Inside the Mind of: Elan Watson
21-year-old, San Francisco-based artist, photographer, and videographer, Elan Watson is just about to finish school. He has already established his own clothing brand, had his collage artwork printed on a series of decks. He is just about to embark on a move to LA to pursue a dream of running his own creative agency. The son of pro skater Karl Watson (Dogtown, Think Skateboards and co-owner of Maxuallure skateboards) knows that he is fortunate to have two parents that are supportive of his creative ventures; “My Dad definitely helps me a lot because he went through an unconventional process in doing what he wanted to do in life…He also has a bunch of different opportunities for me …he’s a great person to send my art to and get advice on.” Karl and Elan first collaborated creatively in 2012. The duo held an art show in San Francisco skate shop FTC comprising of sculptures made by Karl and a series of photographs by Elan. “It was his art show but he included me in it because I was young and trying to get into photography.”
Probably the most recognisable project that Elan has collaborated with his father on is a series of skateboard decks released in 2018 on Maxuallure. Elan started creating photomontages at school, “I was really bored and I didn’t really have any friends so I started making collages alone in the classroom when no one was there…I sent them to my Dad to get some advice on them and he was like “don’t post these anywhere, we need to make a board series out of these.” Elan is undoubtedly lucky to be in a situation where opportunities like this can arise, but that should no way take away from his hard work and talent. Elan is a diverse and introspective artist:
“My artwork stylistically and my thought process change for each medium that I do: Photography is more documentary style, I kinda just bring my camera where ever I go and then just shoot. Video is far more thought out, I like it to be very colorful and I find it nostalgic. Collage is more simple and random, It’s kind of like a therapeutic process for me.”
Elan, like many skater-artists, prefer the hands-on, DIY nature of collage making “I would say it’s instinctual, I tried making digital collages but something about it just didn’t really sit right with me. I love the raw ripping texture.” Elan regards the Japanese aesthetic, Wabi-Sabi as integral to his artwork. The notion is that beauty can be found in imperfection is something that resonates across many elements of skateboarding. When art is made with our hands, rather than digitally produced, it cannot be replicated. The methods are tangible. As Elan explains the process is therapeutic, “it definitely helps my mental health… I never go into it with an idea, it’s like a stream of consciousness. I look at it when it’s done and it connects to me, only then do I understand what it’s about.” It is important for us, as skateboarders to be able to hold and touch, to understand texture and structure. Skating is controlling and manipulating space, a process that is instinctive rather than prudent.
Elan has a further theory that links skateboarding and creativity, “as a skateboarder you spend so much time outside that it’s hard not to be inspired by something around you… you also have to be creative to skate…I feel like those two worlds intersect in a way that enables skateboarding to fall into art as well.”
Elan is all about creating a positive message in his artwork. He says that apart from skateboarding his work is inspired by love and this “definitely influences a positive wellbeing for me”. Elan recognises that there is a growing awareness of mental health in the skate community but advises that at the skatepark “It easy to forget to check on your friends because you’re concentrating on your next trick or whatever you are planning on doing that day. Skateboarders live a little too much in the present and we sometimes forget to make sure our friends are good in the future.” The skatepark can be a really supportive place but it is important that you are still supporting your mates even if they aren’t landing a sick trick.
Elan’s artwork is heavily featured on the clothing brand, Viladeath, which he recently launched with friend Deandre Thebpanya (@lil.dre._). Deandre and Elan have known each other for more than half their lives and have been best friends since the day they met. “We have always been interested in making something in fashion…What we want to do is really push art in clothing and combine those two realms. It happens in high fashion a lot but not in something that is accessible to a lot of people”. In addition, Elan is currently working on a second series of decks for Maxuallure, “based around the concept of motion. Mixing collage with texture.” Elan’s attitude towards business, creativity, and skateboarding is positive and integral. His art exudes a sense of peace and love. In a time where both those elements are oblique, it is refreshing to see a young artist who is embracing what good we have left in the world and putting it on an accessible item so we can all share the love.