In 2008, prop master and professional skateboarder Morgan Campbell was sitting on a friend’s front verandah in Melbourne. A man on a bicycle rode by and Campbell’s friends called out to him: How many have you done now?
“He yelled back 487, or something,” says Campbell.
The cyclist was Japanese-born street artist Hiroyasu Tsuri, AKA Twoone, who is now known for his striking, animalistic murals and paintings. At the time Tsuri was in the middle of a mammoth project – painting intricate images onto 1,000 spray paint cans.
The next time Campbell saw Tsuri (this time the artist was riding a skateboard) the project was complete. But Campbell, who has a reputation as a perpetually good dude in the skateboard community, noticed Tsuri had another challenge to deal with.
“His board was really trashed, so I told him to come by my place and I would give him one,” says Campbell. “Then he asked to make a portrait of me.”
Two days later Tsuri returned to collect “about 10 years’ worth” of used skateboard parts, plus a recent photo of Campbell in action, for the portrait. It wasn’t until months later at an exhibition that Campbell saw the final result.
“I never saw the portrait and had no idea what he’d done,” he says. “I took my mum.”
“The trucks [the steering devices underneath a skateboard] are supposed to be my spine, the wheels are supposed to be my cells. When I asked him what the crazy creature next to me painted on the board was, he said it was my soul.”
At the end of the show, Tsuri gifted the piece to Campbell; it’s been on his wall ever since.
“I feel weird, [because] I don’t ever have photos of me up. Hopefully people don’t think I just made a little shrine to myself to put on the wall.”
Campbell says the work is steeped in nostalgia, with each piece of paraphernalia triggering memories of skate sessions with friends all over the world.
“But that’s not what I love most about it,” says Campbell.
“I give people a board without even thinking about it. I don’t expect anything back and the fact that he went to all that trouble afterwards was just really sweet … for him to make a portrait of me is just a total honour.”