The Art of the Topsheet

If snowboarding is all about creativity and expression, then snowboard design is a visual testament to that philosophy.

Of course, there’s a lot of unseen work that goes into snowboard design, but the topsheet artwork is easily the most noticeable. Topsheets are a canvas for expression and an extension of your style, so how our boards look are just as important as how they ride.

Our style has evolved since the release of our first topsheets in 2013 — a natural evolution as we learned about designing, printing, collaborating and, ultimately, what sells snowboards. And while our style has changed, some core ideas have not. 1. We’ve exclusively worked with female artists and designers to invite more women into the manufacturing process. 2. We’ve integrated nature into every Pallas board, symbolizing both the time we spend outside and the wild duality of the human spirit (feminine and masculine).

The Opening Act

Those principles first took root when we worked with Brisbane, Australia-based artist Gemma Davis on our first (and second) topsheets. At the time, the 20-year-old illustrator had a common motif of women and nature throughout her work. As she told us years ago, “I’m all about feminism and equality. I want to show people how there is no set mold for women or men. There is a balance of masculine and feminine energy in everyone. We all have our yin and yang.”

Illustrator and Artist Gemma Davis Fearless

"There is a balance of masculine and feminine energy in everyone. We all have our yin and yang." - Gemma Davis. Above and below, Gemma's artwork that set the original Pallas topsheets in motion.

Illustrator and Artist Gemma Davis

She continued: “I also like to explore our connection with the rest of the world, outside our anthropocentric perception. That’s where the animals come in. I think we have lost our connection with this world, and I’m trying in my own way, to find it again. I think everyone gets something different out of art though, and I like the idea that everyone finds their own interpretation of what I’m trying to say, too.”

Pallas Snowboards topsheet

Pallas Snowboards topsheet artwork

Expanding Our Perspective

Gemma's questions about our missed connections with the world inspired our third collection of topsheets found in our Alpenglow Collection. We connected with Claire Taylor, a local-to-us illustrator in Salt Lake City, Utah who straddles the line between artist and naturalist. The illustrations we used were taken from two larger pieces (“Wapiti Mating Call” and “Thoughts on Existence as Told by Coyote II”) that were created under a grant she received from Friends of Red Butte Creek and the Global Change and Sustainability Center at the University of Utah.

The Magpies Pink Cemetery Map by Claire Taylor

"I'm interested in breaking down the human/animal binary. My work is influenced by the wildlife I encounter, and I consider what makes me an animal or what similarities or familiarities I can find in an animal that might seem alien to me at first." - Claire Taylor. Above, "The Magpies Pink Cemetery Map." Below, "Wapiti Mating Call."Wapiti Mating Call by Claire Tayor

Many of the flora and fauna she sketches and paints are based from personal encounters while observing nature from the foothills of the Wasatch Mountains. The elk, as seen on the Zeitgeist, for instance, was a memorable encounter: “I heard him before I saw him. The elk’s bugle reverberated throughout the canyon. It sounded like Godzilla’s roar mixed with a whistle, a didgeridoo, and the sound of a screaming child. Terrified, I didn’t know it was an elk creating the sound until I reached a clearing and saw him. This piece was also part of my thesis project for my MS in Environmental Humanities. My thesis culminated as an illustrated book titled All of Us Beasts that analyzed my perceptions of wildlife and my perceptions of myself as an animal.”

Our topsheet designer, Lenka Prochazka, and Pallas founder, Steph Nitsch, began to “piece” Claire’s illustrations together into a bigger story, sharing the canvas with other Wasatch themes. Notably: the stellar sunset alpenglow colors that reflect off the mountains we ride and the toxic air quality that’s common in Salt Lake City in the winter. To delve even deeper into a complex theme, we added deep sea creatures and a human hand to symbolize our constant need to meddle in places that we don’t always belong. For Lenka, this project was right up her alley. “I try to approach every project from a unique angle,” she told us. “I often find myself drawn to design that mashes chaos and order. These topsheets were a good example of that.”

Pallas Snowboards topsheet

Inviting New Collaborations

As we planned for the release of the new Solstice topsheet collection this year, we scaled back on the complex themes to reveal a simpler side of recreating in nature. We collaborated with Toronto, Canada painter Mishel Schwartz on an abstract painting that blended the four seasons into one. Her unique alcohol-based techniques naturally “flow” together, perfectly representing the evolution of the seasons...and the human desire to constantly create. “There’s a sense of freedom and organic quality with the ink,” she explained. By experimenting with the ink and textures, she eventually developed a method that “revealed light, depth and details from within the dried ink,” yet even that is subject to change. “It never stays the same. My creativity has taken all different types of roots and stems, but the underlying love and passion is always focusing on nature and light.”

Original Pallas Snowboards artwork by Mishel Schwartz

"We all have an innate ability to channel ourselves into a place where we feel completely fucking alive. And once you’re there, you can never go back. I’ll need to be creative for the rest of my life. If i don’t sell another painting, that's okay. But I’ll keep painting every day of my life." - Mishel Schwartz, reflecting on the creativity she unlocked during her collaboration with Pallas

Lenka and Steph once again layered in another story, capturing the simple predator-and-prey cycle of nature and the idea that they’re not mutually exclusive, much like humans ourselves. 

We hope you enjoy the new Solstice artwork series and find ways to weave together your own story of the human-and-nature connection; the masculine-and-feminine balance; or the strong-and-soft energy we all carry within ourselves.

2020-21 Pallas Snowboards artwork by Mishel Schwartz

1 comment

  • EMma

    The boards this year are so beautiful and savage! Thanks for taking us back to the first board graphics and showing the inspirations from the artists. I’m definitely looking at some of Mishel’s canvases for my wax room.

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