By Kevin Lyons

Words by Nikolaj Hansson / Illustration by Sine Jensen

Art direction, design, illustration and typography are the fields in which Kevin Lyons creates, whether it being solo exhibitions in Tokyo or Paris, collaborations with a variety of brands or simply doodling his iconic monster-drawings on a piece of paper. We sat down with the Brooklyn-based artist for a talk about his time as art director at the Girl Skateboards, his inspirations from music and the layout for an iconic ad, featuring Keenan Milton (RIP).


You’ve previously served the likes of Girl Skateboards, Nike & Stüssy, all of which are considered pioneers in their respective area.  How did the decision of focusing more on your own projects come about?

I think like with everything, it kind of works itself out. You develop and outgrow your previous experiences. You gain more and more independence and expertise. Eventually, there is naturally nowhere else to go but into your own world.


You once said, that you constantly push your style away from what it was previously. Can it be said, that you reinvent yourself by leaving your previous work behind?

I think I reinvent myself by simply pushing on to the next thing. I never truly leave behind my previous work. Again, it simply progresses from the previous work. My work now is truly the result of all of my previous experiences. I have to interject here and say that a really big part of past experiences are the people I have met along the way. The friendships and relationships I have formed as I have moved through life are, I believe, the greatest gift. That is why the Girl Art Dump is so important. Girl has literally kept together its talented, now legendary alumni all of these years.

♦ All You Can Eat.  Kevin Lyons x MEI in Harajuku Tokyo


♦ Kevin Lyons: Shits & Giggles. A Collection of Art Stuff Loosely formulated to Make A Show featuring Collabos with Patrick Martinez, Baron Von Fancy, and Skip Class

Do you often get requests from companies who want you to fuse their identity with your iconic monster-drawings?

Yes and no. But there is certainly a growing interest. But I have to be very careful and sensitive to not compromise my long standing partners as well as my personal work. I am very deliberate in how and when I use my characters for corporate work. I also keep independent some for the work I do for Colette, and I keep others for what I do personally as an artist.

How many monsters would you reckon you’ve doodled in your life?

A lot. My goal is to get to Wilt Chamberlain-like numbers with them. The fact is that I have been drawing them my whole life, it’s just now they are finally getting to travel the world and wreak havoc.

Bobby Puleo once said, that skateboarding is similar to hip-hop in a way, where, in order to make a good song or record, your rhyming style, beats etc. had to be unlike anything ever heard before. Do you feel the same way about making art?

No, not as much. I see art as more like what you do – design. It is a continuum and thus builds upon itself and often primarily only references itself, which has its challenges and advantages. I think skateboarding and hip-hop will eventually get there as well, but for so many years in both of their infancies, everything was new.

♦ Kevin Lyons x Colette Postcard

You received a degree in film from the Rhode Island School of Design in 1992, but pursued a career in graphic designs, after having worked at Nickelodeon & MTV. When did you realize, that you didn’t want to work in the world of television?

I think when I realized that doing film meant having to have lots of money and a team of people. It was different when I graduated. There were no SLR’s. Virtually no one had a camera. Film was expensive to buy. Equipment impossible to rent. Even more impossible to cart around the city. Design took me and no one else. You actually made money, not spent it. Plus, truth being told, at the time, I was a much better designer than filmmaker.

You have drawn on a large variety of canvases, ranging from album covers over shoes to skateboards. Which medium do you prefer the most to work with?

I really do like them all. I do like drawing and working small, but as of late, I have been having a ton of fun making giant murals.

♦ Kevin Lyons: Shits & Giggles. A Collection of Art Stuff Loosely formulated to Make A Show featuring Collabos with Patrick Martinez, Baron Von Fancy, and Skip Class

While many artists draw their inspiration from others artists in the past, your main inspiration often seems to be music, dancehall and reggae in particular and it seems not only to be lyrics but the general aesthetic, or feeling, from the music, that you implement. Can you tell us about your perception on the fusion of music and graphic design?

Oh music. Usually, the number one question asked of me. Music is crucial to my work and life. It is truly my muse. Listen, I am not an artist. I am a designer and an Art Director. I cannot just create in a vacuum. I cannot make imagery just to make imagery. I need a subject matter and words to design for. Hip-Hop, hardcore, punk, ska, reggae, and dancehall all provide me content, humour, color and attitude.

♦ Eric Elms x Kevin Lyons Kilroy shirt for Common Gallery show in Tokyo

Having been part of the art scene for quite some years, what is your perspective on the today’s mass consumption of content via social media outlets such as Facebook and Instagram?

I personally love Instagram. It can instantly let your audience know what you are up to, and help communicate with others who share similar work and aesthetic. It is so easy, however, it can butcher a culture and really screw up, speed up, and mess with the continuum. It can elevate mediocrity, and devalue genius. But shit always sinks to the bottom and those people gaining notoriety and success from thousands of likers? Well, 9 out of 10 will eventually descend and be found out. At least, I patiently hope.


♦ Kevin Lyons x Vipp x Colette

You did the layout for an iconic Keenan Milton-ad for Fourstar way back. How was it being part of something as epochal as Girl Skateboards and the Art Dump in its early years?

I spoke of the Art Dump earlier. I have nothing but love for Girl, Rick, Megan, Mike and Andy Jenkins. Being part of that place, the environment, and the sheer talent was amazing; Koston, Guy, Gonz, Rudy Johnson, Keenan (RIP), Jovontae Turner, Paulo Diaz, Colin McKay, the list goes on and on. Not to mention the who’s who of artists that wandered through the studio and warehouse; Geoff McFetridge, Johannes Gamble, Andy Mueller, Mike Leon, Evan Hecox, Spike Jonze. It was an awesome mix of everything that is right about skateboarding. I was actually recruited by Rick to come to Girl to help start and design Fourstar Clothing. Girl and Chocolate were young, but already established. Fourstar was all new and it was Eric and Guy’s baby. I was working at Nike at the time and Rick specifically sought me out because he wanted someone new and outside of skateboarding. He wanted a fresh perspective. He had assembled a team of preppy, urban athletes who matched their Jordan’s to their t-shirt. This was very new to skateboarding. Eric and Keenan and Mike Carroll were all true athletes that could have just as well made it pro by playing college basketball. They worked out, played ball every week, even lifted. This was not traditional skateboarding. Rick had assembled the NBA All-Stars of skating and he knew that the brand needed to follow suit. It was fun and challenging to be part of something that new. We were collecting samples from Polo Sport, North Face, Nautica, Tommy, and of course Nike. Making mesh shirts and basketball shorts to skate in? Ludicrous.