Strut on a line, it's discord and rhyme...
Strut on a line, it's discord and rhyme...
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meet the new artist on our block: tyler pennington

This is only the first sentence, but allow me to backtrack. Think New Hope to Phantom Menace if it helps… or maybe don’t because it doesn’t? Anyway, like almost 10 years ago, circa 2014, Nick and I were both spitballing skateboard company dreams while strolling along on the streets of San Francisco. For my wishful part, I'd long harbored a fantasy about starting something up and getting all my art friends and acquaintances to jump in and out on era correct boards produced in era correct methods. I mean surely they'd all love to do that. Why wouldn't they? What fun it would be! Well, as it turned out, there were plenty of reasons why not. Definitely more than I would have imagined and none of which I'll bother going into here—well, aside from one artist in particular: Aaron Horkey.

Todd Bratrud turned me onto Aaron while I was compiling material for my first Disposable book in the early aughts and he quickly became my biggest art crush of all time. If you’re unfamiliar, he’s kind of like VCJ on steroids… and mushrooms… maybe even a little LSD. Not helpful? Okay, how about this: the essence of graffiti infused with old world engravings, vintage typography, fantastic beasts, and insanely intricate hand-rendered detail. His work is truly humbling to behold. So, suffice to say, Aaron was at the top of my wish list to produce a screenprinted graphic of his on some wacko Zorlac-inspired shape, and at the very flip of every calendar year since I've made a special point to reach out and see if he'd have time for us. Unfortunately, the working stars have yet to align, but a couple months ago he did hit me up with a recommendation for another inimitable master of the pen who was looking to get his work on the bottom of a skateboard: Tyler Pennington.

There. Now that we're back in the present, aka The Now, I'm proud to announce the release of Tyler’s first board graphic under the StrangeLove banner. Since introductions are always a polite way to break the ice, here's a quick li'l primer to his highly illustrated world. —Sean Cliver


Do you have a skateboard skeleton in your closet? I mean, not like some kinda weird bad thing, just a past connection to it or something.

My connection with skating started around the late '90s. I was born in 1990 and grew up next to family and a bunch of good neighborhood kids in a small North Carolina town. The town was famous for Mayberry and being the inspiration for The Andy Griffith Show, so as you can imagine—and maybe even relate to—there wasn’t much of a skate scene at all. Skateboarding still managed to find us pre-teen youngsters and we all started on whatever setup you could purchase from the local Walmart… mostly rolling around short driveways and haul assin’ down the neighborhood hill. Skating took a little more serious turn in middle school when I got my first real skateboard. It was a Birdhouse and I remember being stoked on the upgrade! We also started getting CCS magazines in the mail then and I remember sitting down and flipping through those all big-eyed and salivating over the possibilities if I could only talk my parents into getting me more stuff. From there on skateboarding was a big part of my life and identity in the early 2000s.

In high school I’d worked my way into a clique of kids that skated and we had some good times. I liked a lot of different companies, but was particularly drawn to companies like Foundation, Real, and Antihero. Those were typically the boards I rode when I wasn’t being cheap and skating blanks from a local skate shop. We actually had a guy from our town named Justin Brock who got sponsored by Real and Nike SB. He was friends with my friends at the time and whenever he came back to town he’d catch up with us and we’d buy all the extra Nikes he had. That hook-up was sweet and it was just cool to see someone from town get so damn good at skating—like miles ahead of the rest of us.

In the end, I was way better at art than skating. I think I always knew life would go in a different direction for me, but to this day, even though I haven’t skated seriously since my teens, I still watch it daily on my phone. I still love it and miss doing it. It had a brief resurgence in my life during Covid in 2020. I felt like a fighter coming out of retirement for one more round. I went hard at it for the better part of a year but knew I was really rolling the dice since my life and family were very dependent on my doing art.

What’s your general inspiration for ideas?

I pull from a lot of different sources. I was fortunate enough to have cool parents growing up. They let me slide on things like horror movies and comics. My aunt was a manager for Blockbuster, so you best believe I was over there all the time with my head in the horror section! Any visit to my grandparents allowed me to stay up late and catch Tales From The Crypt on HBO. I always loved that stuff. I mean, if I’m being honest, it certainly scared me as a kid but it also never left me either. Horror movies and comics spilled over into my art all the time growing up. I’m also a big fan of buying books and magazines… everything from horror and sci-fi to fantasy. I eat that stuff up. I’ve also been collecting monster masks and busts for a handful of years and now that's spilling out of my room and into my tattoo station at work. I’m a sucker for a good monster head!

Who are a few of your favorite artists, from way back when to currently in the now?

My favorites are easily Bernie Wrightson, Virgil Finlay, Stephen Fabian, and Frank Frazetta. These four guys are very special to me and sources of endless inspiration. Outside of those, there are plenty of others who contributed a lot to my art growing up. I remember the first time I laid eyes on Richard Corben’s work; the cover of Bat out of Hell totally rocked my world as a kid. To point out one in particular with a skateboard connection, Pushead was the man for me in middle school. I remember the “Holy shit!” moment of finding his work and the impact it would forever have on my skulls. I still love looking at his art. All of the work these guys did, no matter how many times I’ve see it, still holds up strong against anything contemporary and keeps that inner child in me so excited to sit down and soak it all in.

Were you familiar with the old Santa Cruz Jim Phillips skateboard graphics and how influenced they were by Virgil Finlay?

