Meet Tanner Goldbeck, the diabolical mind and talented artist behind many of Icon Motosports most popular graphics and designs over the past ten years.
Trusting your brand identity to an artist is risky business. Especially when your reputation has been built around motorcycle gear that stands out in a crowd of conservatism. But being conservative is one thing Icon has never been accused of and that’s due in part to the diabolical creations of artist Tanner Goldbeck.
Goldbeck brings the stuff of nightmares to life, demon spawn born from hellfire, from devil dogs with Cerberus ferocity to surreal scenes of Geiger-esque proportions. Post-apocalyptic pictures and marauding hordes of zombies flow from his pen freely then end up splattered on a full-face helmet or leather jacket. It started with the skull-wrapped Mainframe and most recently manifested in the Icon Airmada Parahuman Helmet and includes some of Icon’s most popular campaigns over the last ten years.
The artist said the Airmada Parahuman Helmet is “Probably more toward my weird ideas. Once in a while when they want to come up with a skull theme, I’ll just try to do something I haven’t seen. Every now and then if it’s just skulls, they pretty much just let me go off.”
After helping them sell thousands of helmets over the years, Icon has learned to trust Goldbeck’s intuitions but he works directly with Icon’s Creative Director Kurt Walter on designs. Projects begin with a basic theme and Walter will provide a concept, then they’ll go back and forth on sketches but “they’re pretty open-ended with what he comes up with.” Goldbeck says that the process is helped by the fact that Walter is a designer himself.
The Icon Mainframe Skull Helmet was the first project Goldbeck worked on, and as they say, the rest is history.
The Seventh Seal is a good example of Goldbeck’s sinister side.
He admits that thinking in 3-D for graphics is challenging, but says it’s gotten easier over the years. After he draws it up, a developer renders it, then it’s off to the factory. Goldbeck says the process is similar to silk screening because they’ll take his drawings and screen them before applying anywhere from 7-9 individual pieces to a helmet. How they get them to line up is when the magic happens, a process he admittedly has never seen.
“If anything’s out of whack, it’s going to show. Icon puts the time into it to do it right.”
Before hooking up with the Icon crew, Goldbeck used his talents creating designs for Powell Skateboards. His work at Powell actually helped him land the gig. According to Goldbeck, Icon had seen his artwork on Powell skateboards, liked what they saw, so they tracked him down at his job. A call was placed to Powell to find out who was responsible for the artwork and next thing you know, they were walking into his office. Powell was based out of San Diego at the time, as was Icon.
“It just kind of happened,” he said.
Goldbeck also did a stint at West Coast Choppers for a couple of years. While he was working for Powell and Icon, he moved from Santa Barbera to LA where he met Jesse James who hired him on full-time.
“That was an experience. It was an unusual place to work. I wasn’t doing as much art as I thought I was going to be. Originally I thought I was going to be painting with paint, airbrushing and what not, but ended up pretty much sticking to t-shirt graphics and things, which was OK, but I was having more fun doing the Icon stuff.”
He worked at WCC for two-and-a- half years before the breakup and drama that followed.
“He had an empire there for a while,” said Goldbeck, who’s still friends with a lot of those guys.
Goldbeck has a background in fine arts and graduated from The Maryland Institute College of Art with a BFA. But he also went to The Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art which is evident by the heavy line drawings that are a trademark of much of his work. Growing up in the punk and skateboarding eras are influences that pop up in his creations, too. But he still likes to do oil paintings and is currently working on a piece for a show that is 16’ X 7,’ a far cry from the seven-inch wide skateboard decks and limited surface of a motorcycle helmet he’s accustomed to working on.
When he’s not creating the next pop art for Icon, he’s busy in the fine art and gallery scene in SoCal. At one such event, another artist asked him what he does. Goldbeck replied that he does helmet graphics for a company called Icon. No sooner had he said that then a guy comes walking in to the studio that had just gotten off a motorcycle outside and was carrying an Icon helmet.
“Yeah, that one,” Goldbeck said smiling.
In addition to his artwork, he likes to spend time working on his 1951 Oldsmobile 88. He’s been busy turning it into “An Olds that looks good, sounds insane, runs way too fast and handles like a sports car.” On his website Tanner Racecar 13, he writes “We started with a hefty, 1963 high compression Olds 394. We had it bored .030 over and balanced. We also added a Ross racing cam, Smith Bros. pushrods, Manley polished stainless racing valves, a Weiand intake with dual 500 cfm carbs and a Zoom clutch. Not your father’s Oldsmobile anymore!”
But art is first and foremost for Goldbeck. The Airmada helmet just launched but he says “Some pretty crazy stuff is coming out this year.” Until then, Goldbeck finds satisfaction in seeing his stuff blow by him on LA freeways.
“Always cool to know people notice this stuff out in the world. Once it leaves my studio, I lose track of it. Unless one goes by splitting lanes on the freeway – That’s always cool.”