If you’re into the snow and skate scene, you’re probably already familiar with the work of Jono Wood, even if you don’t know it. For over twenty years Jono has been a firm fixture in the extreme sports industry as both a professional rider and artist. You’ll find his designs adorning CAPiTA snowboards, Habitat skateboards, Nike clothing and featuring on an array of snow, skate and surf products. Now a full-time Morzine resident, we caught up with Jono to find out about his journey into the world of art and snowboarding, and how the two compliment each other.
What came first for you, art or snowboarding?
It was always art for me. I grew up tackling the reading and writing issues caused by dyslexia so drawing and painting was a means of escape from a very early age. In art there are no concrete rules to follow and no limitations, and the only boundaries are those set by out your imagination. My parents are both very creative people and they always encouraged me to explore this path, even though it hasn’t always looked like the best prospect.
How did you get into professional snowboarding and how did it cross over with your career in design?
After a few snowboard holidays I was persuaded by a Kiwi guy called Nigel to try my luck at the upcoming British Championships in Mayrhofen. My riding caught the eye of Rob Fairweather from footwear brand Gravis, who then asked me if I would like some free shoes to represent the brand. For me in the late 90s, this was a big deal. Not many people had sponsors back then like they do today, and certainly not someone who didn’t know anyone in the snowboard industry.
At the time I was also studying for a degree in animation, constantly painting and drawing on the side. I needed a digital camera to present my work for a portfolio at art college and the only people I knew who had one were the guys at Gravis. So I packed my work into my Peugeot 205 and went up to their office. My paintings were seen by their global marketing director, Simon Nicholls, who liked the style of work and took me under his wing, bringing me further into the Gravis family as an artist. Art and design can be a fickle business so having someone who believes in you and is willing to back you is life changing. It certainly was for me.
How long have you lived in Morzine and does living in the mountains influence your creativity?
My family have had an apartment here for about twenty years so I’ve seen Morzine go from a very quiet, small town to where it’s at today. I started out just doing a few holiday weeks to eventually doing full seasons, and I tried to go back to live in London for a few years recently before settling more permanently in Morzine. I found the pace of life hardest to deal with in a city, even on the outskirts. The sheer grandeur of nature that surrounds you in Morzine, even when you just take a glimpse out the window, helps to keep you grounded. It makes you realise how insignificant you are in the whole scheme of things.
Animals feature quite prominently in a lot of my work and I am certainly influenced in the knowledge that the wildlife I like to draw is present in the forests and rocky terrain that surround Morzine. I love the idea that you may be out snowboarding, hiking or cycling and come across an eagle or a mountain goat. I try and bring these animals into my work whenever I can.
A surprising amount of professional snowboarders are also heavily involved in the art and design industry (Scoph, Jamie Lynn, Desiree Melancon), why do you think that is?
I’m not sure really. Perhaps it’s the old cliché that once on the mountain you want to create your own lines and see the mountain in your own way instead of following everyone else’s path. Another reason could be being a ‘visual’ person. In order to execute tricks and hit features a lot of the time you have to visualise where your body needs to be and in what position so potentially that could translate to art. Alternatively they might all just love painting and art!
Tell us a bit about your creative process? We’ve heard you have a pretty unique way of working.
It all starts with quick fluid sketches and brainstorming over a coffee at Satellite, which are then refined until I’m happy with the subject. I then either paint it up or set about the long process of creating a digital piece. I suppose the main difference is how I go about drawing my illustrations in Photoshop. This all started back in my Gravis days. I had never used a computer for design work, so when I was asked to come up with layered images for screen printing, I had to teach myself. I do a lot of drawing shapes, cutting out and deleting other shapes. It’s hard to explain but it’s the quickest way and helps keep perfect lines and geometric shapes. I am a perfectionist and take pride when it comes to my work. I’ll happily work until two in the morning to get something exactly how I want it to look.
You’re well-known for working with respected brands like Nike, CAPiTA and Habitat. How does it feel to see something you’ve designed on their products?
It’s a great feeling. Art is never going to make you rich and famous but it’s so rewarding, especially if you’re creating something within a genre you’re passionate about. Often, I’ll pull up to a lift queue or a restaurant and see one of my designs. It’s great to see that someone has parted with their hard-earned money to buy something you spent so many hours of your life creating. I can’t take all the credit though. If these guys didn’t produce such world class boards on which I get to add my mark then I doubt I would see so many up the hill.
A particular highlight for me was designing a Nike team mitt for the previous two winter Olympics. USA skier Gus Kenworthy was wearing them during his slopestyle runs, which prompted a name check by Tim Warwood on the BBC. This sparked a flood of friends outside of snowboarding getting in touch, who don’t really know what I actually do.
What’s your favourite product to create graphics for?
Obviously snowboards, but skateboards are another favourite. I love the way that some people seek out a great graphic and hang it on their walls as an individual piece of art, whereas others will use it for its proper use and skate it to death. I also like the challenge of simplifying an idea into a minimal amount of bold, screen-print-friendly colours without losing any of the vibrancy and shelf appeal. It pushes me to try and come up with different printing processes and techniques within the same graphic. I also try to keep one of every design I create, and skate decks are a lot easier to store than snowboards!
If you’d like to see more of Jono’s work follow him on Instagram.