Tommy Couzens is a skater and artist based in London. After seeing his creative approach to skating and then discovering he makes great paintings we had to find out more about him, so we hit him up for a chat about his work.
We found out beyond his sick skating, that he has a great angle on his art and eye for originality and that he doesn’t just paint and skate but that he also makes music and is putting together an album of his songs.
Read his member interview below to get his thoughts on creativity, skateboarding, painting, playing guitar, producing music, working on his new album, influences and inspirations, his most recent clips and tricks, upcoming plans, Slim, Stockwell, Southbank and his favourite skaters, artists, musicians, styles, videos, photos and spots of all time and more.
What’s your full name?
My full name is Thomas Peter Couzens
Where did you grow up and where do you live now?
Right now I live in South London. Before I lived in this town outside of Oxford called Faringdon, however I also went to to boarding school so I guess you could say that I grew up in the Cotswolds as well.
When did you first see skateboarding?
The first time I saw anything to do with skateboarding was seeing copies of Sidewalk Magazine – RIP – in my local WHSmith I can’t remember who was on the cover,
I don’t have it because my mum wouldn’t buy it for me at the time.
That’s one of the reasons why I’m so stoked on the Skateboarders Companion stocking their magazines in newsagents. A lot of people don’t have access to a local skateshop and so it just makes sense.
What was your first board?
The first board I got was this Fracture complete when I was about 10. I got it from this shop called ATB in Swindon.
ATB is this indoor skatepark which I never really skated because I was way to nervous at the time. I took that board home and immediately spray painted the whole thing black and red, absolutely ruining the whole board.NIt wan’t really until I was about 18 when I got my first proper board which was this Real skateboards board I got second hand from a local at OWP
Where did you learn to skate and who with?
I first learned to skate in my parents’ cul de sac. It wasn’t for a while until my town got a skatepark which soon got overrun by scooters and tykes on bikes.
As for any crew I never really had one, besides my friend Harry. It wasn’t until I moved to London that I ever had a solid crew of skater mates.
I honestly believe it’s best not to make any plans and just show up to the park and make friends with whoever’s there. Or just skate with your headphones in and ignore everyone, depending on the mood.
What kinds of art were you making growing up as a kid?
Growing up I was obsessed with Pokemon so most of my time was spent copying my brothers trading cards and trying to make up my own Pokemon.
From copying Simpsons characters to drawing pictures of people playing guitar; mostly just stuff I used to watch or things I thought were cool.
Which skaters influence you to skate the way you do?
Nick Meares and Jake Gatehouse were two of the first skaters I met in London.
I really look up to both of them, we’d have these sessions at Stockwell where we would just find random bits of wood and make the most insane obstacles.
If you ask Jake how high he can Ollie he’d Ollie over your house. They both taught me a lot and it’s always sick to have a session with them when they’re in town.
Dane Brady, Quentin Boillon are also two skaters that I love to watch, everything they do is so smooth and pretty out of the box.
Sam Murgatroyd. If I could skate half as good as him I would die happy.
You’ve got a sick Backside Nosepick. What’s the key to the trick?
Make sure that you have one foot square on the nose and one foot square on the tail that way when you Nollie in the board sticks to your feet.
Honestly that trick is a little bit of a lucky dip for me. I’ll land one every like ten tries or so. Wish I had them properly consistent
What inspired your 360 Hippy Jump out the bank at Southbank?
Most of my tricks are just throwing shit at the walls and seeing what sticks.
Honestly my flip trick game is pretty stinking so I have to think outside the box most of the time especially when it comes to filming lines
What was the last new trick you learned?
The last new trick I learnt was this Backside Disaster Back Shuv out. I think I saw Jordan Thackeray do it in ReRun edit. It was so dope I had to learn it
What new tricks are you working on right now?
Right now I’m working on getting Impossibles down. I wanna get a really good one that I can just bang out consistently.
