Following the launch of the innovative ‘fit to move’ campaign, Nike SB link up with Size? to create a unique installation at the brands Carnaby Street store.
To celebrate the collections release, London based artist Keith Watts was called upon to create a series of animations featuring UK team riders – Chris Jones, Casper Brooker and Tom Harrison. The animations (which you can see over on ourinstagram) are set at some of London’s most iconic skate spots and showcase key pieces from the release, highlighting the collections focus on mobility.
We recently caught up with Keith to talk about his history in illustration, skateboarding and his approach to the project;
Tell us a bit about yourself. Has illustration always been a big part of your life?
I have always drawn, so from a very young age I knew that was all I wanted to do. It was at Art College that I became fully aware of illustration and that I would be an illustrator. So yes, illustration has always been a big part of my life even before I knew what it was. After college I did an illustration degree, then bought a secondhand mac, learnt Photoshop etc and got to work on various projects with friends, most notably a t-shirt company which was big in Japan for a bit and built an underground following but folded after a few years. Afterwards I did 10 years as a storyboard artist and have illustrated for numerous publications including The Guardian, Financial Times, Icon & Esquire. Currently I am working on my blog the visual diary of Keith Watts, I’m involved in a clothing label – the days, which we have a launch for at Beach on brick lane on the 14th august and I design for my wife’s print project – yourtype.
What inspires you to draw?
Everything and anything, sometimes the more mundane the subject matter the better. Drawing for me is more a ‘need’ than a ‘want’, I am inspired by my surroundings, my interests or a good brief. Lots of what I do is to a lesser or greater extent to do with documenting the passing of time or our passing through a space.
Skateboarding has appeared in your personal project “visual diary of Keith Watts’. Could you tell us a bit more about the project and how skateboarding fits in?
The visual diary of Keith Watts is on tumblr and gets an update when I get time to draw something for it. It was conceived as a place for my reportage illustration and as such is an ever expanding blog of my day to day life, presenting the detritus of modern life which surround us all in a super detailed illustrations. The viewer is invited to watch my life unfold through these drawings, often showing them objects, which are a part of their life too, which they have never taken the time to really look closely at. Skateboarding is there because it is part of my life.
Is skateboarding an interest of yours?
Yep, I grew up skateboarding, it’s culture definitely nurtured my creative endeavours throughout my formative years and is still influencing me today, although it is harder to make time for it these days, with work & family commitments. It’s still one of the best feelings to get out for a skate, preferably early morning at an empty skatepark with a few close friends. It is great to just roll for a bit and work through my limited bag of tricks, it’s not about being good anymore, but just about having fun.
How did the collaboration with Nike SB come about?
My style is well suited to stop frame animation and I’ve worked on a few motion pieces in the past including a self directed skateboard project with lik down, animating some of a 4 minute section of a scene video they were making. Nike SB approached via Stem Agency who rep me as they knew I was a skater and thought my style suited the elements of the new range.
Talk us through your usual approach to a project. Was it any different for the Nike SB project?
It always starts with a brief, a discussion or an idea rattling around in my head, sometimes a combination of the 3, the Nike animation is a good example of this. I had been working on the animated skate sequences for a personal piece when the opportunity to pitch this concept to Nike SB presented itself. Generally I start by drawing from life wherever possible, in that sense the Nike SB project was no different. I stood at the end of Shadwell DLR platform for 5 hours and drew most of the cityscape after my first meet with the guys at Nike. I invented the foreground from photographic reference. Once I’ve drawn everything I scan the components and put the piece together in Photoshop.
The collection is named “fit to move”, how did you incorporate the theme of movement into your work?
The notion of movement is inherent in an animation, skateboarding is obviously all about movement too, whether nailing a trick or just pushing through the city streets. My style can look like there is a kind of kinetic energy held within the textures of shaded areas and often the line looks quite fluid or quite broken up sitting as a part of the whole image. The notion of movement was a pre-requisite of the brief so I was mindful of it as I drew everything, the theme was there, I just presented it within the artwork I produced.
The Nike SB project is slightly different to your usual work, what was the most challenging thing about this project?
I thought the animation would be, but working with Sam at wheelhouse from frames supplied by Nike made it a breeze.
The difficult part was working on the 2GB photoshop file I had to create for the cityscape mural. I had to scan the 15 pages of drawings at double the resolution I normally use for a print job, compose the scene, and tweak elements to better fit the space. My mac had a midlife crisis throughout this, I spent 10 minutes every hour getting a save in before the next crash. Then it took 3 hours to save the final colour image (mostly to do with finding a format & compression options that would neither crash photoshop nor compromise quality) & a further 8 hours to upload it to a file sharing site. I’ve watched too many progress bars not progressing in the last few weeks but the end result is definitely worth the hard work.
You can check the animations at the Size? and Nike SB concept store on Carnaby Street now along with ‘Fit To Move’ collection. You can shop the collection over at nike.com and size.co.uk.
We would like to thanks Keith Watts for his time. Be sure to visit the visualdiaryofkeithwatts.tumblr.com for more great work.
Words: Kieran Sills
Imagery courtesy of Nike SB