After Hours: A board creative

LG2's Jean Lafreniere pays hommage to skate culture

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LG2’s Jean Lafreniere pays hommage to skate culture

When Jean Lafrenière was growing up, he lusted after the intricate, custom-made skateboards ridden by the z-boys of Dogtown, the fathers of modern skateboarding.

He hoarded magazines full of boards designed by Vernon Courtland Johnson and Jim Phillips, and imagined one day owning one.

But in those days it wasn’t possible to buy a board made in California and have it shipped to his hometown Shawinigan, Que.

So instead, he made them.

Hanging around his home are some 60 vintage skate deck replicas, carefully cut and sanded down from blanks, then hand-painted and airbrushed with special techniques to mimic the silk-screened finish of the originals. Lafrenière uses old photos from his magazine collection to reproduce the artwork as closely as possible; he recreates the “period-correct” brand stickers in Photoshop and prints them on sticker-paper; and he’s even invented a method to custom-colour urethane wheels, which takes about an hour of boiling in dyes on his stove.

The replica he’s most proud of is a rare, hand-crafted board custom-made for Jay Adams, which only ever appeared in a few published photos. To recreate the design, he had to scan, expand and clean up the photos, and even then the reproduction involved some guesswork.

Lafrenière graduated from OCAD in the 80s and worked at Cossette for 22 years before moving to lg2 last spring. His creative work on several road safety campaigns for the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec garnered a Bronze Lion at Cannes this year, as well as the 2013 Grand Créa for the spot, Anthem of Shame.

When he’s not busy winning Lions, the 47-year-old copywriter and art director at lg2 is busy working on his side projects—putting together abstract sculptures he makes from Japanese toy parts and figurines, playing and sampling bass, or his favourite­—making boards. He says his life is dedicated to skateboarding: he skates with his local crew four or five times a week at Quebec City’s Skate Plaza, and at work, he keeps a board under his desk to rest his feet on.

Lafrenière has never sold a replica, because he doesn’t want to diminish the value of the originals. The originals “are so hard to get, that even just to have the replica in my home—it’s something cool,” he says.

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