Character Study: The skate art of ModernCholo
PARODIES OF pop-cultural cartoon characters are pretty common. But the art of Anthony Cardenas (AKA: ModernCholo) stands out for two reasons. First, they are damn near-perfect representations of the original animated source material. Second, they also display a deep affection and understanding of skating that can only be created by someone who skates themselves. It doesn’t hurt that each piece also has become a fun scavenger hunt as you try to figure out which skate photo it was based on. (And in a continuous homage to his influences, Anthony almost exclusively uses photos from Thrasher.) We caught up with ModernCholo and tried to get to the bottom of these twisted 'toons. —Adam Creagan
Kyle Walker / Photo: Burnett
Louie Barletta / Photo: Brook
Where are you from? Where are you now?
I’m from a small town called Farmersville that is located in the San Joaquin Valley. No one has ever really heard of it. I usually have to say I am from a town near Visalia or that I grew up in that dead stretch of highway between Fresno and Bakersfield. After high school I moved to San Francisco to go to SFSU and I have been here ever since. I currently work as a corporate design drone near the financial district. In my free time I skate with my friends and work on illustrations for my sticker/t-shirt business that I started out of my apartment.
What’s your skate history?
I started skating in 2000 when I was in 8th grade. The first real skate video I saw was Menikmati and I was hooked. Since I am from a small town, our skate crew was pretty tiny. After the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater hype started to die down I was pretty much the only one left that skated out of all my friends. That meant I had a lot of solo skate sessions where I would drag out my funbox, flatbar and launch ramp to turn my driveway into my skate park. When I moved to SF for college in 2004, skating gradually phased out of my life for a while. A big part of it was that I kept injuring my ankle over and over. Plus, none of my friends in college skated. I ended up focusing on school, art and music. After graduation, I worked odd jobs for a few years until I landed at corporate design drone. At times my job is your stereotypical Office Space scenario, which means downtime and staring at the Internet until the clock runs out. During my mindless Internet browsing, I started to develop an interest in skating again. I caught up on video parts and was amazed with how it had progressed. It motivated me to build a complete for the first time in years. I have been back at it ever since. I started going to local parks in SF and I have friends that have helped me push my skating. I am 31 now and it feels awesome to learn new tricks that the 18-year-old version of me couldn’t do. I will always regret taking a break from skating, but I am lucky that it is such an integral part of my life again.
Ishod Wair / Photo: Atiba
Kevin Baekkel / Photo: Rhino
Beavis and Butthead
Clive Dixon / Photo: Muller
Jackson Pilz / Photo: Brook
How did you get into this style of art?
I got into illustration and design in college. I started as a Cinema major, but ended up enjoying the design process a lot more. In the end I graduated with a BA in Visual Communications and Digital Media. Growing up I was one of those kids that was raised in front of the TV. I have always loved cartoons and I have never grown out of that. I started doing the cartoon skate stickers a little over two years ago as gifts for my friends during the holidays. It evolved into a fun exercise to improve my illustration skills. Being able to create something new out of my two favorite things has been a great creative outlet for me.
What’s your artistic process from start to finish?
It all starts with seeing a photo that stands out to me. My first step in the illustration process always begins with a pencil and paper. Once I am happy with my sketch I scan it into my computer. From there I vector illustrate my rough sketch using a tablet. I do all the printing for my stickers and t-shirts myself out of my apartment. I end up having to fine tune illustrations to work for the stickers and the shirts. I feel like the process isn’t complete until it is physically printed.
What catches your eye within a skate photo that makes you want to recreate it?
It is a combination of a skater’s style, the perspective in the image and the angle in which the photo is shot. I gravitate towards photos where the skater is one of the largest elements in the photo. I like the main focus to be the character, with all the background elements only adding to the illustration and not distracting from the skater and trick.
The Real Ghostbusters
Jake Hayes / Photo: Muller
Rick and Morty
Ben Raybourn / Photo: Zaslavsky
Sean Pablo / Photo: Coulthard
Ben Raemers / Photo: Brook
Ren and Stimpy
Erick Winkowski / Photo: Burnett
What makes you pair a certain animated character with a certain photo?
I play off the skater’s personality and style. Something in a video part or a photo of them will remind me of a character and I just start to run with it. Sometimes it is based on something they may have mentioned in an interview or a social-media post where they say they love a specific animated show. A majority of the time it is still based on the animated shows that I watch and the characters I love.
What are your top-three favorite animated series and why?
That is a tough question! There are countless shows that I love from my childhood, but there are also a ton of innovative and hilarious shows that have only come out over the last few years.
#1 Tie between The Simpsons and Futurama
I used to watch The Simpsons every day after school from elementary to high school. The first ten seasons are just a part of my childhood and I still binge watch them now and again. I love Futurama just as much. I feel like it was one of the first animated shows to have high concept storylines that were not afraid to be smart, dumb and funny. I just made my girlfriend watch every episode this past year.
#2 King of the Hill
I didn’t give this show as much credit as it deserved when I was a kid. I think it’s one of the funniest animated shows because its humor is based in reality. Mike Judge has a way of creating characters that remind me of people I have met in real life.
#3 Rick and Morty
A part of me wanted to put Adventure Time on this list, but Rick and Morty is too good to leave out of a top three. I was hooked as soon as I saw the first episode. They take the high concept storylines to the next level. They can make episodes that tackle existentialism and nihilism while remaining absurdly funny.
“Don’t run. Nobody exists on purpose, nobody belongs anywhere, everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV.” —Morty Smith
Ducky Kovacs / Photo: Burnett
Rick and Morty
Enzo Cautela / Photo: Brook
Nora Vasconcellos / Photo: Seidler
Ryan Maddox / Photo: McKenzie
Auby Taylor / Photo: Rhino
Ed, Edd n Eddy
Tiago Lemos / Photo: Blabac
Over the Garden Wall
Daan Van Der Linden / Photo: Pfanner
Lizzie Armanto / Photo: Burnett
How The Grinch Stole Christmas
Jamie Foy / Photo: Strand
Omar Hassan and Grant Taylor / Photo: Hammeke
What’s in store for you in the future, artistically and otherwise?
I am starting a little Moderncholo skate team with some my friends. We are working on a video with animated skits and some other nonsense. There will also be a one-off zine that accompanies the video. I am hoping to be able to showcase all of the awesome people and connections that have made through skating. It will also be a nice change of pace to work on a project that is in my own style, versus emulating an animated series’ style. Other than that I am working on coming up with some different apparel options for my web store in January. I will also continue with the cartoon/skate illustrations. I am thinking of wrapping up and moving on to something new when I reach 100 illustrations, but I have a feeling it will be hard for me to stop.
Do you do personalized commission projects? As in, someone sends you a skate photo and they ask for a particular character portrayal?
I actually just did my first commission for a skater named Ryan Maddox. He wanted his photo to be transformed into a scene from Peter Pan. It was awesome getting a request like this because most people seem to want characters from contemporary animated shows. Getting the opportunity to illustrate a classic character was a fun and challenging exercise since it was not a concept I would have come up with off the top of my head. If anyone has a cool photo and wants it to be turned into a cartoon, hit me up.
For more art and inquiries visit Instagram: @moderncholo
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