let us become the voyeurs into a little piece of sneaker history.
Hey Mark, tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m a graphic artist based in South London, in a smallish flat that is overrun with sneakers. I’m into skating – have been since I was a kid and have the busted knees to prove it - and branched out into snowboarding a few years ago. I like a nice English brew but wish we could get either snow or sun here in London.
Nike has you doing live installations at Nike Town London for their “Year of the Dunk” exhibition. What can the peeps expect to see from you?
I’ve been starting to experiment with painting directly over my printed work. It seems a logical step for me as normally I have to feed my work back into my Mac to be able to send my work as a computer file to print for t-shirts etc. I thought about flipping the process round and getting back to analogue techniques. It camouflages the whole process. People aren’t sure what they’re viewing.
Do you prefer the live aspect of doing an installation to working privately in your studio? How does it differ?
I much prefer to work privately in my studio. It allows you to experiment and be less cautious. You can make mistakes, embrace them and go off in another direction. When you work live, the audience demands to see a finished article - there is no room for experimenting.
How did you become involved with Nike?
I used to make some flyers for club nights for a man many people know as Acyde. He was working at Crooked Tongues at that time, and then moved to Nike. He invited me to take part in some small creative briefs like the Nike iD canvas etc. We’ve known each other for a while now. He gets me involved in projects when he feels I can contribute. This latest Dunk project was perfect…
What do Dunks mean to you as a skater, artist and street culturist?
I like Dunks; the simple silhouette and bold use of lines and colours. Simple yet striking. The market has obviously been saturated with them over the years and for me personally that has taken the shine off their original status but the college colours are a great package and I’m glad they’ve been re-released. I wonder how many people will buy them knowing the history behind them. Skate-wise, ten years ago whoever thought that Nike would have such an influence on such a core market? - It’s pretty amazing.
The piece you had showcased at Foot Patrol earlier this year is an ode to the Dunk and it’s influence on both Basketball and Skate Culture. How do get the ideas flowing in your artistic mind to come up with something truly original?
When I start to do a piece I always have to have an idea, rather than rely just on visual style. I studied advertising at college, and it was pretty hardcore. We used to pin 20 ideas on the wall, have 18 of them destroyed by the tutor in front of the class, and told to work on what was left. Ideas are the main structure of the creative process. For me in the commercial world, the process is to solve a problem with a visual execution. Fusing basketball and skateboarding came perfectly naturally to me. The references come from the influences around me. I love the aesthetics of American league sports such as basketball and hockey. I just mixed this with my fixation on old school skate graphics from growing up.
A lot of your artwork is inspired by street culture, whether it be skating, sneakers or collaborating with well-known brands, how did you fall into this?
I came out of college determined that I was going to work in advertising, as I thought I needed a “proper” job. For my own sanity I had been freelancing for Stussy from my first year. (I went into the London store and told them that their posters were a little tired, and that I’d design them some new ones. I was real nervous doing that, and it’s completely out of character, but it worked – apparently they admired my cockiness! I showed them some designs, and they ran with them). I managed to land a job as a junior art director at an ad agency, but soon realised it wasn’t for me. I was commissioning artists to do work that I wanted to do myself. I left and went to work for Stussy full-time. I met a lot of people there and started to work on other projects, getting a little recognition, and it all grew from there. I eventually went freelance last year, and this has enabled me to work on bigger projects. I guess I’ve been lucky…
Tell us about some of the brands you have worked with.
I like working with brands that either have a personal connection to my interests or ones that have invited me to develop something fresh and have my interest at heart. I love doing work for Stussy as they’re genuine guys. I’ve also been fortunate enough to work with Medicom Toys who are the most polite people on the planet. Nike are great to work with too as the brief is always open to personal interpretation.
How did the “Plates of Meat” customs come about? For those readers that haven’t seen these customs, Mark turned a pair of AF1 into burgers on a plate of chips. Probably one of the best customs we’ve seen, and delectable too!!!
Haha, glad you like them. Some of my friends reckon I speak with a cockney accent (which basically means I sound like Michael Caine), so I wanted to play on the idea of cockney rhyming slang. I decided to take the slang for feet (plates of meat) and make a custom. It was a move against airbrushed graffiti, in a more comical way.
How is 2008 shaping up for you and how do you keep all the artist juices flowing in a culture saturated with so much imagery.
2008 has been stupidly busy so far. I’m thankful for that, but I need to get away. I’m going snowboarding soon, so I’m looking forward to that. As for keeping the juices flowing, it’s not always easy. Everybody who is creative in some manner always hits dry spots and it’s really frustrating when you’ve got tight deadlines to meet – you haven’t got time for it!
Check more of Mark Ward's art at his website www.graphiknonsense.com
Mark will be doing his live installation instore at Nike Town London from Feb 19th - March 4th
NIKE TOWN LONDON
236 Oxford St
W1C 1DE, UK