Really wanna blast an Impossible Tail Grab down the London Bridge set some point soon. Just got to put in the time and the effort.
What do you prefer to skate – street or transition?
Transition all the way, I don’t have to Ollie when I skate tranny. Maybe a lil bit of both. Depends on how I’m feeling.
What do you think makes skateboarding creative?
There’s no rule book that dictates what is skateboarding and what isn’t.
Some internet weirdos like to tell you what skateboarding is but ultimately if you’re riding your board and doing stuff it all counts.
I really love it when skaters throw in some outta left field tricks into their videos.
Like when Louie Barletta does that boardslide in ‘Bag of Suck’ where he jumps off and back on. Tricks like that make you do a double take.
I think the lack of any clear objective is really what makes it an art form as opposed to a sport. Aside from landing a trick there is no objective.
Who do you think are the most creative skaters out there?
I think it’s been said before but Mike Arnold is like Picasso on a skateboard. Everything he does is a work of art.
I think that skaters sit in two camps between being athletes and being artists. Some skaters skew to the more artistic side and others to the athletic side.
Slim is another skater that I would say is one of the most creative skaters I know. I don’t know anyone else who can make Bonelesses cool again.
What’s your favourite trick by Slim and why?
I like it when Slim bails and judo flips to safety. That’s nuts to me.It’s funny sometimes I prefer it when he doesn’t land any of his tricks. Seriously though he’s got a really nice Frontside Flip especially when he’s chucking it down a set.
What’s your favourite thing about skating Stockwell?
The community around Stockwell is great. Stockwell was my local when I moved to London so it’s a special place for me.
During the summer months the place turns into a beach. It’s just one of those places where you can easily spend all day, especially on a warm sunny day. People blasting reggae music, drinking beer late into the evening while discussing pseudo philosophy with each other. The place has such a great atmosphere that just really gets me buzzing to skate. Every Stockwell local I consider to be my family.
Favourite trick you’ve seen go down at Stockwell?
I watched this guy the other day late shuv over the wall. It’s not the most gnarly trick I’ve seen go down there but he did it so smoothly that I have to give him credit. He went over the wall and landed right on the curb; it was so sick. Wish I could remember his name. Jake Gatehouse also has this giant backside melon that he would blast out of the deep end of the bowl.
What’s your favourite thing to skate at Southbank?
The quarterpipe. It’s so bad but I love it.
Favourite trick you’ve seen go down at Southbank?
Korahn Gayle’s Nollie Heel Backside Nosebluntslide up The Cheese is still to this day the most insane thing I’ve ever seen go down there. That’s a super hero move right there.
How did you first get into painting?
I had a very encouraging art teacher when I was in school. I wasn’t particularly academic and academia was something that my school always celebrated so to some degree I was made to feel stupid, I definitely wasn’t alone in that feeling. I wasn’t very good at art when I was at school but it was one of the only subjects that I enjoyed because I was encouraged by my teacher, Mr Buckler, to pursue it.
I guess it’s also one of those subjects where no one can tell you what you are doing is wrong. It’s pretty similar to skateboarding in that aspect.
I really admire Mr Buckler because he taught me from a young age that sometimes all people need is a little bit of encouragement.
What inspires you to make a new painting?
Ultimately I want to be a portrait painter. I meet so many incredible people in my life and I want to celebrate and canonize their existence through oil painting. Historically portraiture has been an exclusive club for the mega wealthy and everyone else were nameless and faceless.
I think about Millet’s painting of the gleaners or ironworkers at noontime by Thomas Anschutz. In those paintings the character of the people is what they do and not who they are.
There are so many people in this world who are extraordinary but will be forgotten because they’re not the Prime Minister.
I love London, I love the people in this city and I want to paint them in a way that’s compassionate and celebrates their virtues. Beauty is everywhere and can be found in people.
How did your define your style on a canvas?
It’s hard to say really. As most of the time my ‘style’ is really just imitating painters that I want to paint like.
