Skateboarding is arguably more of an art form than a sport. People endlessly argue over labeling it a lifestyle, a sport, an art, or whatever… people like to argue. No matter what you call it, it undoubtably attracts artists of all types. The visual identity of skateboarding is directly a result of the minds of artists who work with skateboarding as a subject and an influence. Dominick Susca is one of those artists who just happens to hail from New York. He was nice enough to sit down with us and answer some of our questions below.
Interview via Peter Pabón
Your name and where are you from?
I’m Dominick Susca, and I’m from Astoria, Queens.
Good old Astoria, Queens… I use to skate out there in the early nineties, how long have you been skating?
I got a skateboard the summer before high school but I couldn’t really do anything on it until I met a few kids the first week of school. They would become life long friends and my skate crew. That was eleven years ago now.
Funny, I started the summer before high school as well, same thing, couldn’t do anything till I met kids at high school that were better than me… You’re an artist as well, how long have you been creating art?
As long as I can remember. I was always doodling in class and making cartoons instead of paying attention so my teachers thought it would be good for me to go to art & design for high school. Taking classes for art kinda bummed me out and skating took over my life. I was filming all my friends skate at the time and I ended up going to college for film. Working on a set with a million pretentious film students who think they’re gonna be the next Martin Scorsese got old quick and I ended up teaching myself animation so I could tell a story without having to rely on a bunch of people to get what I want done. I didn’t really start taking my art seriously until I was graduating college, I was working as a messenger at a travel agency and then I was bartending for awhile. I realized I was wasting my time and creativity on trying to survive on a day to day basis, and if I didn’t want art to just be my hobby I had to really start being more serious about it. Only recently have I started showing my work and putting myself out there.
That’s usually the struggle, pursuing ones passion and day to day survival, so I can relate. Do you feel your skateboarding and art go hand in hand?
Most definitely! They’re both forms of self expression and have that whole feeling of independence when you’re doing them. I feel art and skateboarding go hand in hand now so more than ever with all these new independent companies with great art and creative direction like Polar, Mother, Tired, Isle, Hammers and Palace that are becoming so popular. When I was younger looking at all the different deck graphics in the skate shop it would inspire me to go draw my own graphics, the stuff kids have to be inspired by now is so awesome I can’t imagine not being inspired by them! As a side note, without graphics on boards we would all be skating some pretty boring blank decks.
I feel the same way, skating makes us see the world differently and our approach towards our surroundings, which filters into the rest of our lives. Your recent series depicts some cartoon characters going thru life issues and angst, was that your way of showing innocence lost?
Yeah, among other things. I’ve always used art as a coping mechanism for the trials and tribulations of life. When I was working on this last series I wanted to show the struggles of life without completely bumming people out, so I chose friendly characters that people know and love and put them in these various turbulent situations. It’s a side of them you don’t normally see but is still there and I feel like everyone has had their fair share of struggles and can relate to that. I can’t remember who said it to me but a very wise person told me to “draw what you know.” I try to draw as much as possible from my own life experiences because it’s the only thing I really know much about.
It’s the same thing with photography, I shoot what I know and it’s my way of copping with my problems as well. A lot of people don’t know that your art was the original face/flyer for Skate Night (at Epsteins), and you’ve done stuff with a few local brands, can you share some of the projects you’ve worked on and any future projects?
Definitely! Besides the skate night stuff I’ve kept busy with a bunch of my own and collaborative projects. I make a comic book called “Skatesquatch” that’s currently on its second issue, and from that I did a collaboration with the good folks at Labor Skateshop that included a board, a hat and two tees. I designed a graphic for the Gnarmads for a shirt they did in collaboration with Fortune and help with the creative direction and production of Canal wheels. I got the pleasure of animating a title card for Jermaine Fowler’s production company “Delores” and helped animate a documentary for the rock band White Mystery. My friend Alex curated a show featuring some of our friends and myself so I made the series of drawings we talked about earlier and showed them alongside a zine I made. When I’m not doing a specific project I make little ones for myself, so I make a few t shirts and pins and sell them on my webstore. I recently finished a music video for Wu-Tang Parental Advisory artist Killa Sin that should be debuting pretty soon, it’s been my biggest project yet. Coming up I’m starting another project with Wu-Tang Parental Advisory.
Was gonna ask about Skatesquatch, how did he come into being… Skateboarding Sasquatch, is he skating a pizza board?
Skatesquatch is a skateboarding Sasquatch, the modern day Animal Chin. I first came up with him as a doodle in college, but it kinda stemmed from a freelance job I did at the time. I was doing these vector illustrations for the various ways and places on your body for a waxing salon through my cousin who does PR and design. It was a pretty funny situation, I as the only man in an office full of women and I was drawing diagrams of a proper Brazilian bikini wax. I was doodling pictures of hairy people and my cousin came by and thought it was the funniest thing she had ever seen. From that point forward I made it a point to draw my characters as hairy as possible. Eventually a fat hairy guy became a fat hair Sasquatch and then eventually that Sasquatch found a skateboard and had to learn how to boneless after he saw a vision poster of the Gonz doing one, and from there the Skatesquatch was born. As for his skateboard… he’s had a few different ones in various appearances, there’s one with a bootleg screaming hand, a plain red one and the one with the pizza on it; the pizza guy is a character that I animate little .gifs of that I call “a slice of gnar.” I’m hoping one day Skatesquatch gets a pro model and I can just draw that graphic for him for the rest of his career.
That’s actually pretty hilarious, he stemmed from illustrations of hairy people and proper body waxing… Ha! Thanks Dom, it was a pleasure interviewing you, do you have any thing else you want to share in closing? Parting words? Shout outs?
I wanna thank you for interviewing me and taking an interest in what I’m doing. Gotta shout out my fam, my friends, Canal, the Gnarmads, James and Joe at Labor, Mike at Shut, Alex Corporan, Pookie, NY Skateboarding, Tex & Walt, anybody who supports my art and all the people just trying to express themselves.