Strut on a line, it's discord and rhyme...
Strut on a line, it's discord and rhyme...
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the art of jeff tremaine

You may know Jeff Tremaine as the big time Hollywood producer, director, and co-creator of the box office-smashing, 800-pound culture-besmirching gorilla known as the Jackass franchise, but I'll always know him as my former roommate who would spend hours holed up in the garage of our rental unit at 164 Manhattan Avenue in Hermosa Beach, CA, circa 1995, painting on gargantuan masonite canvases while listening to the assorted discs of the first Guided By Voices box set—aptly titled Box—the distinct memory of which instantly evokes the Robert Pollard vocals to "Hank's Little Fingers"…

We're watching Hank's (watching Hank's)
Watching Hank's (watching Hank's) little fingers
We're watching Hank's (watching Hank's)
Watching Hank's (watching Hank's) little fingers

Swimming river flow
Rifle, bullet, arrow and bow
Plaster, paint, and tile
Lepus, canine, cat, and reptile

Unless you got the answers
Don't patronize the mountain men, oh
Unless you got the answers
Don't patronize the mountain men, oh

I've always loved that song. Tremaine did too, and he even had a theory back then that it was penned while watching a friend's toddler try to manipulate an object with their tiny hands. After a quick jaunt through the internets, though, I'm now in the factual know that it's about "a Dayton man named Hank that songwriter Robert Pollard knew near the end of high school; Hank had brachydactyly (a condition characterized by small fingers), but was determined enough to still be able to play the guitar." Brachydactyly! Who knew! Curiously, this reminds me about a kid in my high school, Todd something or other, who had an extremely large and bulbous scrotum—like grapefruit size if you require a proportional mental picture—and although I was never inspired to write a song about his elephantine testes I did find it rather strange that he persisted in wearing extremely tight-fitting Wrangler jeans. I mean surely that must have been uncomfortable… right? Or at least so one would think.

Anyway, the very first time I met Tremaine was at a California Pizza Kitchen located just outside of the Redondo Beach South Bay Galleria. He was being interviewed there by Steve Rocco and the late Mike Ternasky for a position as the new editorial/art director on Big Brother, shortly after the debut issue of the mag had slipped out like a weird, wet turd in the summer of '92. Since Spike Jonze was the esteemed person who made the recommendation of his high school pal to Rocco, I suspect Tremaine already had the job well in the bag [1], interview be damned, because, or at least to the best of my knowledge, there were no other candidates. I also want to say that is probably so, because the majority of the "interview" was actually taken up by Rocco and Ternasky pillaging Tremaine's portfolio of paintings for use on various Blind, 101, and Plan B slick bottoms. Thus, Tremaine landed not only a job on a magazine that would change his and several others lives eight absurd years later, but also added his name to the official historical registry of skateboard graphic artists with Rudy Johnson, Brian Lotti, Adam McNatt, Sean Sheffey, and Sal Barbier to his instant credit—all in one day! America. What a country.

Not long after World Industries moved its headquarters from the Del Amo of Torrance to the Nash of El Segundo in 1993, Rocco bought up three or four of Tremaine's original paintings to decorate the new lobby area. One piece in particular, a smaller mixed media painting of a "crucified frog" that hung behind the reception desk (the very same one used for the Blind Lotti graphic), was pilfered by Don Brown one evening after he'd dropped off an Etnies ad for Big Brother—a rather bold-faced and shameless art heist that has amused me to no end throughout the decades considering it still remains in his possession (in fact, it's hanging right there on his wall in the photo above). The other paintings somehow survived the generally chaotic and destructive atmosphere that pervaded the office building for several years, only to be shipped off overseas to the lesser known Hawaiian Island of Lanai, where Rocco had built and maintained a small compound after the multi-million dollar sale of World Industries (I do believe these paintings eventually found their way back to the Mainland, though, and likely hang in some nook or cranny of the South Bay to this day).

