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With L’État, Artist Pascal Paquette Unites Graffiti and Skateboarding

Already a regular presence in Toronto’s alleyways, the fine and street artist is now making skateboard decks his canvas

By Tory Healy
Photography by Cindy Blažević

Pascal Paquette has loved skateboarding since he was 14, drawn to the freedom, camaraderie and challenge involved. The exercise, too. “One of my best pals growing up,” he says, “was the son of Joanne McLeod of Participaction’s BodyBreak. I took those mini episodes very seriously.”

Paquette, now fortysomething, is a fine artist and street artist. His work exists in innumerable locations, both here and abroad, and in various iterations; there’s his photorealistic rendition of a Thonet chair near King and Parliament, and 16 other murals across the city. Many of them are abstract: graceful arcs, lines that abruptly start and stop, elegant detailing, messy gestures – creative expressions that skaters can surely identify with. In fact, the two have a lot of common ground. “Urban exploration is deep at the core of both graffiti writing and skateboarding,” says Paquette. “[Both require] finding built environments that aren’t too policed or guarded.”

Skateboarding is not an inexpensive pastime (or sport, depending on whom you ask. It was supposed to debut at the Olympics in Tokyo this summer). A deck, wheels and bearings can run you north of $270, which hurts if you’re replacing equipment every month. When Paquette’s access to affordable boards dried up in 2016, the artist became entrepreneur and started L’État, a small-batch skateboard label that is both old and new school.

This spring, L’État, in collaboration with The Baitshop, is silkscreening graphics directly onto its boards – as was done industry-wide decades ago – instead of using the production-heavy heat transfer method. One of its Canadian maple decks has a nose squarer than typical boards, as well as a 21-degree rise on both the nose and tail, which encourages better control and delivers more pop. And the sans-Satan graphics? “I try to make boards that you really, really want to skate every time you look at them,” says Paquette. L’État’s young, nine-member skate team can attest to this. Sponsored by L’État, they regularly “participact” at Ashbridges Bay skatepark – and at what the artist cheekily calls the “gifts landscape architects make for us.” LETAT.BIGCARTEL.COM; THEBAITSHOP.CA