Whether he’s skating ledges, playing the piano or chilling in the pool on his “Crucifloat,” Stefan Janoski follows the same effortless approach. Skate photographer, filmmaker and artist, Thomas Campbell, brings that creative spirit front and center in his short documentary, “Everyone Hates Poetry,” highlighting Stefan’s sculpture, songwriting, painting and beyond. We caught up with Thomas recently about meeting Stefan almost 20 years ago in the garage of a punk house in San Diego, the permanence of bronze and why failure is important to both art and skating.
SB: Tell us about the first time you met Stefan?
TC: I met Stefan in about 1999. Our mutual friend Micah Mattson, who used to skate for Zero and is a really good skater, had a house in Encinitas or Cardiff that was kind of a punk house. It was the kind of place where they knew it was going to get torn down so it was all spray painted on the inside and there was a miniramp in the back.
I rented the garage of the house as my art studio. Stefan, who was staying at the house, would come out and hang out with me when I was in there painting. For whatever reason, I think maybe he was hurt, he was just chilling and not skating at all.
One day when he wasn’t there, Micah was like, “Yeah that dude is really good at skateboarding.” I was like, “Really? That mellow stoner guy?” He was just so on his own trip, you know? He didn’t seem like your typical skateboarder to me. After that we didn’t have a whole lot of contact for a while, so I watched his career evolve from a distance until we got back together a couple years ago when we started working on this project.
SB: What was it like getting back together with him?
TC: Oh it was so cool. I really appreciate Stefan because, when I was coming up in skateboarding, the people that I felt really embodied the ethos of skateboarding were just doing the things they wanted to do and not giving a fuck about what other people think. I think Stefan really exemplifies that approach. He’s a free thinker and a really smart guy. I am attracted to people who are on their own trip and being creative. And he’s all of those things.
SB: Was that apparent when you first met back in San Diego?
TC: Honestly, I didn’t really catch that back then. I just remember hanging out and him being cool and us just talking about whatever. I was very surprised to watch his career blossom into what it became. But at the end of the day, for what I like in skateboarding, he’s a poster child. He’s a person who takes the innate creativity and drive that comes from skateboarding and adapts that into his life and his art. If you’re listening and observing what skating can teach you, it can teach so much and I think he’s a perfect example of all of that.
SB: As somebody who has been connected to art and skating why is there this natural connection between art and skating?
TC: I feel like there’s a baseline of art which is to enjoy yourself and be expressive. I think the baseline of skating is the same thing. Skating is incredibly nuanced in creativity and your ability to adapt. Every single thing you’re doing, you’re having to formulate and project a final outcome. It’s really creative, you have to use your mind in a very holistic way, just like when you’re making art.
Also, in skateboarding, failure is super normal and you can use that in your art. You’re like, “Oh, I suck?” and then you just keep going. It’s not like, “Oh, I suck, I’m gonna give up.” Sucking is normal. And then you finally make it and then you go on to the next thing and suck some more.
SB: Failure is a central thing to making art, too, right?
TC: Totally, that’s where you learn everything. You learn everything in failure. You don’t learn as much in triumph. You know, you fuck up and you’re either like, “Oh that’s actually kinda cool,” or you’re like, “I don’t wanna do that again!”
SB: How was it working on this project with Stefan?
TC: It’s been awesome, one of the most fun projects ever. I feel like there’s a lot of mutual respect. I also make bronze work, so I get what he’s doing. Also, the fact that he’s just such an interesting person, and he’s funny as fuck. That really adds to everything. I think we came up with something pretty cool.
SB: What about bronze work do you think makes sense for Stefan?
TC: He touches on it a little bit in the piece but it has this really old world quality to it, and it has real permanence. There aren’t a lot of things that you create have that real, physical permanence. I think that’s an interesting aspect to it for him.
SB: While you were working on this project did you learn anything about Stefan that you didn’t know before?
TC: I didn’t know a ton about him from the beginning, like back in the day I just kinda thought he was this mellow kid that was just like, “Whatever” and since then he’s really grown up into this complex person. So when we met up later, we really connected. I also was working on this skateboard movie called “Ye Olde Destruction” and Stefan skated in that so that was really cool.
SB: Let’s bring it back to skating for a sec, Stefan’s obviously one of the best, what do you like about his skating?
TC: I just love how he skates. No one really skates like that. He’s just like the buttermaster. There’s a certain thing that some skaters have, like Ray Barbee, Kareem Campbell and Tom Penny, just that apex flow. And Stefan has that. There’s something really incredible happening with those dudes, it’s magic. And the dude is 40. You look at the footage in the piece and it’s just like, really nice.
SB: Stefan talks about how sharing his work is a new thing for him. What’s your feel on that?
TC: I’m just down for whatever people want to do. Art can be a different thing to everyone. Your level of wanting to share or not share, of having it be your job or having a different job and having it be for your own enjoyment, it’s all good. Whatever he wants to do is cool with me. I’m stoked he wants to share it and it was fun to document what he does. I got nothing but love for that.
SB: Anybody else you want to shout out from this project?
TC: It was great to have Jason Hernandez on the skate filming and Colin Kennedy doing the editing. Super rad to work with those dudes.
Also, in addition to Stefan’s music in the piece, John Herndon from the band Tortoise is doing the soundtrack and scoring the parts that aren’t Stefan’s music. I think it came out really cool. He’s a friend of mine and we’ve worked together extensively over the years. He’s a skateboarder and a super talented guy so I just always try to include him in the projects I’m working on.
We caught up with him recently and talked about the new Pro version of his signature GT Blazer, his daughter skating with her grandpa and why he just might have to buy an El Camino.