Todd Francis

Hand Signals

While it’s common for great artists to create controversial storms, Todd Francis is known for creating hurricanes. With the comical, grotesque qualities of R. Crumb and the political freedom of Paul Conrad, Francis’s cartoonish work provides a poignant, and often unsavory, underlying message. Todd Francis has created a number of iconic skateboard and print graphics, covering an array of environmental, health, and political themes. Collections include worlds violently besieged by animals, and satirical depictions of famous fast food chains on skateboards. One such skateboard depicts literal feces served between two burger buns emblazoned with the collection’s “slogan,” “Eat Shit and Die.” For the last two decades, Francis has created iconic graphics for a number of companies including Antihero, Element, Real, Spitfire, and Stereo, and partnered on signature design projects with Vans, Stance, HUF, Oakley and Firestone Walker. Now, Francis is the co-founder of Special Crud, a clothing and art brand, and a book on his career, “Look Away: The Art of Todd Francis” is currently in print. As his art pushes comfort zones, Todd Francis will continue to stir the pot, using his provocative imagery to stand up for what he believes in.

Where do you think your sense of activism originated from?

Probably from always being around journalism. In college, I wanted to be an editorial illustrator, where you illustrate opinion pieces. So I’ve always read the news a lot and kept up on issues so I don’t sound too stupid when trying to turn those thoughts into visuals. Plus, I grew up in a fairly liberal enclave (Venice) with parents who hated Reagan, so that put some lead in my pencil, too.

Why did you choose skateboards as a medium for featuring your art?

The great thing about doing skate graphics is there is no filter or rating system you have to worry about, as long as you do good work. I’ve always been lucky. I get to go nuts with skate graphics without having to worry about ruffling the feathers of the executives upstairs.

What do you feel is one of the top issues today that needs the most urgent attention?

For me, its always been global warming and environmentalism. The profit-driven dicks who currently hold power that discredit all the intelligent, science-driven individuals who’ve devoted their lives to documenting the dangers of global warming need to be called out for their selfish, money-mindedness. I’ve always done a lot of work about this, from the recent large charcoal studio drawings I’ve done, to the skate graphics that examine it in different ways. Even the pigeon paintings I do, showing pigeons with puffy eyes and clubbed feet are about this: how we treat the world around us, and how awful it is.

Which piece do you feel has caused the most controversy and why do you think that is?

There has been work I’ve done that the Southern bible belt didn’t like, such as the “Texas Chainsaw Pigfucker” deck for Real, or the “K9 Julien Stranger” deck for Antihero, but it’s not like there are massive reverberations as a result or anything. When you do political work, you’re always gonna piss about half of the people off, that’s just part of the deal, and I’m fine with that. I like that reaction. I have yet to get a burning cross in my yard.

Text by Zee Chang