Who Arted? | Pentagram Pizza's Digital Skid Mark
Former Volcom Europe Marketing Director proves the freelance pen is mightier than the corporate sword
A native of Newport Beach, California, Mike Mailman moved to Hossegor, France in 1999 to help steer the fledging Volcom Europe from an apartment above the Rock Food, as well as enjoy the rural libertarianism of a provincial France, compared with the ultra-conservative urban sprawl of Orange County. After leaving the brand in late 2014, he started doing art under the @pentagram_pizza moniker. He lives in Seignosse and enjoys surfing, sarcasm and music of the rock persuasion.
What's the lamest thing in surfing right now?
Over here (SW France) I'd have to say the general acceptance of SUP riders in lineups. It's overwhelming. There's about 10% who are courteous and discreet, and the other bunch is swarming the outer fringe of the lineup, absolutely trying to take as many waves as they can get their poo-stance on. It sucks. I have friends that do it (laughs) but I don't know if they have that rabid megalomania, probably! (laughs) And visually, it is about as stylish as a dog and a cat fucking each other while stapled to a dead harbour seal.
"Visually, (SUPing) is about as stylish as a dog and a cat fucking each other while stapled to a dead harbour seal"
What advice would you give to the fresh-out-of Uni youth who wants to make it in the surf biz?
Three things come to mind: Firstly, take web or app developer classes at University instead of Marketing. Or try to use your physical talents and charisma - or just plain hard work - to endear people to you. It's pretty old school, but it can still happen. But, it's better to take courses that lend themselves to the tasks relevant in the various sectors of the industry though, to give you a chip-shot into employment. Although babysitting is great work experience for a future team manager job position...
Number two would be to create a product or an asset that all the brands want or need, and avoid working for any singular company. Don't try and reinvent the wheel. The world needs another boardshort about as much as it needs an asteroid impact.
Number three, the last resort, would be to buy a pair of kneepads and be prepared to suck a lot of dick. This usually works up until low-level management positions, but after that most upper management has their own elite team of fluffers upstairs, so expect to hit the glass ceiling, not the Penthouse, career-wise. You can always suck someone from another company off - and maybe blow your way upstairs over there. Happens quite a bit actually. You'd have to ask someone with experience on that. I used the first option (without the developer skills) and never left to another company.
"Buy a pair of kneepads and be prepared to suck a lot of dick"
Do you sometimes check Bourdaines, and upon witnessing the omni-clusterfuck, quickly reach for a cig pack to scrawl ideas down on the back of? Your cup must be running over?
I usually hold on to thoughts for quite a while before committing them to paper. Yeah, Les Bourdaines is an idea farm for sure. But, the Cafe de Paris is kind of a trigger for me, where things gel. My friend Swanky has some classic pint-fueled rants such as "SURFING IS SO FUCKING GAY! WHY DON'T THEY PUT THOSE UGLY ASS KIDS ON A GODDAMN UNICORN!" and it grows into dudes in leather chaps Sup'ing on Unicorns while butt-jousting boogie boarders. All that by just staring at the Quik store across the street. Go figure.
Is creating art better done high, or low?
Both. I'd rather be high doing art. You know me, I only smoke weed occasionally every... five minutes. (laughs) But, saying that, sometimes I do some of my best work when I'm in a really shitty mood, or something ominous is happening...so that's when I'm low.
When you were a kingmaker/captain of industry at Volcom during the surf boom did you ever dream you'd be doing pen n' ink cartoons for a bass fishing t-shirt brand? You must feel like you've finally hit the big time...
I was hired there part time (Volcom) in '96 as the first art assistant and worked my way up. Before that I built cabinets and kitchens and played in bands. I made band fliers on the copier at Vons and rifled the couch every day for coffee money before working from 8-5. And it was hard, I had no money but I was happy playing in bands and surfing almost every day.
(cont.) Once you get waaaay the fuck up there in the corporate world, after a while (15 years or so?) you want to come back down to the basic things that make (or in this case made) you happy. I missed the freethinking and freedom to say what is on your mind. And listening to Cannibal Corpse on headphones while operating saws and routers and nail guns like I did back in my 20’s. Creative-wise when I worked for Volcom, the founder, Wooly, was adamant about no guns, no skulls, no violence, devil imagery - he is religious and superstitious - but some of that imagery crept in later due to the “RVCA did it, so we have to" surf industry rule. Keeping up with the Joneses kinda thing.
"I started spewing all of these pent-up Unicorn SUP-ers and cartoon blood and violence that I had kept inside. And it keeps flowing like a river of garbage onto the paper..."
So when I left, I was so wary of being referred to as 'Mike from Volcom' that I kinda created this Pentagram Pizza persona to cut those ties. And had this epiphany, if you will, and started spewing all of these pent-up Unicorn sup'ers and cartoon blood and violence that I had kept inside. And it keeps flowing like a river of garbage onto the paper... big time.
Surfing and art have had a long and toe-curlingly cringeworthy relationship... Is the secret to not succumbing and keeping it real having cartoon French guys 69ing ?
I think John Severson and Rick Griffin were great pioneers of surf art, and later Bob Penuelas was a huge inspiration to me with his Maynard and The Rat cartoon. Everything after that was fairly cringeworthy. Not all of it, though. The secret, to me, is to be as original as you can - unless you are doing a parody of something, and don't be afraid to get weird on the subject or make people uncomfortable or laugh. Draw the things people joke about but are afraid to witness, like the Casernes section of the postcard I updated. And it wasn’t 69’ing it was bukkake. (laughs) And don't draw the same motif over and over again. That only works if you are in the Ramones or Motorhead.
When I go on IG and see the humblebrags and the thong chicks quoting Ghandi I think 'this is the worst thing in the whole world, ever' but I still click on all the pics and check all their old ones, every time...
Hah. Yeah IG can be very self-indulgent. It was created for that reason, I believe. Narcissistic people tend to suck their own dick on there. A lot of pretentious verbiage. But for me, Instagram is about free advertising / exposure for my art. I try to keep the personal stuff personal. Or through direct messaging to people. I don't think my time has been wasted, I've done enough art in the last two years that if I die suddenly there is a shit ton of material available for publication. Hopefully people will scroll back and see the previous stuff. I would hope so. It's my skid mark in the digital world. And I ain’t done yet.
"Don't be afraid to get weird on the subject or make people uncomfortable or laugh."