John Singer Sargent, Ilya Repin, Carolus-Duran, 19th century illustrators like NC Wyeth and even contemporary painters like Phil Hale, Steve Huston and my good friend Ed Oaks.
In reality my style as a painter is a subconscious amalgamation of all the artist’s that I admire and want to imitate. I believe that everyone is a poor man’s version of someone else.
Right now I’m studying at an atelier called London Battersea Fine Arts. Because I want to hone my skills as a painter and a draftsman so that I have a strong foundation when it comes to my own practice.
What has been your favourite subject to paint and why?
I prefer figurative art. It feels much easier to communicate your ideas through realism. I really love it as a genre of art, much like skateboarding.
You get an immense sense of satisfaction from seeing your own progression, and it’s fun to look back at what you made a few years ago and compare it to what your making now.
As to why I like figurative art, I believe that beauty is subjective therefore everyone is beautiful. It can be easier to realise that when it’s presented through a refined portrait or a figure painting. And that’s where the challenge lies. Being able to get someone’s likeness is to get their character as well.
You also play guitar, how did you first pick it up?
My brother had guitar lessons but gave up so this acoustic guitar was gathering dust and I thought I should pick it up. It’s pretty cliche but a green day song was the first thing I learned. My Dad bought me this DVD teaching a bunch of different green day songs and I rinsed that DVD till it broke.
I’ve never had an official music lesson but I’ve been noodling on my guitar ever since I was about 12. Honestly playing guitar is a great cure for when your bummed out.
How do you come up with ideas and make your songs?
Yeah I did. I’ve been writing songs for ages but I’ve never really shared them with anyone until very recently.
I would never say I’m a legit musician or anything which is why it can sound a little rough but I like that.
It’s not professional and so it feels more authentic to me. As for ideas they can come from anywhere really. Anything I find myself fixated on is potential for some creative endeavor. I find the most reliable source of inspiration, for myself, comes from reading.
Eventually I’d like to get an album out. Not really sure where I’m going to release it, I suppose I need to see what options I have first. I’ve made a lot of music over the past few years, about 10% of it is any good. I want to wait until I have 30 minutes that I’m happy with before I realise anything proper.
Which musicians who skate inspire you?
Skateboarding and music have been intertwined with each other since forever. We consume skateboarding through videos and the music used can either ruin or make someone’s part.
When I make music I constantly ask myself whether it would sound good juxtaposed to someone skating. As far as musicians who skate that I like It’s hard to say because I don’t know that many besides Tommy Guerrero, who I love. However there are a lot of bands that are associated with skateboarding that really inspire me, Dinosaur Jr, Fugazi, Sonic Youth, Misfits, Bad Brains etc.
I kinda rate Jereme Rogers as well. Someone told me the other day that he quit skating because he was tired of people praising him for his talent, so he started rapping because he sucked at it. I don’t know if that’s true or not but if it is it’s pretty cool of him.
What other musicians do you look up to?
Phil Ochs is really cool to me. He’s this American folk singer from the 1960’s. He was a punk before being a punk was a thing. All his songs have very strong anti war messages. One song in particular called ‘Here’s to the state of Mississippi’ from ‘I ain’t marching anymore’ is this scathing indictment of Mississippi and its association with white supremacy.
He essentially tells a whole state to go fuck itself during a time where he could have easily of been killed for so doing so. In fact I think that the song was written because two of Ochs’ friends were killed in the south because they were a part of a local civil rights movement.
Red House Painters, Elliott Smith, Alex G, Neutral Milk Hotel, Sunny Day Real Estate. I really love all these bands for their highly emotional content. It takes real guts to be vulnerable in the content of your art but that’s what makes it so authentic.
Where’s your favourite skate spot in London and why?
St Paul’s is pretty dope. Place feels like Skate 3 with the sheer concentration of spots in such a small area. It can be pretty easy to spend all day there as there’s so much to hit.