Despite the graphic design chores on Big Brother being quite demanding throughout the '90s, Tremaine still found time to paint in his downtime on nights and weekends. The subject matter was alway near and dear to his heart: mammals, reptiles, amphibians, clowns, booze, and the oddly-shaped human like (all of which easily could have been the basic pitch for Wildboyz in 2003). The majority of this output then would "conveniently" find its way onto long and skinny lengths of Masonite; hence, another round of fresh skateboard graphics for Foundation, Prime, and Birdhouse, as well as snowboards for Division 23 and Original Sin. And while Tremaine may have narrowly missed an opportunity to have his work featured on the cover of Hootie & The Blowfish's debut 21x platinum album, he did provide a fishy piece of art to an obscure CD release by the considerably lesser known group Who Is God.

At this point I suppose I should address the actual paintings of Tremaine as I've covered every other trivial detail but. So here's the deal: they're big, they're colorful, and they're heavy as fuck. Perhaps what is most noteworthy about them though, is that they are tactile in a very touchy-feely way. So much so that I once joked how his paintings were immensely popular with the deaf, but I no longer know if that's even something that can be quipped about or if it's just an inane sleight of vocabulary that only I ever found funny. Regardless, Tremaine would incorporate these textured bases into his acrylic process, utilizing moss, sand, papier-mâchéd scraps, and other assorted whatnot—bird seed being the only one that turned out to have a less than favorable long term outcome after it began "popping" and left a slew of miniature pockmarks on the finished painting.

So there you have it. That's the general gist of his beautiful body of work and it hasn't changed a whit in the 30-odd years I've known him. Well, that's not entirely true. What did dramatically change was the frequency of his arty output, because once Jackass took hold of his life in 2000, he and the brush became estranged from one another as time—or, much rather, demands on his time, wore on. Some might even say he traded in the brush for a cell phone back then, but what else was a burgeoning big time Hollywood producer and director to do? Don't get me wrong, he still hit the paint now and then, but the resulting works were definitely fewer and farther between and more often specifically created with friends in mind as wedding gifts and the like. Years passed in such a haphazard manner, but then COVID came along! And that definitely put a bit more idle pep in his art step, which brings us to these paintings here that I must admit now were not at all created with StrangeLove or the inkling of board graphics in mind. But hey, here they are nonetheless. Thanks, Jeffy! —Sean Cliver


1. It was only later that I'd learn, much to my mouth agape surprise, that Tremaine was the vocal aspect behind Milk, the band made famous in skateboard circles for "The Knife Song" which accompanied Jason Lee's part in Video Days—yes, that Video Days—as well as one of the tracks to Mike Vallely's Rubbish Heap segment. This has long since become more public knowledge, but I still remember the night we had dinner with Steve Berra and Rob Dyrdek at an Olive Garden in Manhattan Beach when they first learned about this facet of Tremaine's history. Rob's jaw just about hit the damn bottomless salad bowl and just like that it was the birth of a beautiful friendship that would take root in the cuts of Dirty Gras and flourish throughout the coming decades (well, aside from that one night in San Diego when Dyrdek head-butted Tremaine outside a bar and broke his nose, but that's a random footnote for another day).

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  • WD on

    Stoked I snagged the daredevil hofman stuntwood and that I skated that sal dolphin slick to death back in the day!

    Thanks for the years or artistic stoke, be it paint or vocals, that I never knew was your handiwork JT!

  • Marshall Knott on

    Hey folks, I’ve always been a fan of Jeff and his art in all their forms. In particular of this collection it’s the purple monkey that does it for me. I love that piece. I’d love to have a copy of that bad boy in my bar. Much love you two.

  • Nicholas George on

    Much love to Jeff on this Valentine’s Day post. We grew up together and he was always an artist who saw the world differently and I think his art shows how fragile the veil of sanity and personal relationships really are. I see a lot of themes in this work which carries a veneer of silliness, like all Jackass stuff, but is also a profound and very personal commentary. If you could put it into words, then we wouldn’t need the art! Love to all. Keep fighting the good fight.

  • Marty on

    Amazing paintings. All those decks stood out to me back in the day

  • Andrew B on

    Trying my best not to use any search engine these days to stop with that crutch…was the alligator one used for a Mike Santarossa Prime deck?

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