Q+A With Kevin Butler

Kevin Butler

Where do you live?
Venice Ca.

What do you do?
To pay the bills, I work as a Creative Director. Making ads. I like it, but it's boring, so I won't go into it. To keep myself happy and sharp and inspired, I make all kinds of other stuff. Little films, stupid websites, and of course I love to draw things. Specifically Rad Cars With Rad Surfboards On Them. They are little drawings of exactly what they sound like.

Do you work from home?
Very Rarely. I have a three year old son, who doesn't think my work is as important as playing with him is. He's probably right. Needless to say, when I need to get something done, one of us can't be home. It's usually me.

What have you been up to?
Working as little as possible. Occasionally sneaking in a few waves before work. Drawing cars with surfboards on them. Lately I have been drawing these "what the's." They are these weird, ugly cars that don't actually exist. Figments of my imagination. Basically I take little elements from real cars I've drawn and stick them together. I'm really enjoying theses at the moment. I plan on doing a little show of "The What The's" this summer. So I want to have a solid body of work for it.

Can you give us a little background on your work and how you got started?
It all started with me drawing my own car. It was rad. I loved it and I knew it wouldn't last forever, So I wanted to immortalize it. It was this mustard yellow 1982 Volvo wagon. Then a friend of mine asked me to do his VW. Someone asked me to do one as a gift. I enjoyed it, so I started doing other cars I had owned over the years. Then i started drawing ones I saw in surf spot parking lots. And it kind of never ended.

Where did you grow up? I’m sure it had an influence on your work now.
Yeah, I grew up in Santa Cruz. Surfing and the beach are a big part of growing up there. As a kid my dad rebuilt old cars. So I spent a lot of time in the garage and at car shows. Actually, a lot of the cars I drew in the first 100 were cars I remember from my childhood. My grandfather was an artist and all of my friends were art-y kids. So, I was lucky to be around a lot of people that inspired me to make things.

What is it about Rad Cars and Rad Cars with Rad Surfboards on Them that got you attracted to them?
I'm sure the connection I have to cars and surfboards has everything to do with my childhood. But seeing how others are drawn to it has definitely made me wonder why it's been so successful. And not to get too sappy, but I think a car with a surfboard on it is a symbol. It either means someone is about to enjoy themselves, or just has. Especially in LA, with so much traffic and congestion, a rad old car with a surfboard can be a little bit of positivity and optimism during the grind. It some weird way, it gives hope to others who weren't able to surf that day. It's a reminder that there are better days ahead. They are also two things that are great when they go beyond function. When done right, there is craft involved. Two rad things put together is even radder.

Did you ever expect to get yourself so deep into this series? How did that happen? I know it probably wasn’t intentional, or was it?
Totally unintentional. I just never stopped. Still haven't. And I enjoy it just as much today as I did when I started. And now up to nearly 400, I am pretty surprised how often I discover a car or board I haven't drawn. It happens way more than you'd think.

Can you describe your creative process?
Typically, it starts with a photo. Either a photo I've taken or one that was sent to me. I'll use it as a reference for color, or to get the chrome in the right places and draw it out in pencil. I then go over the pencil in pen. Then scan it in and drop color in digitally. I work with an incredible commercial printer in LA. They offset print each one with archival ink on really nice thick paper. I also do handprinted ones on request. But they take way longer and cost more. In that case I go from pencil to paint then outline in black paint. I usually use acrylics. But I've done a couple in water color and a couple in colored pencil too.

Do you surf?
As often as I can.

Where do you like to surf?
Being a regular foot from Santa Cruz, I am partial to right hand point breaks. So I'll drive up to Rincon, Pt. Dude, Malibu and Topanga when I can. When I don't have the time. I try to find an empty sandbar in Venice, or the South Bay.

Do you shape your own surfboards?
I did for a long time but don't anymore. I got rid of all my tools when I didn't have the space. But I have a garage again. I should. Maybe a little summertime fish or something. No glassing though. Never touch the stuff.

If not, who do you look up to in the surf world?
Oh man. Lot's of people. Obviously Travis [Reynolds] who you guys know. He's an old pal and I just love what he's doing. Also love what Nick and Carl are doing at Two Crows. Dave Allee at Almond is a friend and he makes such beautiful stuff. They all are focused on the craft and artistic side of making surfboards. Ryan Lovelace is doing really cool stuff. I Just ordered a board from Neal Purchase Jr. One of those weird DUO things. Looking forward to seeing what that's all about. Foster Huntington, Trevor Gordon, Andy Davis, Jim Hines, Ryan Burch are a constant source of inspiration. There is such an incredible community of really creative folks in the surf world. They're all just bubbling beneath the surface, making all kinds of rad stuff. I think you guys have tapped into it. I love digging through instagram and finding it.

Okay, All time raddest car & board combo. Go!
I know it's expected. But a VW bus will always be the ultimate. If I could have any Car+Board combo, it'd be a 1950 VW Bus, Barn door, 23 window & An OG Nuuhiwa Noserider. Maybe a 10'. If anyone out there has that combo... You're my hero.

We love the Vissla Dream Steeple one you did, what sparked you to create that one?
It popped up in my instagram feed and it was rad! Too rad to ignore. That happens. when I see something like that. Something really unique and special. When I see it I just can't wait to draw it. It's also really fun to send it to the person who originally posted it. Stoke them out. It's my "thank you for inspiring me".

You’re buddies with Vissla’s Travis Reynolds and Jay Nelson, what is it about those guys that spark your interest?
Trav and I go way back. I've always loved his work. The choices he makes and the way he uses color. And just as a person. He's great.
Jay's work often has to do with cars. And it's incredible. And every time he does something, it's something I haven't drawn before because it's always super unique and interesting looking. Jay makes me want to buy a 1980s van. And if someone's work can make you want to do that, you know it's pretty special.

What’s the future hold for Rad Cars?
More! I'm just going keep drawing them. I plan on doing a few shows this year. One of them might be larger format, all hand-painted. So that'll be fun. I have a few product ideas, just haven't had the time to get samples and get it done. One day I'll get it together.

Any art shows coming up we should be aware of?
None that have been pinned down enough to broadcast. They'll be in LA though. That's for sure. Keep an eye on the Instagram.

Instagram / @Kbut

Interview by Keegan Fong