‘Here in Brazil there is a big scene of skate-inspired artists! It’s hard even to list everyone I look up to.’

Luis Felipe Ravelli


April 2023

What is the skate scene like in Sao Paulo?
The skate scene here it’s huge! Since the 80s there is a big scene here in São Paulo, always has been some real ‘Do it Yourself’ vibe in the local skateboarding. The locals building the spots everywhere in the city, especially in some plazas and soccer courts. Hardly existed Skateparks hardly exist. In fact, in the late 80s early 90s skateboarding was prohibited in the city with local kids getting their board seized by the police. After that, only small skateparks were built by the city and some private skateparks too. Most of the skate scene was in the streets. Just recently there was some investment in building some skateparks and plazas only to “centralize” the skaters in some places (and on the other hand marginalize skating in street spots) than to actually build skate minded obstacles and parks.

Besides that, almost all of the famous Brazil skate spots are here, so it’s very common to see pros riding in those spots, like the central area of the city. There you can find the most famous street spots. Within a 10 minute ride you will find a lot of skateable places mainly in the old part of the central district. In the outskirts of the city there are also a lot of skate spots including some skateparks with their own local scene and stuff. However, most of the skaters from the country side and even much further away come to Sao Paulo to skate and film clips and stuff.

John Worthington • Photo by Atiba

This sounds like what Barcelona is for Europe. What came first for you? Skateboarding, photography or drawing?
Skateboarding! My first contact with skateboarding was when I was 6 or 7, in early 00’s, because my older brothers and cousins were skating. They stopped skating shortly after, but I kept skating. When I was a teen, like with 14 or 15 years old, I started filming my crew with old cell phones, we used to build Steadicams with pvc pipes, attach the cell phone and film some tricks. We even built a fisheye lens with a peephole once (laughing). But filming wasn’t really my deal.

I only started photograph when I was in college. A really good friend of mine, who is a photographer, talked me into it. So, I bought a 35mm camera and started taking photos of everything. I didn’t know much about photography, so I was just trying to learn the basics. I wrote all the settings of the camera before taking photos, so I could see the differences when printed. That really helped my creative process. However, I had a box full of photos but didn’t know what to do with it (laughing). So, I began to spread all the printed photos on the ground and looking at them, and then I started to have some ideas about fanzines.

After that I began to draw some of my photos, not only skate photos but some street photos I took as well. And I really liked how it turned out. So, I started drawing some photos of skate magazines and some photo sequences as well. Then I drew the first photo sequence and I thought to myself “damn, what if I animate these frames? How would it look?”. So, I downloaded an app that animates the frames and began to draw some tricks from skate films, video parts and clips from IG.

I think in 2020 I bought my first professional digital camera. Up to this point, all my photos were analog and my skate photos were more about skateboarding as a part of the city which started to merge before focusing on the trick as I only had a 50mm lense. I mean, this kind of photo remains as my way of photographing skate, but with the 8mm lens I can really focus on the skate trick and the skater, which it’s cool too.

‘Then I drew the first photo sequence and I thought to myself “damn, what if I animate these frames? How would it look?”’

In regards to your illustrations, do you draw by hand or us design programs?
I draw by hand! I have something about having the material thing, you know? Just like the photos, some of the reasons that I began with 35mm camera was about having the photo printed. I tried for some time to draw digitally, because my brother bought a pen tablet, but I didn’t like it too much. It seemed that my drawings style did not come through properly. I usually print the photo and draw it in a light desk I built. I glued some led strips inside and aluminium baking trey and placed some glass on top of it. Then I scan it. The thing about my drawing process is that it takes some time to finish it. First, I draw with a pencil to see if it works and then I follow up with nankin pens.

You also do animated skate sequences?
How do you do them? Yeah! It’s really cool to do skate sequences, but it takes forever to finish them (laughing). First, I pick a trick from a skate film or clip, usually a single trick, about 5 seconds. Then I download the video in a website as individual frames, about 20 per second. After that I choose from these individual frames the ones that gives the motion of the trick which is like 24 to 30 frames. That’s a really cool part of the process, because I can give priority to anything that I like in the clip by drawing less frames of the skater rolling in or out of the trick and more frames of the actual trick, which gives some kind of slow motion to the part I want.

After that, I print all the frames, draw them in pencil, then draw again in nankin pens and scan them. It takes a really long time to finish one skate sequence because I need to basically draw 24 to 30 times every single detail of the frames. First in pencil. Then in nankin pen. Over and over again (laughing). I mean, it’s cool because I can’t draw everything exactly the same in every frame, so it gives some sense of motion and movement in all of the elements in the video.

I began animating in a mobile app. It is very easy to do. You only needed to upload all the frames in the app and choose the frames per second ratio. After using this app, I began studying about some animation software and stuff to know how to make these kind of simple animations better.

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Evan Smith • Photo by Blabac

Are there any skate-inspired artists you look up to?
Sure! Here in Brazil there is a big scene of skate-inspired artists! It’s hard even to list everyone I look up to (laughing). There are some huge guys into photography like Flavio Samelo, Alexandre Urch, Alexandre Viana, Shin Shikuma, Heverton Ribeiro, Renato Custódio, Otavio Neto, Fabio Bitão and so many others. In music there a lot of bands and groups that the members are skaters like Charlie Brown Jr., Dead Fish, Planet Hemp, Kamau and lots of others.

It’s very cool because most of them make a lot of other art besides skate photography. Samelo for exmaple does amazing work about the city lines or Urch, that have some works with manholes in São Paulo. Moreover, they are famous photographers in the skate world but very accessible guys, you know? I mean answering DMs and stuff. I had some opportunities to participate in some workshops they did and it was awesome exchanging stories and ideas. Another dude I really dig is Henry Jones. I mean, I even tattooed his Towelliee skate in my shin (laughing).

Any proudest moment in your career that you can share?
Damn, I think one of my greatest moments was the first time a local clothing brand hit me up to do the drawings of a collab they were doing with a local skater of their hood. It was crazy to see other people really interested in my work and stuff, even because I don’t really advertise my work much. And of course, doing and interview to a foreign skate mag it’s just insane to me. I still not believing this is happening (laughing).

‘I mean, it’s cool because I can’t draw everything exactly the same in every frame, so it gives some sense of motion and movement in all of the elements in the video.’

You have not posted stuff on IG for some time. Any specific reasons?
Damn, that’s a hard question. I do have a lot of new photos edits, compositions and drawings finished, like scanned and everything but I haven’t posted them yet. I really don’t know. For me having everything done it’s almost like enough, you know? I think social medias in general demand so much of your time and energy, and that really bums me out.

Anything left on your wish list?
Damn, so much! I mean, I really wanted to make a living out of my work as a photographer and an artist, you know? But out here in Brazil it’s tough. I mean, the art world sucks everywhere, right? (laughing). But at the same time, I really love my work as a psychologist, and I still want to research and study more about the relation of skateboarding and our psyche. Like a master’s degree or something. I also really want to travel. Like real skate trips. Especially to Barcelona. It’s a place where the city was built and designed for people. Not for a car or anything like that. Life, skate, photograph, study the way the city was thought and how skaters there deal with it still is a dream of mine.

If you could interview any person in the world, who would it be and why?

When I was a little kid, playing THPS I always rode Baker decks. I don’t know why. When I finally bought my first Baker deck it was a blast. So, talking to Andrew Reynolds it would be something awesome for me.

Albert Nyberg • Photo by Dave Van Laere