Legendary skateboard graphic artist Sean Cliver is more than just a talented hand. He’s also a total asshole, according to George Powell. Why is he a total asshole, according to George Powell? We’ll let him answer that.
Why did George Powell fire you?
Well, it’s a toss up as to whether I was fired or simply laid off along with several other employees at the time. Sure, it sounds more romantic to say I was fired, but it’s probably more of the latter. I had become a bit of a loose cannon atop a ship that was taking on water fast, though, so to say it was a convenient time to be fired isn’t out of the question. Basically I had just become very opinionated and argumentative, which made for a less than conducive and positive working relationship with George. I had also become friends with Steve Rocco, which was pretty much as sleeping with the enemy as it could possibly get.
Why did George Powell call you a ‘total asshole’?
Again, not without fair reason to do so… not only did I go right to work for Rocco, the man responsible for virtually all of Powell’s headaches at the time, but I “stole” a concept I’d been working on that left Powell in a momentary lurch with their own Adam McNatt model. Not to mention the top graphic quotes that Rocco added to the Blind series, dedicating the graphic to all the employees who lost their jobs in the “war.” It was a pretty heated time in the skateboard industry.
Do you think George Powell is a total asshole, or is he just a huge prick?
Neither. Aside from the fact he’s the main reason I wound up in the skateboard industry in the first place, he was managing a very large company that had become way too top heavy and slow in a rapidly changing and shrinking marketplace. I can only imagine how frustrating and difficult that was to deal with, much less me being the equivalent to an annoying gnat alongside everything else going down, so no, I don’t blame him at all for letting me go. Sure, it was a bruise to my little ego then, I was still young and uppity and couldn’t see a forest for the trees for the life of me, but it was honestly the best thing for both of us in the end.
How did the idea for the Claudia Schiffer deck come about, and who was it originally for?
I’m sure it could be debated now where the concept came from, but I think I’d heard that Adam McNatt may have been into supermodels at the time and I’d had that specific Guess ad on my own office wall and thought it would make a good graphic treatment. So I did the mockup, which was approved by George, and I was halfway through the final black and white art when I was laid off. The last damn thing I was going to do was leave a concept of mine for someone else to finish, so I packed it up and took it home with me. I finished the art over that Thanksgiving weekend, but the next week I received a call from Craig Stecyk giving me a friendly heads up that it would be in my best interest to “find” the missing art to avoid any ugly situations. Reluctantly, I returned the art back to another guy I knew in the art department and figured that was the end of everything. However, Steve Rocco called up by the end of my first week of unemployment and offered me a job. When I relayed the story of the Schiffer art to him, he basically said fuck that, re-draw the art and we’ll release it as a series for Blind. Powell was still working off marketing and manufacturing schedules months in advance, so Blind beat them to market with the board graphic. Powell still came out with a Schiffer graphic for McNatt’s first board, but it wasn’t near as striking as the red and black version.
Do you know if Claudia has actually seen the board?
No idea. Skateboarding was so small then I’d have to imagine not. Plus she was dating David Copperfield, a fucking magician, so she was probably living in an altogether different reality than the rest of us. Two years later, though, she did a calendar signing in Santa Monica that Marc McKee and I went to, but I forgot to bring along the board to get signed.
What’s your favourite cease-and-desist?
I think the only one I ever generated was via the “Bye Bye Kitty” graphic for a Blind Guy Mariano model. Sanrio doesn’t fuck around.
Was Charles Manson okay with the ‘Charlie Manson Brown and the Peanuts Gang’ board?
I’m sure he’d get a giggle if he ever saw it. Maybe not Charles Schulz, though.
Did you draw a lot of sick stuff as a kid and were your parents and teachers worried about you?
Not extremely so, but I did draw a lot of silly gore and skull stuff on my notebooks and schoolbook covers. One random teacher did take note of that and point-blank told me he thought I was disturbed. Then my high school art teacher said I was wasting my talent and should concentrate on drawing nicer things. Oddly enough, a professor in college later told me the same thing. What dicks!
Are you disappointed Cara Delevingne is stoked and not pissed about appearing on the homage deck you designed for us?
Did she see it? That’s cool. I can’t imagine how she’d be pissed, since it’s more of an homage than a spoof on her. May have been a different outcome had she been depicted mainlining or had a bunch of cocks involved. (Buy the deck HERE.)
Have the times changed?
Perhaps, yes, but someone recently told me that “bad vibes were coming back in style,” so there’s hope for all of us yet.