Travis Parr, who’s known simply as Parr in the ski and art worlds, builds surreal dreamscapes that walk that very fine line between fine art and corporate branding.
The thing is, Icelantic, the Denver-based ski manufacturer for which Parr weaves his artistic magic, is perfectly represented by Parr’s artwork. Icelantic is not what you would call “corporate,” though it runs a smart organization. The most intelligent aspect of the Icelantic organization is that it is true to skiing, the skier and the almost existential vibe of the sport.
Parr’s art embodies this approach. Parr has been with Icelantic since the beginning. He went to Clear Creek High School in Evergreen, Colo., with Icelantic’s founder, Ben Anderson, and was with him when Icelantic’s first ski, the Scout, was produced and put out in the market for sale.
Since that time, Parr has produced a different theme for each season’s ski line. Last season, animals adorned the Icelantic line; the previous season tied music to skiing.
The Loveland Connection
Parr and Anderson, as well as Icelantic’s COO, International Sales, Annelise Loevlie, frequented Loveland Ski Area and skied together on Loveland’s ski team. That made Parr’s commission to create the artwork for Loveland’s 75th anniversary skis that much sweeter.
“Loveland is definitely one of my faves. They doubled their order after seeing the graphic, which is an awesome sign,” says Parr.
Parr’s artwork for Loveland’s 75th anniversary skis marked a fairly major departure from his past ski-centric art for Icelantic, and foreshadows what Parr has planned for Icelantic’s 2013-2014 line, which will be unveiled in January. “I think we’ll throw everyone for a loop with the 2013-2014 line,” says Parr.
Parr’s not purposely throwing everyone for a loop, as much as he’s evolving as an artist as he learns more and tries new things. The Loveland skis are really multi-media, a potent combination of graphics, photography and carving. Carving? Like carving newly minted corduroy? Not really.
In this case, Parr took the famous Loveland skier-dude logo icon and reproduced him as a three-dimensional wood carving. He painted the wood carving, photographed it and dropped it into the ski artwork (see the photos to see some of the steps in the process).
That the special edition Loveland skis are a preview of what Parr has in store for us next season is intriguing, especially given that his past work has been produced exclusively as acrylic on canvas.
“It would be easy to stick with one thing and exhaust it until it’s dead. We could do these same themes for two or three years because of the potency inside them, but we haven’t,” says Parr. “I’ve been painting for almost ten years now, and I don’t want to be a one-trick pony.”
Therein is the crucial ingredient that sets Parr’s work apart: his drive to improve while adding to and honing the artistic process. In other words, there’s no danger of Parr being a one-trick pony. This season’s line testifies to that fact.
In years past, Parr says he’s taken a more literal approach to the art that defines each season’s line of skis. Each theme has been treated to a through-the-looking-glass approach that is suffused with both realism and surrealism. This time, however, Parr chose a more abstract approach to reflect this season’s theme of Rhythm.
“It’s an exciting and risky move to make, but I just love how they turned out. I wanted to take an image and not be so literal with it and let it create a life of its own,” says Parr. “It was more of an artsy way to go about it, but you can’t be predictable. You always have to try and learn new things and try something different, and this is a reflection of that. I know that people who will see Icelantic skis for the first time may not understand it as much, unlike the local Colorado skiers who have seen it from the beginning. It’s definitely been a crazy ride since we started Icelantic.”
Parr adds that each series has organically led to the next. There’s a natural flow from season to season. Now the flow is moving in a new direction, but almost imperceptibly, not suddenly or illogically. The Loveland skis represent almost a bridge between the two directions, which are really less diverging directions as much as they are new modes, or rhythms.
This season (2012-2013), Parr created nine pieces within the theme for each ski. Eight of the ski models had been established in previous seasons; Icelantic’s latest model is the Nomad RKR, which adds an early rise tip and tail to the Nomad design. Last season saw the introduction of The Gemini, a ski/snowboard hybrid perfect for hikes to higher terrain and the back country.
“I know I need to make the painting exactly what it needs to look like on the ski, as well as understanding that I’ll lose some information through the process as it’s digitized,” says Parr. “Then I dive in and look at the different ways I can take the theme. Certain ones come out and happen immediately, and I let the process dictate the rest of the series after that. It will be even more apparent in the 2013-2014 line. One series almost dictates the next. If I hadn’t done this series the way I did it, the next series wouldn’t make as much sense. Each year is an extension of the year before it.”
Once painted on canvas, the artwork is scanned. Parr says his experience has been that a direct scan is superior to photographing the canvas, producing it as a 4×5 transparency and then digitizing the artwork. Parr’s originals are also reproduced on canvas as limited-edition giclee prints.
“I don’t do any Photoshop tricks before it goes on the skis; it’s basically the raw painting on canvas that shows up on the skis with no color variations or changes,” says Parr.