This past weekend, one of skateboarding’s most uninhibited figures gave a talk to art students at Arizona State University about his experiences working as an artist. As he explained in the talk, he was asked to speak by someone from the university after they saw him reading a sticker-covered book in a restaurant and struck up a conversation.
Dill covered a lot of signposts in his career and focused heavily on Fucking Awesome stuff toward the end, but mixed in between his stories and asides was some genuine advice. Some of these lessons seem worth further contemplating, and since not everyone feels like sitting through an hour of talking, we decided to pull those snippets out and summarize them here.
Feel free to skim these Dill-isms and incorporate them into your life as you see fit, but take a second to reconsider smoking crack and PCP at work.
“If your art sucks, your art sucks”
At one point, Dill shows a photo of some phallic-looking clouds and birds, and says, “You know, it’s just two birds in the sky, and I like it.” The crowd laughs, and he’s about to tell them to not let others say your art sucks, but he stops himself to say, “I mean, if your art sucks, your art sucks. There’s nothing you could do about it.”
The point isn’t to give up when you’re not succeeding or wallow in self-pity. Rather, it’s that everyone is guilty of making bad art, and if you want to, you shouldn’t let failures keep you from making stuff. And even if it still sucks, at least you made something, and sometimes that’s worth it on its own.
Don’t repeat yourself
Dill gets this point across in a couple of ways, most memorably by talking about old photos he took when he was living a drug-fueled, party lifestyle. Since he doesn’t live the same way anymore, and could never take another photo like the ones he took back then, he sees that as an opportunity to let the past exist as it does and not chase those old successes down by trying to repeat them.
Basically, his point is that you’re better off living in the present and working with the person you are today. As your life moves on, you evolve, so recreating what you did at a different point of your life probably isn’t worth whatever you hope to get out of it.
“Don’t say ‘like'”
In perfect Dill fashion, while he was talking about the Earl Sweatshirt album cover he shot, he stopped himself to say, “Don’t say ‘like.’ Fucking don’t say ‘like.'”
Older folks always say this stuff to younger people—and generally speaking, it’s not a great habit to have—but what was interesting was watching Dill say it to himself. It takes a certain kind of person to stop mid-sentence in a room full of people and correct themselves, and we rarely get to see Dill operating live, in real time like that.
Read more books
Dill pleads with the young minds in the audience, “You gotta read, guys. You gotta read fucking books. You have got to read fucking books.” In an attempt to bridge the generation gap, he analogizes the act of reading a book to looking at your phone, since they’re both sources for just about any and all information. Kind of a funny comparison to make, especially to kids who are probably reading more than most adults, but on point nonetheless.
He also reminds kids that reading exercises your imagination, which aside from preserving your brain function, can make you feel more alive too.
It’s okay to be insecure
If you’ve visited or seen photos of the FA store, you might have noticed Dill’s paintings hanging up high on the walls. Turns out he hung them there because he didn’t want people to see the imperfect details on them. Even for someone who has had a very successful career, Dill compares himself to the students in the room who probably have their own insecurities about their work.
His point was, even if you’ll never be fully satisfied with your work, you can benefit from looking back on your early stuff and remind yourself how much you’ve learned and progressed. (Does that mean we’ll ever see a sequel to Dill’s space-aged DVS shoe?)
Work with what you have
One painting Dill shows was done on a scrap of styrofoam. Later, he starts to question the environmental responsibility of producing more and more product (T-shirts, boards, hoodies) that inevitably end up in landfills, but the point Dill made here was to remind kids that it’s OK to create even when their resources aren’t perfect.
Just because you don’t have the ideal supplies or conditions to work in, doesn’t mean you’re skills or possibilities are limited. In fact, your material innovation may even inspire others.
“You never know where you’re going to end up”
With Mike Piscitelli’s iconic 9/11 photo in the background, Dill sighs and says, “This is the part where you think you know where your life is going.” Dill never thought he’d make it out of the trailer park he grew up in, yet here he was, photographed in front of a history-defining event, reportedly hungover.
This photo wasn’t his big break, but Dill claims this was the day FA began because the memorability of everything going on in this photo helped him realize anything was possible.
“You’ll destroy your life chasing a significant other who is wack”
Before Dill comes to this idea, he hints at it by saying, “If your friends suck, you suck. If your friend is sitting around, vaping, listening to Lil’ Xan, they suck.” Dill seems to be influenced by those surrounding him, so in his later years, he’s decided to surround himself with young creative skaters and artists who have much more to offer than an unhealthy partner.
We all probably learned this lesson in high school when that one friend stopped skating so they could spend more time with their boyfriend or girlfriend, but it’s not a bad one to be reminded of.