OCEAN MEETS : DILLON COLLINS
BY PHILLIP SCHULTZ
I was excited to talk to Dillon Collins for quite a few reasons, one of them being that he is an extremely talented painter that cuts skateboard decks into custom shapes and then uses them as a canvas to paint some of the raddest pieces you will ever see. Dillon is an inspiring guy; from his motivation to travel to his consistency with his art, he lives in a way that many think is impossible. He enjoys the work and fully focuses on the idea that the journey is more enjoyable than the destination. It's continued humility, dedication, and consistency that allows us to grow as creative individuals. Very few are as aware of these facts as Dillon is, and his attitude shows it. Life is about growth!
(All social media links are provided at the end of this article.)
Phil: What's your family like, Dillon?
Dillon: I grew up with a single mother, living out in Long Island. I have two brothers and we're all a year a part.
Phil: How did you start skating?
Dillon: Basically, everything my older brother did, me and my younger brother would do, too.
The typical follow the older brother thing. One day he picked up a skateboard, and that was the hobby that I was looking for. It ended up becoming my thing and still to this day my older brother and I will skate!
Phil: That's dope! Was your mom hyped on skateboarding?
Dillon: Yeah, she loves it. I was looking for friends and hobbies because I was the new kid out there, [Long Island] and I'm pretty quick so I would be the Wide Receiver for football and I was just getting pummeled because I was the small kid. But when I got to skateboard, no one was trying to throw a ball at me or do the damage. And I would skate rails outside of the house so she loved that.
Phil: Damn, I can relate to that. So, where are you from and where are you living?
Dillion: I was born in Brooklyn, went to middle and high school in Long Island, but then 2 or 3 months after high school I moved back to Brooklyn. I live with my older brother. From 18 til now, I'm 23, I've been living in Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn. It's me and 5 buddies in a two-floor spot.
Phil: That sounds wild. What's that area like?
Dillon: It used to be wild. Jay-Z and Biggie Smallz type shit. There used to be people with guns outside, cops never came to this neighborhood. But we got this dope spot, we got a mini-ramp in the basement and all that. We used to throw crazy parties.
Phil: That sounds like a party I need to be at. What's skateboarding like in that area?
Dillon: It's more like the 5 boroughs in general, and they are so well connected in New York. If there's one word that describes New York skateboarding, it's "gritty." And 6 months out of the year we're all wearing fuckin' jackets trying to skate these crusty ass, worn down ledges and stairs. And we're getting destroyed on these gritty New York streets. But it's starting to get a little cleaned up. There are a lot of really good skaters out here right now and they're killin' it. It has a lot to do with the city promoting skateparks. 10 years back there was like none, and now there's about a dozen.
Phil: So the community out there is doing super well?
Dillon: Definitely. There are a lot of parties and events. Vans has a warehouse in Brooklyn that hosts events and if you walk up with a skateboard they'll let you in. But everyone else without a board is like, "What the fuck is going on in there?" Well, you're not invited *laughs*
Phil: It sounds like a big family out there; there's a lot of unity.
Dillon: Yeah, for sure. There's a handful of skate shops in the area but they all respected it. I
used to work at Shut Skate shop in downtown Manhattan, which is New York's first skateboarding brand. The people behind Shut are the origin for Zoo York.
Phil: Damn, that's tight. Is it tough to move there?
Dillon: It's completely doable. Honestly, save two grand and know somebody here. If you move here by yourself, that's ballsy. But if you move here and you have a buddy, it makes it so much easier. I had one friend crash for three months, but he contributed. He wasn't just on the couch, he was barely at my place. He would basically sleep there and then go out and fuckin' hustle. And in those three months he saved as much money as he could, learned and got a routine in New York, got a job, met more people, made friends, all that. And once you make some connections, and you tell people that you're trying to stay here, and they like you, they'll do what they can to help you. It's doable, man. A helping hand really goes a long way.
Phil: That does sound doable. Not easy, but it's possible if you want it.
