Inspiration can come from anywhere. For Paul Kobriger, an inspiration to start drawing again after a 20 year hiatus came from artists around him and a Wes Kremer Transworld Skate cover. Like a lot of skateboarders, Kobriger took to art pretty naturally. In school he’d draw comic book characters and board graphics, but after graduating high school, he dropped the pen and pursued a career in skateboarding. With the Marketing Director position for TransWorld SKATEboarding secured, Kobriger took up the pen again when he became inspired by the talents of his new coworkers and friends. The idea of not drawing anything for 20 years and then creating hyper-realistic illustrations
like the one he did for the Dylan Rieder TransWorld cover after a few years of practice is near unbelievable. We reached out to Kobriger to see if he’d let us in on some of his secrets. Like our content? Sign up here
to get the CCS Catalog mailed directly to you. What’s up, Paul? How’s it going and what are you up to?
Cruising. All is well. Working, skating, family, and trying to make this art hustle happen. Ha! How’d you get into skating? What was your first board like?
I got my first board for Christmas in 1987 when I was 11. It was a Veriflex Ramp Rat from my Grandma. My buddy Clint lived down the block and started skating earlier that year. He was a few years older and used to babysit for my brother and me in those years. He was a mentor and friend, and the single biggest influence in my life. He introduced me to skating, art, and music. I wouldn’t be the same person at all without his influence. Everyone has a specific memory of when they first starting out skateboarding. What’s
yours? The first thing I remember is just doing bonelesses and acid drops on that Veriflex and my Grandma being upset that I was going to ruin the new skateboard
she just bought. Over the next year or two I went through a couple Nash’s and K-mart boards until I finally got my first real board - a pink Lance Mountain Future Primitive deck, Gullwing trucks and Bullet 66’s I think they were. I was 12 or 13. I was making new friends through skateboarding, the guys that remain all my best friends to this day. They’re spread out all over the world but we still make it a point to reunite every couple of years, usually linking up on skate/camp missions in PDX! Your illustrations are unreal. Well, they’re so realistic it’s hard to believe they’re hand drawn. How long does each one take? How many hours do you put in a day?
Thanks man. The hyper-realistic ones of Gonz, Ray, Lance, and Dylan are made up mostly of dots and took around 130-150 hours each. The Dylan was a little less because it’s not as big. Those are some of my first ballpoint pen works and I was super careful and meticulous because I didn’t want to make any mistakes. Building them up pixel by pixel was the only way I knew how to achieve the outcome I wanted. But I’m working on a Hensley now and it's going a little faster. I’m a little more comfortable with the process, but ink is unforgiving so you still have to go slow and be careful. The scribble drawings are way looser and quicker and I guess easier, though I fuck those up all the time and have to start over. I’m still learning. I try to draw every night for a few hours after the kids go to bed. Have you ever been in the middle of a drawing and wrecked it beyond repair?
I’ve had to redo some of those scribbles 4 or 5 times. Those only take a couple hours so it’s not such a big deal, but it took some practice to get it down. I messed up on the Dylan drawing a few times which was pretty stressful since it was for the TransWorld cover and obviously a huge honor for me to be asked to draw it. The original has some ink blots on his face that I couldn’t blend in. We were able to clean it up in photoshop for the cover, but yeah the original has some flaws that I was pretty bummed about. I just a use a regular ballpoint Bic pen, but it took me some trial and error before finding the right one. Some definitely bleed more than others, without any warning just a blob of ink drips out. It's gnarly. What was your reaction like? You focus your pen?
Yeah, fully. Threw it at the wall and had a little meltdown. I don’t really show the Dylan original because of the mistakes. I actually had planned to give it to Dylan’s mom, but because of the flaws I just keep it packed up in a folder in my office. We gave her a special 1/1 framed print instead that she has hanging up in her living room. It says on your website you just recently started drawing again. Is it true you didn’t draw for 20 years, and the first drawing you did after that time was a sketch of Wes Kremer?
Yeah, 100%. After high school art class I never really had the urge to do anything. I didn’t think of myself as an artist whatsoever. I was never very creative, I never really drew or painted anything from my head. I could only copy something so I was convinced I sucked. I’m still super jealous of people that can see beyond reality and create art from their mind or soul or wherever it comes from. I think I do have that but maybe haven’t tapped into it yet. So that held me back for a long time, but I’m starting to understand that there are different kinds of art and different kinds of artists, and no one style is necessarily better than another. So yeah the Wes drawing was just me picking up a pen one day and a crappy piece of copy paper, and trying to draw his TWS cover. It was a practice piece to see if I could still do it, and the pen was just me trying to do something different than all the pencil artists out there. I love ballpoint and that’s been sort of my niche, but I’m about to get into some other mediums real soon. Where’s that drawing? Can we see it? And while we’re rooting around in the past, do you have any drawings you did when you were in high school? What kind of work did you do back then?
Nah I never saved anything. I did some decent stuff that I was proud of, but I pissed it all away. I don’t know what became of any of that stuff. I would draw comic book stuff like Wolverine and Venom. Also all the old board graphics, skulls, dragons, stuff like that. Again just copying things I liked. I did a cool watercolor of Carlos Santana. I wish I still had some of that stuff. I think I left a lot of it at my Mom’s house when I moved out, and it just kind of disappeared over the years. Would you say skating has helped with patience, or do you get pissed and throw your board when you can’t land a trick like the rest of us?
Haha, no I stopped doing that a long time ago. When you’re 41 you don't take it for granted anymore. At least I don’t. Some days just suck and you can’t even do your go-to tricks. That’s just how it goes. On those days, I’m hyped to roll around and just scratch coping. I’m so lucky to get to skate the TWS park every day, even bad days skating are good days. You must be really patient. Is there anything else you work that diligently on?
