Mark Oblow is an artist you should acquaint yourself with
Surf, skate and celebrities.
The world of surf and skate has bred a respectable litter of proficient artists. Mark Oblow, falls into such category. With a multifaceted skill-set, he never forgets where he started. The cat’s gone on to work with the likes of David Beckham, Lil Wayne, Ozzy Osborne, Snoop Dogg, Justin Bieber, amongst other notables. His work is constantly adapting to whatever’s his current taste. After waging as the creative director for Gravis and Analog, the man decided it’s time to work for himself. He was just inked in with RVCA, is working with Electric and still collabs with whatever companies he sees fit. All the while starting his own line aptly named Moblow. I caught up with Mark a few hours prior to an impending doctor’s appointment, “I’m just coming off shoulder surgery, I had my whole shoulder re-done,” he tells me. Mr Oblow, in his mid 40’s, is an avid skater and surfer, and years of checking concrete does a number on one’s physical being.
Lil' Weezy by Mark Oblow.
“Basically, my shoulder’s fucked, it sawed through my bicep,” he states casually. “Two years ago I was going to the liquor store and I did a no-comply over the curb. I fell into a seated position with my hands to my side, it jolted my shoulder upward which tore it more. I just dealt with the pain. This December I was going to Hawaii for a shoot. I was brushing my teeth in the morning and looked down at my bicep and was like WAHH!! It was hanging on the underside of my arm. So, I went to Hawaii, did my shoot and had an art show. Then I came home and went to the doctor. They gave me an MRI and the doctor was like man, your shoulder’s destroyed, how are you dealing with this?”
“I told him, I’m going to be 45 and have been skating my whole life. My body’s always in pain. It’s just something I deal with. I told him, dude, I just want my bicep fixed. The doctor was like your bicep’s nothing, your shoulder’s fucked! But because my bicep was cut by my shoulder, they were able to reattach it, only because it was a ligament that got cut. If the muscle ripped in half they can’t reattach it. So that’s been my present deal,” he laughs. “It’s my right arm and I’m right handed so I’m going a little stir crazy.”
Stab: Where’d it all start Mark?
Mr Oblow: My first stem was surfing and growing up in Hawaii. I lived across the street from Mickey Nielson and a bunch of other surfers, right behind Sandy Beach. I was surfing contests and stuff, then I got into skating and was taken over by it. In the early 80’s, I became friends with Christian Hosoi and it went from there.
Had you always had a hand in art?
In school, art was the only thing I liked because of my ADD or whatever. I was really into punk rock, my first pieces of “artwork” were copying The Clash logos on my surfboard. Then in skating it was drawing on my grip tape. I got into shooting photos around the same time as skating. It wasn’t until I started filming skate videos that anything came out commercially. Back in the day we had to do it all, I was doing skate graphics and shooting little adds. Quiksilver saw some of my videos, so I started shooting stills with them. The next thing I knew I was shooting ads, bikini models and it just kind of went bizerk.
As an artist, how beneficial is it to come for a surf/skate background?
It’s funny, when you work for a major brand, they have 50 people doing 50 different jobs. I was thinking shit, I’ve worked similar jobs where we had four people doing all of this. I think the main thing with surfing and skating is nobody really tells you that you can’t do something. They listen. That’s why guys like Dane Reynolds or Dylan Rieder can go the way they want. I’m proud of where I came from compared to where some of the people I’ve worked with came from, it’s two different worlds.
Is there a different mindset you have when shooting celebs vs surfers and skaters?
Growing up in Hawaii, you’re raised to be humble and that you’re not better than anyone else, everybody’s the same. I met my heroes at a young age. Christian Hosoi I was hanging with at 12 and I met Cheyne Horan who was my hero in surfing, really young. They’re cool, down to earth guys and respected me so I saw them as the same as me. When I’m amongst celebrities, I don’t care who they are. If they’re a famous singer, soccer player, actor, whatever… in my opinion I’ve been around the people who I think are the best in the world. Guys like Dane, Kelly Slater and Danny Way… I know the best athletes in the world because I look at surfing and skating as that. Spike Jonze became a gnarly director with a skate background, all of that to me has a weight amongst it. If someone’s acting a certain way and not respecting me as a fellow human being, I walk out of the room, I don’t need that. The coolest thing was with David Beckham, he saw that and was stoked on it. All of the sudden he was flying me and my assistant out to London and I’m thinking why do they want some punk, skate rat from Hawaii to shoot this? Like come on, he’s from London. Are there no photographers in London? (Laughs) But I wasn’t complaining.
Mark's Slowtide design, will dry you off and look god damn gorgeous while doing it!
What are some of your most recent collabs?
After working as the creative director for Analog and Gravis, I took a step back to refocus on my art. Recently I did a collab with Slowtide towel company. Also I’m working on a collaboration with a pin company called Rolling Death out of Maui. I just became part of RVCA’s Artist Network Program, which I’m stoked on and I’m working on a small capsule line with Fitted Hawaii.
Always limited, because that's way Mark rolls.
Tell me a bit about Moblow.
It’s a little brand I started. I’ve done some shirts for charities and it’s a cool platform. It’s a project that I do all the work for out of my garage. I pack every box and know where they’re going. For me, I feel like everything got so out of touch in the world, so big and massive. Now it’s cool because I can go directly to a consumer or my fans and the message doesn’t get blurred. I did some t-shirts and only made 150 of them, once they sell they’re gone. That’s my plan, to keep it very limited because I hate showing up somewhere and somebody’s wearing the same shirt as me. Things need to be that way again, they need to be special and not whored out. If someone’s going to get a product from me, I want them to be stoked, rather than get something and then see some random Joe wearing the same thing. Moblow’s against the mass, it’s the little guy.