Funny enough, you guys actually introduced me to that connection! Super cool to see that influence and connection to Finlay in skateboarding. I hate that I wasn’t able to catch onto things like this growing up… I partly blame it on living under that small town rock, but also my age in general just aided in me missing a lot of that classic skate graphic art as it was happening. It’s been a pleasure to catch up on it all as an adult though.

What’s your pen of choice?

I’m not too brand specific when it comes to pens… I use a lot of Faber-Castell and Micron, but mostly because those are the brands my local art store carries. I also use nibs and ink for my work as well.

Do you work exclusively in black and white?

I’d say about 95-percent of the work I do is black and white. Occasionally I’ll make acrylic paintings when the opportunity arises.

Do you think you’ll one day migrate to drawing via the computer or will they have to pry the pen out of your cold, dead hands like me?

Yeah, I’m an old school guy through-and-through with art. I love working on paper or canvas. Personally I don’t find much enjoyment with creating digital art. That being said,  I do see the benefits of knowing how that stuff works in the field I’m in. It’s becoming more and more common for people to ask me to add color to my work. I’m trying to make more of a push to learn a few tricks digitally to get me by, but I doubt it’ll ever be my main form of making art. My daughter loves drawing on the iPad, so I just tell her to get good enough to color my stuff so we can form an alliance.

When it came to doing this board graphic, what was the scale you worked at?

I worked at a drawing size of roughly 7 x 24 inches. I tried to get fairly close to the size of a full board so the image would size up nice and clean. Plus, I enjoy working a little larger at times because it allows plenty of room for some slick details that would be hard to have at a smaller scale.

How long did it take you from start to finish?

According to my pictures of the whole process, it took 5 days to draw. Honestly, that was faster than I remembered! I was very excited about doing this, so it was hard not to sink every waking minute I could into it.

Where does your work generally appear?

These days, outside of tattooing, most of the work I get commissioned to do ends up on band shirts and album covers. I’ve also done some art for small publications like metal zines or art books, but I’m still fairly new to all that. It was my dream in high school to be able to illustrate for bands, books, and skateboards, but I was never able to get it off the ground before tattooing took hold of me. I’m glad it did though. Tattooing definitely intermingles with all those different avenues and thankfully provides enough support for me to take on opportunities like working with musicians or zines and not having to worry about the monetary compensation. I can just do that stuff for the love of it, first and foremost. Getting paid is just a nice perk. I mean, what a life when you can get paid for drawing something gross and rotten or weird and otherworldly!

Most of my art stays pretty underground in terms of metal bands, but there have been a few bigger bands that have come my way in the last couple of years: The Black Dahlia Murder, Cradle of Filth, and Pantera. Currently I'm waiting to hear back on some concept art for a Metallica tour poster. Hopefully that will land and I can add them to the list of bands I’ve been able to work with.

I’ve also been working on a personal zine as well called Cursed. My friend Sarah and I put it together. It’s very Weird Tales inspired and has a good amount of short stories and poems that lean toward the creepy and strange. We take the ones we like and re-illustrate them. A large section of the zine is also dedicated to standalone art and we have a lot of other artists contribute pieces along with Sarah and I. It’s been a really fun side project and we’re currently raising funds to print issue two which is all werewolf-oriented art and stories. There’s some really great stuff in the issue so we’re determined to have it see the light of day.

Who would win in this hypothetical fight: Aaron Horkey, armed with a crow quill, three pots of India ink, and a bird carcass, or Pushead, armed with a Micron, a vintage Zorlac Gargoyle board, and a sack of Idaho potatoes? If it matters, the bird carcass is a long-legged wader and the Zorlac is not a complete, just the deck.

Oh damn! Look out Frazier and Ali, there’s a new fight of the century about to go down! That’s a tough match to call, but it’s safe to say it’d be a bloodbath. Would anyone get out alive? The bird is lucky it’s coming into this a dead carcass already. My hope is that after a few vicious rounds, some black eyes, and a few missing teeth, these guys decide it’d be a better idea to share the spuds and make some killer art together. I’d pay for that pay-per-view any day.

Any other projects coming up that you’d care to share?

At this point, the future holds more band art, zine work, and hopefully more skate graphics. If anyone feels like being along for the ride, I keep my instagram very up to date on all the happenings in my art world and you can follow me at @thecreepfromsixfeetdeep to see all the art as it unfolds. If you like a little literature with your art, here’s a link to the zine I’m putting together. Lastly, I want to say a big thank you to you guys for giving me an opportunity to create something I’m very proud of for the skate community. It’s been a longtime dream to do that and I couldn’t be more stoked to work with StrangeLove on making it a reality for me. Also, a big thank you to Aaron Horkey for connecting our two worlds. None of this may have happened had he not been an awesome person and passed my name along. You rule, Aaron.

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  • Fd on

    I was running up that hill on Fillmore street pondering Kate’s Bush when my ears started burnin. The micron work, the shading, the influences. There’s enough metal in this interview to rebuild the Golden Gate Bridge. To top it off we get an interview from Rocco on Jenkem. Just put on my cum face and said Ahhhhhhhhhh. All is right in the world. This just solidifies the fact. If you build it they will cum. Thank you skateboarding. Thank you Strangelove.
    “You’ll be home now.” Slice of Life 45 Grave

  • Ethan Sobol on

    Will more physical copies of Cursed Magazine be sold?

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