Discs are the biggest part of the sport of disc golf. Now, to some, the look of the disc does not really matter. In their case, if the disc flies how they want the disc is considered a win. But, to quite a few people in the community, there is a big case for gorgeous looking discs. The mentality of “look good play good” falls into this. I know personally when I step up to the tee pad and am holding a disc that glimmers in the sun and has a flashy stamp, I just know I throw it farther. All these beautiful works of art on discs must come from somewhere. Well, I got the chance to talk to and learn from disc golf graphic artist Mike Inscho about this world and he had a lot of great things to say. Enjoy!
Before diving too deep into the world of graphic design and art, Mike is also a disc golfer. Before becoming an artist, Mike was in the United States Marine Corps. He told me “once I had gotten out of the Marine Corps, I went to art school and lived in campus housing.” While on campus, he found disc golf through one of his friends. He mentioned that “my friends basically had a Disc Golf course in their backyard.” Which was the Kentwood Disc golf course in Raleigh, NC. After playing a few rounds he got the bug like we all do at some point. He explained that “I was hooked from that first round in 2007 and fell in love right away.” As well in his words “I fell down the rabbit hole that is the disc golf world.” Which is a very deep hole but one we all go down eventually.
Before Mike was even in the world of disc golf, he was an artist and knew he wanted to be one for quite some time. He told me that “I knew I wanted to be an artist since I was in high school, however, I didn’t have the money to get into art school so that’s why I joined the Marines.” Now, while he was in the Marines, he learned many valuable lessons and did his tours while he was there. So, after the Marines he said, “I used my GI bill and chose to go to art school for 3D animation.” 3D animation at the time seemed like the thing to do for Mike and he seemed to enjoy it. While having lofty goals to join the Pixar animation team (because who wouldn’t) he found a love for 3D graphics. Specifically, video game animation. Low and behold Mike told me that “my first internship out of school was to create virtual towns for a game called Fallen Earth.” His job was to just enter in all the towns that players would pass through on their adventures, he loved it. However, after working on the 3D side of things for a while, he found his love for the 2D side in story boards for companies. The 2D side of production eventually lead him to concept art for video games. After his time working with game companies, Mike found graphic design.
Then, in 2009 or 2010, all of Mikes worlds collided. Mike is fan of disc golf and was lurking on websites like disc golf review and disc golf course review. But Mike told me “I was online when I found a posting for an MVP Ion stamp design contest.” Mike was not a graphic designer and often did concept design for games and other forms of media as well. So, a graphic design contest was out of his realm but worth a shot. He told me “I started there and eventually co-won the design contests with another designer named, Zachary Kelbaugh. MVP essentially combined both strong ideas into one stamp that ended up getting printed on the 3rd run Ion.” He continued to do his concept design work but also continued to work on MVP discs as well as other brands for companies. He also mentioned that “I have around eight boxes full of discs that I have designed over the years.” Which is a feat and an impressive portfolio of discs.
Graphic design often isn’t a one step process. Having my own little bit of experience when it comes to designing graphics and small designs, it often takes multiple tries to get just the right idea. Mikes process is one that I think is elaborate but amazing. He started off by saying that “I reference a lot, you can work from just your head, but it often doesn’t come out right and takes too much time.” Referencing images gives Mike a clear image of what he exactly needs for a specific design. When it comes to referencing, Mike “puts all of the references on a separate sheet and makes sure I have them in the right spot before I start thumbnails.” The amount of reference material depends on the piece and could be one thing or many things, it all depends. When he starts his drawing or thumbnails, he told me that “I create around 10-14 thumbnail iterations before I like to dive into rough drawings.” I was surprised to hear that Mike took so much time on each drawing. I understand the idea of taking your time, but pages of work are way more than I had originally thought. When asked why he had so much before a drawing he replied with “it helps get the bad ideas out and lets my eyes open to the idea of what I thought was possible.” So, he takes his time to flush out each idea before he disregards it. Which shows how much he cares about the product and each design as it comes to him. I appreciate the process that he goes through to reach a design he deems fit for the masses.
