R

uss Pope has been an artist since he was able to hold a pencil. He drew through many days at school when others were doing schoolwork. He drew comic book superheroes at home and invented characters that came to life with the touch of his pencil to paper. Art classes were the best part of high school. As a teen, art and skateboarding first collided when some of his art was used by skateboard companies. During these years, he worked and rode for SmallRoom Skateboards, traveled to skate spots around the US and worked in a skate shop in San Luis Obispo, California.

Since then, skateboarding and art have continued to sustain Russ’s drive to create. During his college years, he ran SMA Skateboards, started Creature Skateboards and took art classes at night. Living in a redwood grove in a house heated only with a homemade wood-burning stove, Russ set up an easel in the kitchen and, in the winter, often had to paint by candle light when the power went out for days at a time.

In 1995, Russ moved back to San Luis Obispo and started Scarecrow Skateboards. The time Russ was able to spend painting was limited by his new business and family. As things settled, his garage was turned into an art studio. The pieces Russ created during these years show transition from a more controlled, symmetrical painting style to a looser style expressing motion and music.

Just as Russ’s commitment to skateboarding has continued for over 25 years, so has his dedication to his art. Russ’s studio is now a different garage in Orange County, California filled with cans of rejected Home Depot paint, bottles of ink, and cans of spray paint. There are canvases and wooden boxes of all sizes. This garage is most alive late at night after his kids are in bed, when he puts on his headset and dances his paintbrush on the canvases. It is common to find him on his knees hunkering over a canvas on the floor while two dry simultaneously on easels and one is precariously balance against a folding chair. Russ seems to work best when he is adding bits and pieces to many canvases simultaneously. The movements of his body and his paintbrush demonstrate how he thrives in the chaos of multiple projects, surrounded by mounds of paint cans creating mazes on the floor.

When one looks at Russ’s art, it is easy to see that his painting is as integral to his life and sanity as food, water, music, skateboarding and family. The rawness of his work can be felt by viewing the large brush strokes, thick lines and colorful backgrounds of many pieces. One senses music and movement through the application of color, image and brush strokes. Elements of culture, politics, animals and celebration pop out of the base of his art. It is easy to feel freedom, chaos and release when one views Russ’s pieces as a body of work, these feelings are fundamental to his life and work. –J. Bostwick

Russ has shown his work both domestically and internationally in: San Luis Obispo, Santa Cruz, San Jose, San Francisco, San Diego, Laguna Beach, Seattle, Utah, Boston, Chicago, New York, Brooklyn, Miami, Austin, Washington DC, Denver, Los Angeles, Portland, Vancouver, Whistler, Hawaii, Glasgow, Edinburgh, London, and Japan.