There is a dividing line between people who approach snowboarding as art and creative self-expression and people who approach it as problem solving or competition. When the Olympics roll through Sochi, Russia, in 2014, the world will be watching snowboarding as an athletic endeavor. Snowboarding as competition. Snowboarding as sport. But for those of us who are inside of it, who are drawn to the community and expressive nature of snowboarding, it is something more.
As a culture, we respect the creative spirit above all else. It's the reason a simple styled-out method garners respect from all who witness it and it's the reason that Desiree Melancon stands out -- both for her casual, controlled riding and for her artwork, with its pen-and-ink realism, its whimsical watercolors and, while we can't show it here, her graphically striking depictions of sexuality.
Melancon has built a solid career the old-fashioned way: summers spent on Oregon's Mt. Hood, a few hard-earned victories at rail jams in the early days and several seasons of filming video parts that both genders respect -- most recently earning her Women's Video Part of the Year at the 14th Annual TransWorld Rider's Poll Awards for the online edit she released last October.
She packs light when she travels, with a few favorite pencils, maybe three different-sized pens and colored pencils. She alternates between reading and making art while filming a video part. One trip, she might just pack one book and spend most of her time drawing; the next, she might carry four books and just read, read, read to fuel the imagination.
Her biggest artistic influences are her friends: Ashbury Eyewear co-founder Mike Hakker, snowboarder Marie Hucal and roommate Brynn Hayes. You can see the world in which she lives (both imaginary and real) sketched across the pages of her work. Her paintings and drawings alternate between sketches that look like they belong inside the digger van at summer snowboard camp and others that show a sophistication and thoughtfulness Melancon herself might rarely let you see.
Her first art show, held at Velvet Lounge in Bend, Ore., in July, showed a keen understanding of her audience and resulted in selling paintings to some of your favorite pros. (Bode Merrill was the night's big spender.)
Melancon's career going as a pro rider is just getting started, really. Check out the gallery to see her more PG-rated artwork and to see more of her snowboarding, check her out in Think Thank's mind-expanding, creativity-fueled movie, "Brain Dead, Heart Attack," which is out now on iTunes.