I often ask the disc golfers who or what inspires them to keep going. But, to twist it to fit to Mike I figured I would like to know what inspires his style of art and designs in general. Often artists like to have a certain place in their home to work on their art or maybe they have a certain spot to gain inspiration from. For Mike he finds inspiration “all over the place, on Instagram a lot but I also follow a few threads on Pinterest. Tattoo artists are a good place to follow from, it is mostly social media.” The internet brings up ideas that others can do, and Mike finds his inspiration through others work. Mikes style shines through each design and piece that he does. He tries to vary his style but if you look close enough you can see similar patterns in each design. When asked about who or what inspires him, he told me “I am really into Rat Fink/ Ed “Big Daddy” Roth and a lot of the kustom culture style of art.” Those are not common art styles that are displayed in the modern era, but Mike grew up with those styles all around him and has gleaned off those throughout his design career. For more specific names of artists Mike mentioned “Jim Phillips and Paul Romano.” These artists each have their own style of art that inspires Mike. Like Jim Phillips does great work for Santa Cruz Skate boards and Paul Romano in Mikes words “cleverly combined both traditional and digital mediums and created some pretty iconic album art for my favorite band Mastodon.” These art styles are all different but seem to have their own ebb and flow that got Mike to get to the art he does nowadays.
The surprisingly tough question that I ask the individuals I interview is what their favorite disc and course is. But, with Mike I wanted to know his favorite disc and design that he has done. The disc question seemed to come quick for him, “the volt from MVP, I use the volt for so many shots and it gives me sneaky distance.” The volt is a fairway driver from MVP and I have heard many good things about it from many different players. Mike also added that he liked the volt in neutron plastic. The part that stumped Mike was his choice of a favorite design. Rightly so, he has done designs for eight years now and picking one seems like a difficult task. However, after looking through some of his boxes he gave me his top two. The first one he mentioned was “a local stamp called The Great 8, it’s a one-day tournament where you play 8 different courses throughout the Raleigh and surrounding region. The disc is from the 19th annual and the way the whale comes out of the water and the boat racing toward the viewer to get out of situation they’re in is pretty dynamic.” After looking through the stamps I can agree that this stamp is one of a kind and shows Mikes talent off so well. Now, after some deliberating, he came up with a second idea. His second was “the 2016 solitude open stamp. It is just a disc golfer out there trying to conquer the course, it mixes a lot of the size relationships and vastness of the environment in front of him.” The passion in his words will show you that each of these stamps mean something to him. He puts his whole heart into his designs and having a top two is hard and I am surprised he could give me that. Pictured below are both discs as reference so you can see how they look.
Advice comes in all shapes and forms. So, with Mike being a graphic designer I wanted to get advice for those of you out there who want to pursue something like Mike. When it comes to advice Mike told me “do not dismiss the fundamentals. If you have the talent then go for it, not saying to work for free, get paid when you can, but start local. Show them what you can do and the more you can do the better.” You must start somewhere as an artist and when it comes to graphic design, sometimes you must take smaller bites at the start. By starting at your local scene, you find ways to help your local disc golf club and are able to start building your graphic design portfolio.
As each interview comes to an end, after the long conversation wraps up, I have the same question each time. The question being “Is there anything else you would like the people to know about you they may not?” This is giving the individual an opportunity to let the world know anything that may not be known about them, and Mike had some great news and information to share. Mikes response to this was “I have designed hot stamps for other people and companies for the last eight years. In 2019, I plan on coming up with a few of my own stamps. MVP Disc Sports will most likely where I’ll start and if there’s an overwhelming interest; I may move to other manufacturers. I have always wanted to do something like this but never the guts to do so. I know my style doesn’t’ fit everyone, but I know that I will do my best to deliver something that is wild. I’m excited for 2019.”
I would like to thank Mike Inscho for taking the time out of his day to talk to me and answer my questions. If you would like to know more about Mike and follow what he is doing with his art or see some of his art, you can follow the next couple of links. For his Facebook page you can follow this link :https://www.facebook.com/artofinscho/ as well as his blog where he posts more than disc golf designs :http://www.mikeinscho.com/ Be on the lookout for more coming soon from me!
Picture Credit goes to Mike Inscho