Capturing the je ne sais quoi essence of mountain biking through the forest that warms our soiled hearts is a remarkable feat. Often folks attempt to stitch it together with GoPro footage, deliberately penned narratives, or a series of eloquently curated photographs. Kristina Wayte of Sketchy Trails has her own collection of honed visual methods. You might be familiar with her comma-esque tire depictions, or her work creating designs for any number of bike brands throughout the industry. She recently collaborated with a group of talented folks to produce a film for the Race Face Creator Series, and we wanted to share the story of her dirt art with our readers.
Kristina kicked off the shreddy side of her life aboard a 2009 Marin Hydro 26″ hardtail that she purchased in 2011. That bike kept her trail stoke piqued until she upgraded to a full-suspension Ibis Mojo HD4 three years ago, though she still rides the Marin occasionally, “because hardtails are fun!”
On the creative front, Kristina began working as a graphic artist in 2010 and has developed a keen eye for the way light and shadows display a narrative of the world around us. Like many artists, she was sketching and painting long before choosing to do so as a career and she has been inspired by legions of comic book illustrators and street artists alike. A few of the artists Kristina is currently drawing inspiration from include Kim Jung Gi, Kenneth Rocafort, Franklin Booth, Barron Storey, Sergio Toppi, and Ian Ross among others. In addition to visual motivation from peers and the Pacific Northwest forests surrounding her home, Kristina finds creative drive while listening to film soundtracks. She was kind enough to share some of her favorite tunes with us to paint a picture of the sound behind those Sketchy lines.
In addition to designing art around the sports she loves, Sketchy Trails is Kristina’s full-time job and personal business. She creates print and digital illustrations for event advertisements, product promotions, murals, album covers, game art, T-shirts, fenders, and a growing number of other formats and forms. She has worked with industry-leading brands and individuals including Chris King, Shimano, and Seth’s Bike Hacks to name a few.
Though much of her work centers around mountain biking and skiing, Kristina has worked with a wide variety of subjects and ties her passion for the natural world into each of them. One of her personal projects is a comic book titled The Trail Series that folks can collect via her Patreon page.
Each Sketchy Trails piece is born from some scratches, either with pen and paper or on a digital Cintiq screen, followed by detailed refinements and revisions, and finally shifted to the medium it was originally intended for. Before beginning this methodical process, Kristina scours the internet for images to help guide her eye. She brings bits and pieces of trees and ferns from one photo, and a subject’s body position from another to assemble her vision for what an illustration will look like. All of this is run through the filter of what the client asked for, and what the goal of the project is. Though her illustrations largely come from her right cerebral hemisphere, Kristina keeps a library of images open for every project to help steer her creativity. You can see the amount of research and contextual knowledge that she includes in the way her work maintains a sense of living movement throughout.
It can’t all be warmly lit forest scapes in the professional art world. I asked Kristina what elements of her job are most challenging.
“Every artist I know who chooses to do it professionally has a struggle. If you choose to be a professional artist, where the professional element comes in is grinding through those burnout days, and knowing that those burnout days will end.”
Throughout her tenure as a graphic artist, Kristina has been hunting for a way to blend her personal two-dimensional style with the 3D form of film. She learned how to create trailers and after-effects at a previous job and knew that there were possibilities worth exploring. The Race Face Creator Series gave her the chance to do just that. She came up with the idea and contacted renowned Northwest filmmaker Luke Allen Humphrey to collaborate and shoot the non-animated angles of the story. Then she sent a pitch of the plan over to Race Face.
While designing the film, Kristina pondered the elements of her comic books that her readers have enjoyed most.
“[Readers] say that they enjoy it because they feel like they are out there on the trails.” She knew that she wanted to capture similar qualities in the film, so she penned a relatable narrative about a young rider who wanted to enjoy the summer’s final ride before returning to school — but needed to get her bike repaired first. Kristina found an exceptionally talented young rider named Julia Lofqvist Traum to play the lead role. Not only is Julia a wicked shredder, but she is also young enough that viewers might connect her to their experience with comic books, which provided a sweet emotive bonus.
If you are still reading my words instead of watching the film, let’s change that now. My Last Day of Summer is my personal favorite mountain bike film, and I think you will enjoy it as well. Below is a sneaky peek into how the film was created that might answer any questions we have missed herein.
Thanks to Kristina for chatting about her art, her process, and what it’s like to work as a professional artist.