Not everyone can be a professional snowboarder. That said, you can still make your mark on the world of snowboarding. Artist Jeremy ("Jerms") Lanningham has been able to make his mark in two different ways: by designing for a snowboarding magazine and by creating the art adorning the boards. He also shows his artwork locally, runs his own company and is a designer by day.
Lanningham grew up in Boise by the Maple Grove gravel pits--"close enough so you could ride your bike home even when you were freezing," he says--and took part in the up-and-coming sport of snowboarding back in the late '80s. "We did the whole take-a-skateboard-apart-and-put-backpack-straps-on-it thing," he says. When riding the gravel pit when it snowed wasn't enough, Lanningham started going up to Bogus Basin to experience the real thing.
It wasn't just the sport that Lanningham got into: it was the graphics on the boards as well. "I think I was kind of on the verge of the generation that was really shaped by the visuals," he says. One of his earliest influences remains one of the most significant: Jim Phillips, an artist for Santa Cruz skateboards, who created the famous Screaming Hand graphic, and the highly esteemed Rob Roskopp pro-model series of the mid-'80s. "He was my eighth-grade inspiration; that was what I was drawing in the margins." The Roskopp series hangs on the wall of Lanningham's basement studio today.
His interest in art and penchant for drawing led him to major in illustration at Boise State from 1992 to 1997. "It took me a while to graduate, because of snowboarding," he admits. Things started to coalesce for Lanningham during this time, and he developed a real interest in designing graphics for snowboards. While attending college, he started working at Newt & Harold's Board Shop. While there, he was able to take home the skate and snowboard catalogs, which now make up part of his library. "I really got into the visual experience of snowboarding as well as riding as much as I could."
Around the same time, artist Bill Carman became his professor at Boise State. "Learning illustration requires continuity, style and dedication," explains Lanningham. "Bill Carman came in with credentials that were eye-opening. He didn't sugar-coat anything." Carman, who saw the potential in Lanningham, recalls, "Jerms always had a personal flair in school. I could always recognize his work. I knew he could be one who would 'make it' if he put in the work. Very few students have that quality which I can recognize but is hard to define--that 'it' factor--Jerms had it. He didn't let me down in the work ethic area either. He worked extremely hard in school and even harder when he got out."
Lanningham had the talent, and also understood that it takes more than talent alone to break into the business. "You can be the best in the world, but you also have to have the people skills and networking skills or your work is going to stay under your bed, collecting dust," he says. He had some contacts in the snowboarding industry from working at Newt's. He started putting himself out there, and submitting his work where he could. In 2001, he entered a contest to design a graphic for professional snowboarder Todd Richards, and won. The design was an illustration based on Richard's signature trick, the Wet Cat (a halfpipe trick: 900 degree rotation McTwist). Lanningham drew a cat in a toddler pool wearing a snorkel and arm floaties--a wet cat for the Wet Cat. The design was such a hit that he has designed two other boards for Richards, at the pro's request.
That same year, he got a job in San Diego at Transworld Snowboarding Magazine as the assistant design director. "That was a crash course in everything," he says. He and his boss, Yogi Proctor, completely redesigned the identity of the magazine. "It was my dream job," he remembers. "There were pros coming in to the offices but you still had to do your work." The design experience he gained there has been beneficial to him in his subsequent professional life and his freelance work.
After two years, things turned sour. Transworld was bought by AOL/Time Warner, and during the ensuing shake-up, Lanningham decided to go back to doing freelance work. His accounts included ads for Snow Summit and Bear Mountain. This work kept him afloat financially, "and I was able to surf more." After a year, he and his wife April decided to move back to Idaho to settle down. Before he left, Lanningham's friend and Burton pro rider Dave Downing approached him about illustrating the 2005/06 Burton Custom Boards.
The Custom is the flagship line of boards for Burton. Lanningham provided the graphics for all seven boards, in a series that is inter-related and has a definite progression. "It's an historical-retrospective super-doodle kind of deal," as Lanningham describes it. His description is apt; the boards contain self-referential subjects that harken back to Burton graphics of the past: you'll find Superfly in one, race cars in another. In a way, these boards bring up Lanningham's own past and incorporate it into his present work. He got the ideas for his retrospective from images in the catalogs that he collected while working at Newt & Harold's. "It all comes full circle with this project," he says. Taken together, the boards are a fitting tribute to the 10th anniversary of Custom Boards. Apparently, the public agreed: the boards sold out in most shops before Christmas.
Lanningham continues to design and illustrate for snowboard companies. "It's fun to ride your own stuff, plus it makes for some interesting conversations on the chairlift," he says. In addition to his snowboard designs, he is a design director at Wirestone by day and runs his own freelance company, Nktrnl, by night. He also shows his work locally at the Basement Gallery.
"My first interaction with Jerms was in 1999, when the Basement Gallery created and hosted an all-collegiate visual arts student show, titled: 'All Idaho Collegiate Juried Art Exhibition,'" says Perry Allen, owner and operator of the Basement Gallery. "Personally, I liked Jerms' works so much that I found myself having to purchase one of his pieces." Lanningham also exhibited a series of painted baseballs at the gallery in September and October 2005, and is currently preparing for an upcoming show.
"Perry is super-gracious and gets really stoked on things," says Lanningham. "Sometimes in the fine art world, people take themselves too seriously. Purchasing work aside, most of the time I just want to get someone to smile."
"There's a great little scene in Boise. The galleries are really inviting," says Lanningham. "It's only a matter of time before it blows up: it just needs the right time, and the right economy. There's cool stuff happening here: look at people like Nobel Hardesty, Bill Carman, Mike Flinn." He also mentions Ben Wilson, John Warfel, and Sean Wyett as artists who are doing inspiring work.
Lanningham's work adorns thousands of snowboards across the slopes, and his hard work and talent have led him full circle, allowing his interests to come together in a burgeoning career. According to Bill Carman, "He really has become someone to look up to."