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PROFILE: Orillia man falls in love with the art of skateboarding

'Every board is artwork,' says Dylan Court, whose art decorates downtown store; Youth has a passion to help build skateboard community in Orillia

Anywhere street art covers buildings around Orillia, you may find a frowny, sasquatch-esque caricature among the tags and designs. This tag is known as ‘Jimmy’, and is the signature of artist and skateboard enthusiast Dylan Court, a.k.a Bones.

The simple body outline and frowny face of the caricature made Jimmy a great warmup sketch for Court. As pages filled up with Jimmies, more people took notice and connected with the character, making him more requested. Over time, Jimmy has become a defining feature of Court’s work.

Court says perpetually sad Jimmy represents “the person inside” who comes out when one is alone.

Art, especially the expressive and colourful variety Court makes, ties heavily to the skate culture he lives and breathes.

“Every board is artwork and there’s so many creative people involved in (skating). As soon as you start skating you start getting exposed to all this artwork,” says Court.

A gift of a banana board kicked off a skateboarding passion at age five that’s stuck for over 20 years, drawing him into the skating subculture and into art.

Growing up in Orillia, Court frequented Kahuna Surf Shop and Orillia’s skate park with the friends he influenced to pick up the sport. Post-graduation from Park Street Collegiate Institute, Court took a job at the surf shop where he met and became close friends with Mark Watson and Grace Schofield.

Court followed Watson and Schofield when they opened Pocket Skate & Vintage in August of 2020, working with them at the store. At Pocket, Court’s art decorates the walls and pieces rotate as they are sold.

It was Watson who gave Court the nickname Bones. Watson called him by a number of nicknames when Court started working at Kahuna, though Bones fit best as he’s a “skinny, wiry guy.” Though Court wasn’t actively searching for an artist pseudonym, he can’t remember signing work as anything other than Bones.

Heavily into the skate world, in his late teens Court naturally began painting the grip tape of his skateboards, cutting scrap pieces of cardboard to make spray paint stencils. Then, Court says film characters like Vincent Vega and out-there pop culture figures like Hunter S. Thompson filled his work.

“Anything I came up with went onto a board, there wasn’t any real concept or plan,” says Court.

The hobby took greater hold over time, as Court began gifting his artwork and friends requested commissioned pieces. Local skateboarder, photographer and friend of Court’s, Bill Smart, gave Court the last nudge into the art world in 2012.

“(He) showed up at my apartment (with) a stack of used skateboards and he said ‘Paint these boards, we’re having a show.’”

The two showed off their work at The Brownstone while a local band played. The bar was ‘jam packed’ according to Court, and he says having his work be well-received felt fantastic.

“It’s one of the best feelings - you created a thing and you know, it’s cool to me but it’s hard to know if other people are going to respond to it and pay their hard earned money on it.”

Since then, Court has held many shows at The Brownstone and STUDIO, Travis Shilling and Naiomi Woodman’s space on Peter Street which now serves as headquarters for the pair’s youth art collective, Otter Art Club.

While stressful, Court says the single-night shows he puts on have a party-like buzz that makes them “awesome” to host.

Court still says he is unsure if he would call art his career as it does not pay most of his bills - his love of the craft is why he creates.

Taking inspiration from other skaters that make art, and the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Court makes colourful works with themes of sadness and dark humour.

The cheap cassette tapes, wooden planks and skateboard decks Court covers with paints he finds for free help keep the price of his art accessible, and give pieces a lived-in feel you can’t get from stretched canvas.

Court says he hopes to remind people that sadness is universal with his art. “We all get sad, and it’s kind of comforting knowing other people aren’t super happy,” Court says.

Aside from art and skating for enjoyment, Court is vice-president and creative director of the Orillia Skateparkers non-profit. The group works with the city, raising money to build a new skate park in town.

“The support from city councillors, the mayor and the community has been huge. There’s been very little negative feedback. It’s very rewarding work,” says Court.

The park is missing some key elements and has been out of date for years according to Court, leading some Orillians to travel out of town for a place to skate.

So far, the organization has raised over $20,000 since their formation in 2019 through a carnival-style event on Go Skate Day in 2019, donation boxes at local businesses, Orillia Skateparkers merchandise sales and auctions.

The organization auctioned off skateboards decorated in a mix of mediums by over 40 local artists to raise over $6,000 in what they called their Wall Boards Auction. Court is organizing another auction to take place this summer, this time with over 60 artists and a fundraising goal of $10,000.

Court hopes the organization can better the skate community in Orillia, which has been growing over the years but gained even more members this past summer when people were looking for outdoor activities that could be done solo or in small groups during the pandemic.

For now, Court is focused on the Wall Boards Auction, creating art and outfitting shoppers with skate gear at the job he loves.

Court’s work is showcased on his Instagram page, and more information on the Orillia Skateparker’s organization on their main Instagram page as well as a page dedicated to the Wall Boards Auction.

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Abby Hughes, a lifelong Orillia resident and Orillia Secondary School graduate, is a second-year Ryerson University journalism student interning with OrilliaMatters.