Updated: Nov 2, 2021
Adam McEvoy of Drawing Boards fame has teamed up with Josh Sutton’s Leeds based independent publishing house Red Fez Books to bring you the light-hearted children’s book, 101 Uses for a Skateboard. The book consists of 60 full-colour pages that put forth a myriad of alternative applications for your trusty wooden steed, ranging from replacement wings for a needy owl, to an unconventional receiver for a retro telephone, and pretty much everything else you could (or couldn’t) possibly think of. 101 Uses for a Skateboard has been excellently written and masterfully illustrated entirely by Adam, and is available right now from www.redfezbooks.co.uk and an assortment of independent retailers nationwide - see below.
In the wake of the books release, we decided to catch up with Adam to find out more about the mammoth project - read on now, then be sure to add 101 Uses for a Skateboard to to the top of your 2021 Christmas list...
Firstly, congratulations on the release of the book. How does it feel now 101 Uses for a Skateboard is out there in the wide world?
Thanks Rye, it feels amazing to have something tangible after it being in my sketchbook or on the computer for the past year (laughs).
I’m real pleased with the way it turned out. I wanted to make something quality, rather than just churning it out. The response has been so positive, with loads of shops getting behind it, and lots of kind words from folk too.
For the sake of those who may be unaware, can you give us a bit of background to your journeys in both skateboarding and illustration?
So both have gone hand in hand for as long as I can remember. I started skating in ’91, although I did skate before then, but was unaware of tricks. Then I started designing clothes, stickers and hats within skateboarding in 2000.In 2005, me and my bud Si started Drawing Boards, which I run to this day, drawing all the graphics. I also do freelance bits for companies, skateparks and skate shops. I still skate, not quite as well as I could once, but I love it as much as I ever did, despite breaking limbs (laughs).
Prior to 101 Uses… have you published any other books?
No I haven't. I've had plenty of ideas for books as I have told my daughter thousands of stories over the years, but this idea just seemed to click straight away. Maybe when I’m fully crippled I will write The Grandad Chronicles. Coming up with a book like 101 Uses… is no mean feat. When and why did the idea to produce a book such as this first cross your mind? My friend Josh Wells suggested that I drew 50 uses for a Skateboard in a zine format, which soon turned into 101. There’s no point in going half in (laughs). I also had a few suggestions from my friends and my daughter…it kind of consumed me until I had got to 101. To be fair, there was some I never got round to. After I had drawn a certain amount I realised that there was more that could be done with this concept, and started making the things rhyme together, and the kids book idea manifested. I had a clear idea that I wanted the illustrations to be a limited pallet on each side of the page, to separate each rhyme. I also wanted the illustrations to be simple and stand out. All that terrible freestyling I did in the 90s helped with the rhyming factor (laughs).
What sort of titles or artists (if any) did you draw your inspiration from?
Well I had a lot of books left from when I was a nipper that I read to my daughter, including Whitefellas are like Traffic Lights, Never Tease a Weasel, What a Mess, various Roald Dahl books too…all the kind of ‘off the wall’ stuff. Weird and wonderful kids’ books with wacky illustrations were my favourites. Artist-wise, the stuff I grew up on in the 90s - Andy Howell, Jim Phillips, Evan Hecox etc are my skate influences. There are loads of amazing people out there! My main influence was my kid, though, as she has pushed my imagination to its limits (laughs).
Can you remember what the first alternative use was?
Not really; it's a bit of a blur. I think it was the wingless baby owl.
Similarly, what was the final use you came up? Is the running order of the book chronological?
Yeah, it did kind of go in order for the most part. I swapped a few about so the colours didn't clash on the opposite pages in the book. The book can be pretty much read in any order though. About 30 drawings in I had a revelation of the final use...which I won't give away in case you haven't read it.
Out of all 101 uses, which individual one are you the most stoked on?
'Young Millie at the playground' as it's a homage to my niblet. I’m also keen on the ‘walrus tusk’ and the ‘frantic rollercoaster’ (laughs).
So from the first use sketched to holding the finished, physical book, how long did the whole process take? I'd say just under a year; I did work well into the night on it a lot. I originally sketched everything in a book, which was a super refreshing project in itself, then crisped them up on the ‘putes. The finished product probably looks far simpler that the process behind it was (laughs).
Josh Sutton from Red Fez books has certainly been making literacy waves this year; how did you two first cross paths, and how was it decided that Red Fez would be the right publisher for 101 Uses…? I was asking about if anyone knew publishers and it seemed like a bit of a dead end, and I was also told that a lot of publishers wouldn't do a rhyming book as you can't translate them to other languages. By sheer luck I mentioned it to Si and Fay at The Level skateshop (Brighton), and they said they had some books in. One was by Jono Coote, No Beer on a Dead Planet. I thought, “I know that dude from an interview I did with him for Sidewalk Mag”, so I contacted him and he pointed me towards Josh. Josh was really into the idea and the draft of the book; it made me hyped to work with him as he was really understanding of my anal behaviour…the rest is his-story (History).
In 2021, to you, what is the importance of owning paper and ink books? Why should children (or adults, for that matter) be picking up, and engaging with, actual books, instead of consuming reading materials via tablets and so on? Ahh don't get me started (laughs). Seeing kids on screens bums me out. I can't imagine putting my kid to bed with a tablet or kindle. As Einstein said, “if you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales”.
We didn’t have screens in my house growing up, so we had plenty of time for creating imaginary worlds. To quote one of the greatest children’s authors, Roald Dahl, on TV:
“IT ROTS THE SENSE IN THE HEAD! IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD! IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND! IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND! HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE! HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE! HE CANNOT THINK -- HE ONLY SEES!”
You’ve managed to publish a book during the tail end of the pandemic and in the wake of Brexit; have either of those two factors caused you many logistical headaches or setbacks? 101 Uses… was kind of born from necessity as I couldn't get any Drawing Boards for about nine months, so I had to put my energy somewhere. Brexit ‘n the Rona screwed loads of skateboard companies up but I guess we are all in the same boat. 101 Uses…went on sale a couple of weeks ago now; what has the reception been like so far? Mental! I can't believe it. Lots of skate shops have taken it. We have also sent books out to New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Ireland, Canada and America! Where can people pick up a copy of the book from? A whole load of skate shops and parks, including ....
Welcome, Native, The Level, Bonafied, Beatswork, Prime Delux, Slick Willies, Skate Warehouse, The Front, Skaterham and The House Skatepark, Wave Games, Airculture, Wight Trash and The Palomino Club.
And lastly, after the book went to print, have you been able to switch off? What would the 102nd use be? I never switch off. I’m working on the animations for the ever-impending Drawing Boards video, and new board graphics now. To be fair, I could probably do Another 101 Uses…My daughter and I have already been talking them over. I think that may be rinsing it though (laughs).
Photos by Simon Bernacki, Chris Dale and Gillian Clarkson.
Artwork by Ad.