Smile Politely

Art inspires even when you’re Dan and out

Daniel White — musician, artist, zine writer, and skateboard designer — feels it’s essential for C-U to have a Skate Park. I had the pleasure of meeting and talking with this 28 year-old skater-boy maverick. Even though we had just met that day, it was like having a conversation with a good friend; Daniel White has a very warm and welcoming personality. He shared with me his love for art, music, cats, and his girlfriend, Janet. Growing up in Bartlett Il, about an hour from Chicago, he recollects he had a pretty good childhood. Living in the suburbs, there wasn’t much for youths to do, so when a skate park was built it changed everything. He remembers the feeling he and his friends had, “When my town got a skate park it was exhilarating! A place where we had an identity, it was extremely beneficial.” He’s still friends with the kids he grew up with: this hometown boy is in a band called Communion with two of his childhood friends.

Drawing skate parks is a big part of Daniel’s life, he says. “Skate parks are like abstract impressions of sculptures.” He should know, living in Washington DC, Chicago, and now Urbana, he’s skated in many parks and he’s also drawn them all. He’s only lived in Urbana for almost a year but is getting right to work on advocating for a skate park. Mr. White has applied for an Urbana Arts Grant to have a skate park put in Urbana. Skating and skate parks aren’t the only thing Mr. White has going in his life. He’s also a zine creator: his first issue, The Cool Esses, features characters such as Longhaired Skeleton, Office Bat, and Sharkspear. It’s a fantasy/adventure story about three friends in a band traveling around the country in a magical van. He plans to add other fictional elements — more magic and science fiction — as the story develops.

He recently discovered he had a new talent. He and childhood sweetheart, Janet Swatscheno, had been living in Urbana for only a week when they experienced an unfortunate occurrence. While skateboarding, Daniel broke his right hand, the hand he does everything with, including drawing. He tells me it was a difficult time for the both of them. He was depressed and feeling sorry for himself because he couldn’t draw. But having a supportive girlfriend in his life helped turn things around for him. “I was sitting on the couch, drunk. When my girlfriend came home, she said ‘Look, I know you’re upset. I’m not mad but you have three days, maybe a week to feel sorry for yourself. Just try drawing with your left hand — I know you can do it. You can do anything.’” The next day he starting drawing with left hand, as with any new experiences, it took time. He practiced daily, drawing four to five hours, sitting on the couch. He perfected this by making 80 left handed drawings.

He started drawing logos and skate boards, which lead to yet another talent he has, add graphic designer to the list as well. He’s teamed up with friend and follow skateboarder, Andrew Valentine, to make skateboard hardware and designing skate boards for Valentine’s company Skeuweps which can be purchased at See You CD and Vinyl located at 123 W Main St, Urbana, IL.

He thanks skateboarding for helping him realize all his talents, but there are stigmas and prejudiced opinions, still tied to skateboarding and skateboarders. I found it interesting that he stated when he lived in more trashy neighborhoods being seen with a skateboard wasn’t a problem. “The older people were like: at least that kid has a hobby! He’s not just standing around intimidating people.” But the upper- to middle-class neighborhood where he grew up was very different. People looked down on skateboarders and the police would follow them. In C-U, there seems to be a more of a diverse attitude towards skateboarders. I’ve seen a lot more youths– girls and boys of all ages and different races — with skateboards. The stigma that has gone along with being a skateboarder, being homeless, bums, lazy, jobless, aren’t as prevalent today. But there are still judgmental opinions out there regarding skate parks and the “type” of people that come with it. “You can’t identify as being into something, with people outside of it not having a preconceived notion of it, or without judging you because of it.” Daniel White says.

This artist has a lot of talent and I’m looking forward to see what he will do next. He hasn’t set up an artist page as of yet, but if you want to see more of his artwork check out his Instagram @fannydwhite.

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