It’s a philosophical debate as to whether art imitates life or life imitates art. But for Ravenswood native Don Pendleton, the two certainly are intertwined.
As a kid, Pendleton skateboarded all over Ravenswood, much to the ire of the local constabulary.
Nowadays, he’s an artist and designer best known for a large body of skateboard graphics, as well as for winning a Grammy for his album artwork on Pearl Jam’s 10th studio album, “Lightning Bolt.”
In addition to creating fine art, he lends his talent to a number of well-known clients, including Volcom, Vans, Oakley, Nike, LG, Mountain Dew, PepsiCo, Gatorade, and Logitech, just to name a few.
Pendleton’s mother, Libby Pendleton, has lived in Ravenswood since 1963. She said her son was greatly influenced by the painting of his father, Robert Pendleton.
“He gives his dad credit for his ability to do a lot of this work. He used to watch his dad paint. He would do scenery and birds and things like that,” Libby Pendleton said.
Being exposed to painting at a young age and seeing its affect on his father gave Pendleton insight he would carry throughout his career.
“Watching him do it as a hobby and seeing it as kind of a way to relax and have fun always kept it from feeling too much like work even as I got older,” he said.
Pendleton’s father passed away several years ago. To this day, Pendleton said he’s never seen anyone paint like his dad.
“His style was very intricate, he used really small brushes and brushstrokes and spent a lot of time on each painting. It’s a unique style I’ve still never really seen even after art history classes and that kind of thing,” he said.
Pendleton brings his own perspective to the craft.
“My style is much more loose, probably influenced a lot by skateboard graphics over the years, but without watching my dad do it when I was young, I’m not sure if I would have had a whole lot of interest in it or not,” he said.
Along with art, Pendleton, who is now 48 and lives in Dayton, Ohio, developed a great love for skateboarding.
“Skateboarding in Ravenswood in the 80s was interesting. It was still mostly an activity that was only popular on the coasts. So between the style associated with it and it not being very common, I probably stuck out,” he said.
Most of what Pendleton knew about skateboarding came from magazines, he said. Though he didn’t live in an urban environment, he was able to immerse himself in his pastime .
“It all seemed very normal to me. There were only a few other kids who did it in Ravenswood, so that was kind of our bond. The police didn’t care for it much, but I was doing something that was healthy. It kept me active, and it was a positive creative outlet,” Pendleton said.
While many frowned on skateboarding as a reckless waste of time, Pendleton is one of many people who have proven that one’s passion can also become their livelihood.
“I think it was the era of hypersensitivity about liability laws and that kind of thing. It made some people nervous. Some had this idea that if you rode a skateboard you were wasting time or being destructive but it literally became how I’ve made a living for 20 years,” he said.
For Pendleton, one major benefit was having supportive parents, who encouraged rather than restrained him.
“I have great memories of skating around town with my friends back during that time, building ramps, making videos. I just kept doing that same thing through much of my adult life, so I’m grateful that my parents supported it and never tried to make it seem like I was odd or weird for wanting to ride a skateboard instead of playing basketball or something like that,” he said.
Pendleton graduated from Marshall University with a bachelor of fine arts degree. His first job was at a newspaper in Beckley, but he later went to work for Alien Workshop skateboards in Dayton, where he created most of the company’s graphics from 1998 to 2005.
In 2006, Don accepted a position at Element Skateboards as graphic artist/designer and continued with skateboard graphics, logo, and T-shirt design as well as packaging and marketing for the brand.
In 2008, Pendleton was the subject of a documentary called, “Little Giants.”
Pendleton left Element Skateboards in 2009 to focus on freelance art, painting, and design. His work ended up on the cover of Juxtapoz Magazine in June, 2012, with a feature on his work and an interview. He released a book of art in 2014 featuring 15 years of illustrations, entitled “Limerence.” He also worked with Poster Child Prints, a company that publishes limited edition screen prints of his work.
Pendleton has taken part in exhibits and solo shows in France, Britain, Italy, Belgium and Germany. He also had a solo museum show called “Fine Lines” in 2014 at the Huntington Museum of Art as a Walter Gropius Master Artist.
In addition to his work, Pendleton takes time to participate in fundraising and charity efforts and works with the Alzheimer’s Association each year with West Virginia’s “Push” skateboard event.
Pendleton’s mother said she is proud of her son for pursuing his passion.
“Not very many people from Ravenswood won a Grammy. Words just can’t explain how proud I am of what he’s accomplished down through the years,” she said.
The Huntington Museum of Art will conduct a Don Pendleton Fine Art Sale from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday and from noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. The works will include original paintings, cut-paper pieces and ink sketches.
A preview party for the sale will take place Friday from 5-7 p.m. And will include the launch of a limited-edition print by Pendleton, who will sign and number 100 prints and be in attendance at the three-day event. The silk screen print is titled “Exsanguination and Worry on a Stormy Day.” The prints will be available in the museum’s gift shop.
Proceeds from the Pendleton Fine Art Sale and limited-edition print will benefit the Huntington Museum of Art and the artist. For more information, call 304-529-2701 or visit hmoa.org.
West Virginia residents may obtain a summary of the registration and the financial documents from the Secretary of State’s Office.
The Walter Gropius Master Artist Series is funded through the generosity of the estate of Roxanna Y. Booth, who wished to assist in the development of an art education program in accordance with the proposals of Walter Gropius, who designed the Museum’s Gropius Addition, as well as the Gropius Studios. The museum also is indebted to Booth’s son, the late Alex W. Booth Jr., for his participation in the concept development of the Gropius Master Artists Workshops.
For Pendleton, pursuing either skateboarding or art alone as a career would have been a major accomplishment. Pendleton said to be able to do both has made for a fulfilling life.
“I’ve been very fortunate with my career. I’ve been able to do something I loved since I was a kid and make a living from it. I’ve been able to travel to see different parts of the world and meet a lot of childhood heroes along the way that I had always looked up to for what they did in skateboarding,” he said. “If I had to make a choice about a career between skateboarding or art, I’m not sure I could have done it. So to be able to to do them both for a living is something I’ve never taken for granted.”