Kevin Butler likes the look of classic cars with hand-shaped boards on top, so he started drawing illustrations of cool cars, starting with his own. He was on to something. People started sending him pictures of cars they saw on the road, and requesting drawings, and now he’s got a blog full of Rad Cars with Rad Surfboards. Last weekend at action sports and streetwear tradeshow Agenda, Herschel Supply set up a Volkswagen Beetle stacked with boards to showcase his work, and we caught up with Butler to see what he and his blog are all about.
What’s your background as an artist and a surfer?
After taking all the art classes offered at Cabrillo Community College in Santa Cruz, California, I headed up to the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. I went there for illustration and ended up with a degree for advertising. I’m now a creative director at an ad agency in Los Angeles.
I grew up a few blocks from the beach in Santa Cruz and started surfing in Junior Lifeguard camp. I did a few contests, primarily longboard ones, through my teens and 20s and shaped a few boards in my parents’ garage. I still surf as much as I can. It’s tough in LA. I drive up to Malibu or down to San Onofre every chance I get, but between work and my 8-month-old son, it’s hard. So Venice Pier will have to do for now.
How’d you start doing the Rad Cars project?
It actually started with my car and my board. I painted it because I wanted to immortalize it. Then a friend asked for one. Then another friend wanted to give one as a gift. Then I did one for my mom of a car we had when I was little. Before I knew it I had about 12, and I stuck them up on a Tumblr and haven’t stopped. I’m up to 250 or so now.
Where do you get the ideas for the illustrations? Do you approach people on the road?
Growing up my dad rebuilt old cars. So a lot of the first ones came from memory of rad cars we had. Once it started getting attention I started getting emails from people wanting me to draw their rad car/board combo. Or people tagging me on Instagram with cars they spotted on the side of the road. … I also snap a lot of photos of cars I see parked or driving. I have a running queue. There are probably about five or six in the queue at any given time.
In your mind, what makes for a rad car with a rad board?
The car needs to have character. Tell a story. The type of car you’d double take at if you saw it on the freeway. I tend to gravitate to pre-’80s cars. But there are a few rad ’80s cars that have slipped in. In terms of rad boards, they have to be hand-shaped. And they have to be special. Basically anything but a standard thruster. There’s nothing wrong with a standard thruster, but there’s nothing special about them either.
What’s the raddest vehicle/board combo you’ve seen?
That’s a tough one. The installation I recently did at Agenda LA is tough to top. But if we’re talking about real life radness out in the world and not contrived radness, I’d have to go with my friend Parker’s 1956 Porsche 356 and his Beautiful Almond log.
What does your car look like?
I recently sold my Dijon yellow 1983 Volvo wagon and am currently in the market for a 1968 to 1971 VW Westy, a San-O mobile.
Are you working on any other projects or series?
I also have a blog called the “things I’ve drawn in meetings,” and I do a comic strip based on a coworker of mine. I have a few other irons in the fire, too. I just finished a collaboration with Herschel Supply. We did a collection of rad bags and accessories. They all have drainage, can be rinsed out, and have rad cars with rad surfboards as liners. They should be out spring of 2014.
See more of Kevin’s work here.