It began back in 1995, when Smith started snowboarding. Soon, he was a pro for CAPiTA Snowboards, producing imaginative videos parts that showcased his unique approach to snowboarding. These days, he still designs board graphics for the brand, while finding time to pursue his creativity across a bewildering number of fronts. As well as being art director at COMUNE, he’s a curator of the Drop City art collective, and founded Spring Break snowboards, a brand that allows him to explore his interests in art and snowboarding through a series of unique handmade abstract wooden snowboards.

You get the point: Smith is a blur of multi-disciplined activity, which is why we were lucky to snag him for our Looking Sideways show at the Vans Wangl Tangl in Mayrhofen last year. Here he talks about his career in creativity.

Hi Corey. First up maybe some details: you grew up in Portland. How did you get into art and snowboarding? Which was first, and did they influence each other early on?

Well I grew up skateboarding. But it rains a lot in Portland, so unfortunately you can only do that for a few months a year. This was an obvious reason to start snowboarding. Especially with the year-round snowboarding on Mt. Hood – my home mountain. As far as my creative endeavours go, I’ve been drawing and painting since my childhood.

Who inspired you early on, in snowboarding and art? Riders, artists or something else?

I’ve taken inspiration from so many artists. I love seeing and appreciating great work from other people almost as much as I enjoy creating my own work. We’re all just humans sharing ideas and concepts about how to live life and make it more enjoyable. I could list artists that have inspired me – both obscure and famous – but it would take up the rest of this interview, haha!

You’ve been associated in both a snowboarding and art and design sense with CAPiTA for a long time. How did that hookup come about? And how did it evolve from from being a sponsored rider to working with them on board graphics and designs?

Well, CAPiTA originally started almost as an art project for Blue Montgomery and Jason Brown, who was one of the most underrated and influential riders of all time. CAPiTA was probably one of the first snowboard companies to really incorporate artists and snowboarding together. You have to remember that in this was a kind of the Dark Ages for snowboarding graphic design and creativity, with big, homogenised badge logos and Forum Fs everywhere. Almost every brand featured headphones as a graphic, and Trevor Andrew was TRZA of something.

So when CAPiTA came out with signature artists boards and really progressive graphic design, it really stood out. Their catalogue, the Book of CAPiTA, was designed to look like a Mormon bible, which was something pretty advanced for the time. They were also really open to rider input when it came to design, which wasn’t always the case back then, a time when there were a lot of industry people that didn’t really snowboard but were still show how able to shape the culture.

Anyway, I just really identified with the brand because it was very skate influenced and I knew I wanted to ride for them. Ten years later, I’m still here doing board graphics for then. They’re always open to my ideas and we always have fun developing new stuff. They always have the most progressive graphics in the industry and it’s fun to see how they influence snowboard design and graphics.

We’re brOKe

Snowboard wise you’ve always seemed like a really creative rider – both in the terrain and features you ride, and more recently with your Spring Break project. One of our goals at Looking Sideways is to highlight the creative side of boardsports – the art, design and music that are an integral part of our scene. Do you see board sports as a way of creative expression in any way similar to art, music etc?

Yes, absolutely. What’s good in snowboarding, or bad in snowboarding is completely subjective to the viewer: just like in art, music, or any other form of creative expression. When you start judging and creating rules it becomes no different than ice-skating or gymnastics. I personally think snowboarding is an art form. I think it’s a physical expression of creativity. I think it’s better than a sport and should be held in a higher regard. But that’s just my opinion. I understand competitions can be fun and I think it’s important for them to be for the right reasons and judged accordingly.

You have worked with various media and in different mediums, whether painting, graphic design, sculpture, photography and film, or commercial commissions. What do you like especially about any of these and do you have a favourite?

I love them all. I think I had a love/hate relationship with snowboarding for some time but I think it’s because I was doing it for the wrong reasons. But now snowboarding is my favourite way to spend my time. When you’re snowboarding you don’t have to say anything, you don’t have to be self-conscious, you can just shut off and have fun. You feel like a child it can be very primitive and pure. Plus you’re out in nature enjoying the mountains and the snow, I’ve seen some of the most beautiful things nature has to offer in the mountains.

Painting-wise some of your older work seems to have a pop art style or influence, while some more recent work I’ve seen, like the Spectral Ellipse pieces are more abstract. I hope I’m not over-simplifying things, but what can we look forward to from you next painting wise?

I’m not sure. I’m kinda all over the place with my work right now. I think we can look forward to me refocusing and refining my past work on larger scales and formats. I feel like everything I’ve done up to this point is just a sketch.

Gallery

Our role as Artistic Director at COMUNE seems to offer you a wide brief and creative outlet. As well as the design and photography work, you’ve set up the Drop City collective and also been behind film projects such as PSOTRATSOC 1983 and (deep breath) BLACK HOLES AND INVISIBLE FORCES BENDING TIME THROUGH PARTICLE DEFORMATIONS CREATING INFINITE FREEDOM IN THE GARDEN ON THE MOON…which I have to say I loved. Can you tell me a bit about these projects?

Thank you. One of the great things about COMUNE is I’m able to work on projects that are true to my creative vision. Both video projects were created with a very limited budget compared to large snowboard productions, which always forces you to think of innovative ways to stand out from what everyone else is doing. Myself, the snowboarders, filmers, and everyone involved had so much fun working on both projects and truly believed in what we were creating. The premier for BLKHLZINVSFS was really unique in that we created intimate viewing stations for all seven different edits. I’m excited to look back at these projects years from now and see how they hold up and how they’ve influenced snowboarding culture.

You’ve exhibited many times in the US over the years. Had you ever shown work in Europe before?

No, and I was very excited and grateful.

Thanks Corey. Any other thoughts, what can we look forward to seeing from you next?

I’m just hoping to be snowboarding as much as I can. I also want to surf as much as I can and work on a Spring Break snowboards full-length film.