Sociologists, nutritionists, helicopter parents of all ages – here’s some food for thought: Perhaps, if you don’t give kids any meat or sweets until they hit puberty, let’s say age 12 or so, their bodies and minds start working in ways ordinary mortals are entirely clueless about. Why? Well, look at Stefan Janoski – who didn’t have any of that sugary, bloody stuff while growing up in Vacaville, CA: his effortless skating and insane switch skills are widely known, but you also have to take into consideration the wild success story of his perfect-tongued Nike SB models and the way he’s recently shifted his focus to the arts – going from painting to bronze sculptures and back, having openings all over the world, mocking the gods… Jesus, the dude even plays some decent music! Kicking off what’s hopefully going to become an extensive study about pre-teen meat/sweets abuse, here’s Janoski on his sculptures, skating, the (so-called) “Janowski” and that “big fire pit”.
Stefan, first of all, what are you up to these days? How do you balance skateboarding and art… and everything else? How’s life anyway?
Life is great! I’ve been up to lots of things! Traveling, skateboarding, making art, having art shows, reading, playing some music, doing interviews, hanging with my wife… I always try to find a balance, for life in general, but of course sometimes the scales tip. I balance skating and art by skating on trips, then coming home and making art, or when I’m home I go skate a few days, get sore, then stay in and make art a few days, get unsore, go skate again…
I read that you never had meat or sweets until you were 12 years old, before skateboarding entered your life. Apart from drawing and such, what were you into back then – if you weren’t into sneaking out and secretly eating some sweets? What made your days?
Yeah, that’s true, skateboarding and eating meat and sugar came into my life around the same time. Before skating, I ran around the mountains in Vacaville, with homemade swords or bows and arrows, exploring, pretending, climbing on rocks – just doing kid stuff. I also did all the sports the other kids did, like soccer, baseball, basketball, but I wasn’t good and didn’t really like sports. Once I found out I could quit, I quit them all.
If you compare your earliest drawings, the kind of stuff you made as a 4-year-old, to some of the shapes and themes you’re dealing with now, both in sculpture and painting, do you see a connection?
I think I always used my imagination with art. I don’t remember being a 4-year-old, but my later art was a mixture of styles, fantasy, and trying to paint like Van Gogh, so like gardens and flowers, landscapes, but mostly things from my mind.
It seems like you really started to focus on your art since having moved out to NYC, or am I mistaken? If I am, what else triggered it?
Well, when I moved to NY, our place was way more conducive for art, so the first winter in NY I started doing big paintings; also I was able to try more types of art, like paper-mache, things with chicken wire, clay, duct-tape, resin… It was a place where I could make bigger messes and really get artsy.
And generally speaking, how has being in NYC changed your life, since it’s so different from the West Coast? Can you deal with the winters?
I have not been in any one place longer than two months in over 10 years, so winters aren’t a big deal for me. I love staying indoors for a week at a time when it’s snowing, it’s like an art retreat. If it’s nice out every day, then I go skateboarding, so when it’s freezing it keeps me in to do my other interests.
What drew you towards sculpture in the first place? Ancient things… or rather something contemporary? Toys?
It wasn’t toys. It was just another way to see ideas come to life. Sculpture is so different from painting or drawing, because it’s three-dimensional, so once I stared thinking three-dimensionally, I figured out most of my ideas worked better for sculpture than painting, and I just really enjoy sculpting – and the finished product is a lot of fun for me.
Tell me about the process… and is the physical aspect in any way comparable to the very physical act of skating?
The process is to have something I want to make, then start, which is the hardest part sometimes. After that, I just keep forming and adding and subtracting until it looks how I wanted, or looks cool. For me, it’s like skating where I get totally absorbed and there is no more time, and hours fly by and next thing I know five or six hours have gone by while I was making an eyeball or a hand or something.
So it’s very time-consuming?
Very. I like to spend days working on sculptures at the beginning, to get them to the point where then I just fix and clean them up.
You had five art shows in 2013 alone – do you think there’s going to be a point when it’s almost too much to do all of this at once?
No, I don’t think so. Plus a lot of art shows I’ve had have been skate-related, so I’ve been able to combine the two. Also, art shows are like having a video part that’s already done, you just show what you’ve done, so the hard part is over. At that point you just show off, haha.
Religion keeps coming up in your pictures and sculptures, how come? What draws you to saints and gods and all that?
I’m not sure, I just like religious themes. Religious images are just funny and cool to me, I guess? I get lots of entertainment from all the different religions.
Do you think the gods will be powerful enough to avert the return of the pressure flip?
Let’s all pray that they are! Although Erik Elligton is excluded, he can do whatever he wants.
Do you prefer Jesus when he’s off duty?
Haha, I just think we never get to see him at rest, with all the people sneezing everyday, him and his father must get so tired!
You knew right away what kind of tongue was right for your shoe, how do you know and decide what’s right for a sculpture you’re working on?
Well, I don’t, it’s all trial and error. I never really know what a piece of art will look like in the end.
Regarding your shoe, was there a moment that totally blew your mind in terms of how popular it really is?
It is still pretty trippy to see it so much when I’m out in the world!
And yet you’ve said that you and your shoe are like two different people. Can you elaborate?
Ha, yeah, well, a lot of people who wear it don’t know I’m a person, and they call it the “Janowski”, even though on their shoe is says “Janoski”. People post photos of my shoe and then say “I love my Janowski’s!,” so I like to joke that my shoe is Janowski and I am Janoski.
I guess the shoe bought you quite some freedom – was that, at times, almost difficult to deal with?
Oh, no, I love it! Skateboarding brought me freedom, but of course, freedom’s possibilities are the birthplace of anxiety.
What can you tell me about more recent paintings? Or are those on the back burner right now?
I still paint, I’ve been doing a lot of watercolors lately, I just love doing art, so when I don’t sculpt I like to draw or paint, or I really like duct-tape and construction paper too. I’ve just gotten a lot more attention for my sculptures, so I’ve been showing those – but I have no back burner! Just a big fire pit.
How come you’ve never been to an Ed Templeton show? Did it just never happen?
I actually went to a photo show he had in Berlin once on an Analog trip with Arto, and I’m a fan of his paintings! I’m not sure if we’ve ever met, but I feel like we're friends. We have a lot of mutual friends and I follow him on Instagram, so I feel like I know him.
You’ve mentioned the importance of the right timing more than once – you still happy the way you did it? And do you have a master plan for the next 10, 15 years? Kids – who won’t have sweets til they’re 12?
Time keeps going by! Damn it, I’m very happy, regrets are pointless, being afraid of getting old is pointless. I don’t have a master plan, except living, and as for kids, we are going to have a couple puppies first.
One last thing, what about your music? Is that also something you might focus on in the future?
I love to make music, I love to sing and make up songs – but I really only play for my wife. Maybe someday I will share music too.
Words: Renko Heuer