Dillon: Yeah. If there is one thing that's stopping someone from doing that, it's probably pride. And that's ridiculous. No one gets through this life without a little bit of help.
Phil: I feel you on that, it's expensive out there. Back to skateboarding, were you ever interested in filming or getting sponsored?
Dillon: Back in like 10th grade in high school, we were making our own t-shirts and making these home videos with skating in it. My buddy was the brains behind the computer and I was the artist. So I started designing t-shirts and hoodies, and we'd give a few free hoodies away in winter to cute girls, especially one's a year or two older than us. And then other people started buying them and girls started getting their boyfriends to buy our hoodies and we started making some money off of it. And then my buddy bought a VX and we got a full-length video off of it.
Phil: So it was always about the crew, not getting sponsored.
Dillon: Yeah, we always just had fun. I was a decent skater growing up, but I wasn’t tre flip crooking hand rails. These kids are too fucking good! *laughs*
Phil: Yeah, I hear you on that. How does skateboarding fit in now?
Dillon: And after a few years I moved to Brooklyn and was making shit money til I was 21 because no one wants to pay you until you have experience. So you earn your stripes. But the life really started when I got a job at a bar. If this inspires anyone, you can give up your weekends, work from 9 pm to 5 am on Friday and Saturday nights, and you will go home with $500 a night, if it's the right bar. There's no shame in the bar-back game.
Phil: You make this sound doable!
Dillon: There's nothing that’s worth it that is easy. But if you want something hard enough, you'll convince yourself that it's possible and you will find ways to overcome. It's just hard work man, it's possible.
Phil: We need to come back to this later. That would be an interesting piece about living in New York and being a skateboarder, bartender and creative entrepreneur. Dillon: Yeah man, for sure!
Phil: What is your biggest skateboarding and non-skateboarding accomplishments of 2017? Dillon: Working at the Wood, earning my stripes there by getting promoted up to bartender from bar-back all within a year, and then they allowed me to start throwing art shows. Also, getting into The Adidas Showcase. It's a space rented in lower Manhattan, and Adidas hosts an event there every few months and choose 6 artists to display their work. Those are some of the biggest accomplishments in terms of skateboarding, because I'm able to combine my two favorite things without breaking my ankles. *laughs*
Phil: And non-skateboarding?
Dillon: Honestly, it's having the courage to travel. I grew up with no money, and it taught me how to hustle early. I learned how to make a fuckin' paycheck and basically got addicted to money. I wasn't balling out, but I knew how to budget and save my money, so I had some money saved, when I got a call from one of my favorite people, Brett Conti, asking me to do him a small favor and meet him in Thailand. I had never even left the states, and he's asking me to meet him in Thailand in two weeks. So I expedited my passport, bought the flight, and stayed in hostels. It's totally affordable to travel.
Phil: What was it like traveling like that? Was it decent? Scary?
Dillon: The fear completely disappears. The fear is the unpredictable scenarios that you don't know exists or not. Your hard-wired brain is trying to keep you at home because that's what's comfortable and safe, that's what makes sense. We are creatures of habit, that's why we have routines; we wake up the next day and know exactly what we are going to do, only we might have to wear a jacket because it's raining outside. But this is different; you get on this flight and you land in the fuckin' middle of China because you have a layover flight, and all the signs are in a different language, and you only have 45 minutes to catch your flight. And you have notes to show the taxi driver in Bangkok so you can get taken to the hostel that's 45 minutes away. You realize that we are in the most insanely productive times that have ever existed. We have cell phones in our pockets that can get us anything, translate anything to any language in 30 seconds. The fear is taken out.
Dillon: The first one I went in was a 6 bedroom, Brett wasn't even there yet because he was flying in from Vietnam. So I'm by myself and I meet all these people, and they had all this energy and were telling me where they were from and where they've been. And they asked where I was coming from and I said the states, and they were like, Oh, where were you before that? And I'm like, uh, what? And it surprised them that it was my first time traveling. They were so within their own routine that most of the time, these people who travel, they become addicted and they stick to it. People will move to New York, and it's pretty easy to get a bartending job, like I said before, so they save $5,000 and then they go travel for 6 months. Because they spend $3 a day on a hostel, and that's the best part; you meet people. These people were my friends for five days. And when they went to Vietnam and I went to some random island in Thailand, we hugged goodbye and said have a good life. Or, if you're ever in New York, give me a call, and if I'm ever in France to give them a call. And we mean it, too.
