by Jay Prasuhn
Ed. Note—our series on the radical designers at Wattie Ink. continues, with Jay Prasuhn's profile of Randy Adlawan. We recently covered Randy's work in our piece on the design history of the Bones and Sand Collection, which launched last Thursday.
The Stormtrooper art gives it away. One glance at Randy Adlawan’s work space makes it clear what moves him: an artistic skateboard deck, some cartoon action figures brought to life, the vintage Air Jordan logo (matching the vintage Air Jordan 3’s on his feet), flatbill kicked back, arms sleeved in art; I sense a kindred spirit looking at his work environment. But it’s the pair of two samurai-adapted Star Wars pieces that hover on the wall above Adlawan’s spartan desk that tells you so much.
“I’m a child of the ‘80s,” says the 43-year-old. And we talk about all the things that made us 80s kids. Star Wars, of course. The art on old Powell-Peralta skateboard decks. Video games. “It all really was my inspiration. Growing up in that era, it was a special time. We had Spielberg movies, George Lucas movies, Hasbro. So I love re-creating that era. I’m just drawn to that.”
In my own case, all those things were a distraction from, y’know, good grades. In Adlawan’s case, they were formative, foundations inspiring what would become his career as an artist. Today, Adlawan serves as a Wattie Ink. custom kit mercenary, and recently saw his first in-line piece come to market with the debut of the Bones and Sand line. And as with all the talent within Wattie Ink.’s art division, Adlawan’s creative genius began when he was a teenager. And unlike some of his colleagues that were tagging walls in underpasses on doing anime work on the computer, Adlawan was drawing comics. There was no formal training, he just grabbed sketchbooks and started to draw.
“That generation, loving Transformers, playing with GI Joe, that stuff really stuck with me,” he recalls. “All of it is what set me on my path, at age 17, to want to be a comic book artist. I was heavy into comics as a kid. I loved drawing characters, and just drawing in general.”
If there’s one thing we’ve learned it's that each Wattie Ink artist has his or her own style, derived from anything from grafitti to anime. For Adlawan, his inspiration has been clear: those comics. That fine art of creating supernatural stories with juxtaposed panels that depict scenes of a story. Intermingle the impact of Star Wars, or the power of a Bruce Lee movie (one of his other passions) and you have some powerful inspiration.
But being that he was making his path in the 80s and 90s, he didn’t have the same art school-based, computer program-heavy education that many artists do. In fact, he didn’t have art schooling at all. “I took drawing in high school… but that was it,” he recalls. “Back in 1996, we didn’t have the tools that we have today. I started back then in Photoshop 3, and it was like ‘whoa, layers, what is that?’” For me, it was just on-the-job training, and that involved just a lot of drawing.”
Adlawan launched his proper art career drawing skateboard deck art for brands like Dark Star and Etines. He diverted only slightly when he took a gig in the automotive industry, but stringent brand guidelines kept the handcuffs on his creative side. It wasn’t long before he left to get creative, launching his own T-shirt company that specialized in sublimation for motocross and skate brands. Then, he heard about a gig with this triathlon apparel company—and inquired.
“When I saw the Wattie brand, I was like, ‘whoa, this is right down my aisle!’” Adlawan recalls. “ I’d been in the action sports industry for 11 years, and when I looked at everything in cycling, it was all just the same. On the other hand, Wattie was completely different. It had its own distinctive look and vibe.”
Luckily for him, the were no handcuffs at Wattie Ink, only a blank slate to keep the creativity flowing. “It’s amazing,” he says. “The magic is there, because we’re all into so many different things, a group with so many different ideas. All I know is that If you can enjoy what you’re doing for work, you’re a lucky guy, and I’m definitely a lucky guy.”
Might we see an ‘80s throwback or homage kit from Adlawan? Perhaps…If the force is strong.