I always tell people the real talent isn’t necessarily being able to draw well, it's having the patience to take it slow and see it through. I didn’t have that when I was a kid. The dot drawings take about 2 hours per square inch. So yeah, patience is key. I’ve been enjoying making frames lately for some of my drawings. Those take a while too because you tile the decks down, cut all the borders, stain them, hammer the frame together then glue each tile down. I was initially trying to get someone to make them for me because I didn’t have much woodworking experience, but in the end, I decided to try it myself. It’s been super fun learning and way more gratifying to do them myself. Ray and Lance each gave me a bunch of their used decks, so those are included in some of the frames. Others are just made from their pro models or in Gonz’s case, made from Krooked boards with his artwork. You ever get pissed waiting in line at the supermarket or in traffic? What’s it take to piss you off?
I hate traffic. Howard Stern helps with that though. I get pissed all the time. I have three kids, man. Nothing will ever test your patience and sanity like a toddler will. Thankfully my girls are growing out of that now, but they’ll be teenagers in a few years so I’m fooked. What’s the longest you’ve spent trying a trick and what was it?
Well, when I used to film video parts I guess I would get caught up trying to get a trick for days. Now, we just film for fun in the park so I don't really stress on it. I recently filmed a switch back noseblunt that did take me a couple days to get. I normally wouldn’t put that much effort into getting a trick, but I really wanted that one. Learning new tricks doesn't happen as often as it used to, but I try to keep it going. Actually been on a little rollback there lately. I can’t jump down shit anymore, and can barely flip my board, but you can learn a new quarterpipe trick
every day if you want to! Now’s the time we usually ask if you have any fond memories of the CCS catalog, but you actually worked at CCS, right?
Yeah totally. I have fond memories of the CCS catalog from before I worked there just like everyone does. I grew up in a small town in Wisco so we ordered from CCS all the time. But yeah I worked there for 5 years and have a ton of fond memories from that time. I had a pretty good set up there. They were based in New York at the time and I worked remotely from San Diego and would go there 3 or 4 times a year. The crew there were all super rad, not all the most core skaters but a tight squad for sure. For a few years, Mark Nardelli from 5boro was the Brand Manager, and those were the best times because he’s a ripping skater and the funnest and funniest dude ever. We would always do night missions all around downtown. Fucker skates fast as hell so I’d always get smoked. The best was when he got in trouble for tagging CCS stickers in the elevator of the Footlocker building or would jump the turnstile and piss off the security guard. It was so corporate there but he definitely didn’t give a fuck. And the Footlocker suits actually started to love him for it because he was the real deal. He’s a mo though. How long did you work at CCS, and what did you do?
I started in 2008 right when Footlocker bought them. And quit in 2013 right before Footlocker sold it! I was the Team/Marketing Manager. Price’s job sort of, though it sounds like he’s maybe more involved in other parts of the business than I was. When I started, there wasn’t a Brand Manager so I sort of headed up all the Marketing responsibilities. After a year that’s when Nardelli came in so things changed a bit. Then there was a year after he left and before the new Brand Manager started, so I was sort of elevated again. In some ways I liked having the reins, but in other ways it was nice to not have all the pressures of making all the decisions. What was one of the craziest things you saw while working here?
I don't think I really have any crazy stories from working at CCS. I definitely tripped out on working with so many legendary skateboarders. The team was insane back then. Rick Howard, Heath Kirchart, BA, Arto, Jerry Hsu. I inherited all those guys. Silas was the first guy I put on. Then Shane Oneill, Torey, Lizard, Theotis, Nyjah. Those were my contributions. Tried so hard to get Lance on but the Brand Manager at the time wasn’t having it. Sorry Lance! Oh! The Lil Wayne cover shoot, that was a pretty crazy one. I still have his rider, you know the list of demands and food and snack requirements that they send you before agreeing to a shoot? It was like “one jar of honey, must be in a bear-shaped plastic bottle” and “3 bags of assorted starburst, a bag of red Twizzlers, the long ones not the short ones, 3 cold waters and 4 room-temperature waters, 3 large sandwich platters.” And we had to rent an RV for him to chill in during the shoot. Just so specific and so overboard. We had this insane spread of food and snacks, and he showed up with an entourage and they barely even touched the food. The shoot took 3 hours because he needed to change his wardrobe 8 times. He’s tight though but yeah that was a trip. What are some of the differences between the work you did here and the work you do at TransWorld?
It's a lot of the same stuff really. Just logistics, budgets, planning. I do enjoy not being a Team Manager any more. That can be a tough gig when you're the middleman trying to get the team dudes to do stuff they don’t want to do. CCS was way more corporate then, and they had some pretty wild ideas. Also kicking people off and giving pay cuts is the absolute worst thing in the world. I’m terrible at it. Imagine having to make that call to Heath or Rick or Arto, or any of the guys I mentioned. I’d rather kick myself off, which is basically what I did when I saw shit going south there. Footlocker killed CCS. I think it was still doing decently well, but not well enough for the shareholders. Thankfully you guys came in and resurrected it! I’m hyped on what you guys are doing, it feels like a core brand again. Anything you’d like to add? Any memories of the CCS catalog from when you were a kid?
I’m pretty stoked to have been part of the legacy, looking back. I remember getting the catalogs growing up, circling all the stuff I wanted just like everyone always says. I didn’t save them from when I was a kid, but I saved them from all the 5 years of working there. There were something like 50 or 60 catalogs total during that time, and I basically organized every cover shoot. I like that you guys took it back to the old small catalogs. Bring back the “push man” logo! You know that one? It was based on Grant’s photo of Rocco pushing, and Russ Pope actually drew the logo. Little brand history for ya. Thanks CCS!