Phil: That is wild! I can't even imagine having that type of an experience at this time in my life.
Let's talk about art, my dude! Who are your biggest influences?
Dillon: Keith Haring. I fucking love that dude's vibe. He has so many great messages with his work, on topics like war, sex and love. Unfortunately, he died at 31. He inspired me to try and do as much work in my life as possible.
Phil: Word. How do skateboarding and painting mix for you?
Dillon: The fact that they both have the same beginning and end, in terms of creating something from nothing. For example, you and five buddies come up to a ledge, and we all know how style in involved in skateboarding, and you can all warm up doing the same tricks. But you always have your individual style, it's like whatever trick you do on that ledge is like a painting. You saw it in your head and it became trial and error until you got it right, and hopefully someone documented it, right? *laughs*
Phil: I feel that, they intertwine perfectly. Both are art.
Dillon: Exactly. So having this idea in your head and creating it, being able to see it over and over again, it's the same as painting. It's the creative freedom.
Phil: That's dope. So, how did you establish a channel for YouTube?
Dillon: The inspiration came from skateboard videos first. Just editing clips and documenting good times with your friends. I've always like at-home comedy, too. Just getting your friends together to make a skit, and even if only you guys think it's funny, that's all that matters.
Phil: Who's one of your favorite people on YouTube?
Dillon: I'll bring it back to my buddy Brett. He's killing it on YouTube right now, and just in general. It's the progression that he's gotten from it, he's really good and is always trying to push me to get some shit done as well. He's out there every single day producing positive content, it led to this interview, even! He's an inspiring dude for sure, I'm proud to call him a friend. You'll see a lot of content with him on this coming month in Asia, all on my YouTube channel.
Phil: No doubt, I love Brett's work, he kills it. What is YouTube's relevance to you?
Dillon: 'Future' me being able to see 'past' me. It's like a video scrap book. Also, Casey Neistat started doing the daily thing but wanted to challenge himself to come up with legitimate content every day, and I thought it was so cool how he tells stories. He actually made a video on how to vlog that explains the different parts of story-telling. Plus, the fact that he has to brainstorm something every day to the point that it becomes effortless, that's a beautiful thing.
Phil: And you're on Instagram, too. How has social media like this helped your business? Dillon: For my Collins Collection Instagram, I wanted the aesthetic of the account to be a post every day. I have a setup in the backyard that allows me to hang a skateboard and get the same photo every time. People find comfort in consistency, so when they wake up and see the same thing as yesterday, but the new version or creation, it builds. YouTube knows this, Instagram knows this, it's how their algorithms work. It's the fact that I'm working on a board a day, and if you fuck with that, I'm going to have one for you tomorrow. It's all about consistency.
Phil: A lot of knowledge in that statement, man. What are your future plans?
Dillon: Asia is going to be a great time. It's four weeks of me enjoying what this world has to offer and I have no excuses not to have content. I plan on having a few videos out at least in the first two weeks.
Phil: That's going to be great, I can't wait to see it all.
Dillon: Thanks, bro! And when I get back, these boards are going up on a new website, too. 2017 has been such a productive year. Traveling, growing, learning; just continuing the path that I started in 2016. I can't wait for 2018!
Phil: Give us some final words, Dillon!
Dillon: You need to continue to produce the best possible work we can get out there. Producing art, or skateboarding, or overcoming a fear like traveling; you just need to take that first step through the door. You're not going to win every battle, but if you hang in you will win the war! *laughs*
Huge thank you to Dillon Collins for being a part of this, and we cannot wait to have him back for more articles. Check out his YouTube channel and Instagram to see content from his fourweek trip to Thailand!
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