Wax the Coping: Leon Karssen Interview

Any time I hear old dudes complaining about how younger skate kids aren't like skaters were back in the day, I have to stop them and ask how many younger skate kids they actually know. Because most of the young skate kids I'm around are exactly like me and my friends were when we were kids: they're into art and music, they make videos or zines, they draw on their griptape, they have fucked-up haircuts. One of my favorite young skate-art dudes is Leon Karssen. I don't know him, personally, but I think he's a good example of the future of skateboarding not sucking. I tracked down his email address recently to see what's good. —Michael Sieben

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So, Leon, how did a youngish art dude from Holland get so involved in the US skate-art scene?
I have a really fast Internet connection thanks to my mom's boyfriend, you feel. And it's mostly US skaters on Tumblr.

So do you credit Tumblr with your success or exposure to the US skate scene?
I guess, yeah. It's the first social-media platform where I gained followers and my drawings got spread. Instagram took over, though.

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Do you still live in Holland? Do you ever travel to the US?
Yes, I live in The Hague and Amsterdam. I haven't visited the US yet. I will make it there this year, though, I'm sure.

How did you get involved with Rip N Dip? That's where I first saw your art.  
Rip N Dip is cool. He just sent me a DM on Instagram asking if i wanted to ''collab bro.''

When you say "he" hit you up, who is he?
Ryan O'Connor. He's the owner. He was also in some of those classic Weekendtage vids.

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You recently did some stuff with Habitat, yeah? You got any other projects in the mix right now that you're excited about?
Yes! Habitat collab is coming out soon. I have a few other projects coming but they have to remain unknown to the public for now.

When did you start drawing your signature cat character? Does he have a name? Is he based off of a real cat?
February 2nd, 2012. I was bored in class and had no paper other than my time table. I actually have it scanned; it's the one holding the wine. No name and genderless unless given a penis or boobs, I guess.

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Do you believe in aliens?
If you don't believe in life outside this tiny lil' piece of garbage people call Earth, I don't want to talk to you. I like to think my drawings are actual existing creatures in this universe.

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Who is your favorite skateboarder?
I have no favorite of anything, but here are some names that pop up in my mind right now in no particular order: Antoine Asselin, Brandon Westgate, Gou Miyagi, Heath Kirchart, Lizzie Armanto, Jordan Sanchez, Na-Kel Smith, Cyrus Bennett, Leon Karssen, Ryan Garshell, Al Davis, Mark Suciu, Mike Carroll, Franky Villani, Allysha Bergado—there's so many more, but I can't remember names right now.

You included yourself on your list of favorite skateboarders. What is it about your own skateboarding that you like so much?
That it's me doing the actual skating. I enjoy that way more than watching any other skater skate. It's like watching somebody eat something that you like. You love eating it yourself way more than watching somebody else eat it. Logic.

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What is your favorite skateboard company of all time?
Like I said, I have no favorites, but this one company pops up in my head right now: Fancy Lad. Watch their videos and you will know why.

Would you like to someday own your own skate brand?
Officially, no. I like the concept of making my own clothing and prints on boards (after doing some shape research), but nothing official. Names and logos scare me.

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How's the skate scene in Holland? Do the legal drugs make people lazy?
The skate scene here is cool, I guess. Every year new spots appear and nine out of ten skaters are chill. You can buy weed in any Western country, so it being semi-legal here makes no difference. Most people do smoke here, though, but it all depends on the amount you use. The big potheads barely skate anyway.

When did you start skating? Were you already interested in art?
Two-thousand-nine/2010. I always doodled around a little but with not a lot of originality and inspiration. Skateboarding definitely triggered my interest in creating stuff. If I don't skate for a while due to injuries or weather my motivation to draw gets limited as well.

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What would be your dream project or dream company to do art for?
Fusion collaboration with bronze56k and Crocs. Crocs x bronze56k x Leon Karssen 2k16.  Make it happen. Besides that I have no clue. I never think about that stuff. Maybe some high-fashion brand would be sick.
What advice do you have for the younger art kids out there that want to get their work seen?
Draw or create something, upload it to the Internet and sit down. Thats all I do. No planned tactic, really.

What advice do you have for all the old farts that want the same thing?
Same. Just be lucky and be seen/shared by the right people.

Any last words?
Don't lose your switch flips.

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See more of Leon's work on Instagram: @leonkarssen or on Tumbr: leonkarssen.tumblr.com