Where’s your favourite place to skate in the UK and why?
Maybe I’m biased but London is the best. The scene is just so good here. I guess I’m always gonna be biased to the place that I know well.
That being said, the Bristol scene looks really good as well. Everyone I’ve seen come out of Bristol has been insane.
There’s also this spot in Cornwall called Truro, I never skated there myself but the amount of quality skateboarding I’ve seen come from there is nuts.
There’s this guy called Teo who is definitely one to watch out for in the coming years.
Where’s your favourite skate spot in the world?
The whole city of Copenhagen. Really bummed I’m not there for the open this year. The whole city loves skateboarding and everyone is so kind. The city has skateboarding fully integrated into it.
You can be skating down the road and just happen across ledge with coping on it or a quiet skatepark, and this happens every five minutes or so; it’s incredible. It’s nothing like skating in the UK. Skating in the UK you get so much abuse from the general public. Every time I go street skating I’m almost always guaranteed to get called a prick or a twat. That doesn’t happen in Copenhagen.
What’s your favourite skate photo of all-time and why?
I definitely couldn’t narrow it down to just one. There are so many photos I love.
There’s this one photo shot by Skin Phillips of Gonz doing a Stalefish at Stockwell. I loved that photo so much that I put it onto a hoodie for myself.
The Gonz, Stalefish, Stockwell: Shot by @skinphoto
I wish I still had that hoodie but it’s been worn so many times that it’s falling apart. I really enjoy Matt Price’s photos. I have one of his photos of Dane Brady Ollieing over this gate outside of his house. I have that photo as my screensaver. There’s so much energy in Matt’s photos. Even though it’s a still image you still feel a sense of weight and direction.
@danebrady Ollie : Shot by @priceyhot
There’s also this photo by Tor Strom of Vincent Huhta-Hasselberg doing an Ollie one foot off a jump ramp.
The photo is up close of the sole of his shoe where he’s got the words galaxy written. The rest of his body is obscured by his front foot aside from his arms. It’s a really dope photo you have to see it in person to really appreciate it. I don’t think my description can ever do it justice.
What was the last skate video that stoked you out?
The last full video that stoked me out was watching the Statue video filmed by Brayden. Incredible video, such a great crew of versatile skaters.
That video also highlights a lot of skaters who have been killing it for ages but perhaps don’t get the recognition that they deserve. I would list some standout tricks but I don’t want to spoil it for you.
What’s your favourite skate video ever and why?
I feel that it might be somewhat cliche but Blind’s Video Day’s is a classic that I find myself constantly revisiting. Watching Jason Lee skate really stokes me out. I watched ‘My Name is Earl’ way before I started skating and to see him chilling on the vert is incredible to me.
Not to mention Gonz skating around London. He does this front 180 switch 50-50 down a handrail which is mind boggling to me. That video presented London to a global audience.
Another contender would probably be Baker 4 mainly because it’s still fresh in my mind. I think people gave that video a lot of shit just because the expectations for it were so high, but I never understood that. Baker has a really likeable team of younger skater’s and older legacy pros.It’s sick to see Tyson and T-Funk rip it up and then watch Dustin Dollin do the most insane stunts.
Who’s your favourite skater and why?
I don’t think I’ve ever had a single favourite skater because there are so many people I enjoy watching.
Recently I’ve been really obsessed with this guy Aaron Yant. He’s this American dude who recently got on Last Resort AB and I think he’s flow for Polar.
His trick selection is superb. No one skates like him because no one is as creative as him. Watching him makes me want to skate want to skate and I feel like that’s a good barometer for measuring quality skateboarding.
Who has your favourite style on a board and why?
Darius Trabalza. He makes everything look easy and he does it with a big smile on his face. He just looks like he’s having fun all the time. Plus he’s a really lovely guy.
Any upcoming projects you’d like to mention?
Not really hahah, just trying to make sure I live till the end of this pandemic. Honestly still a bit fresh out of university and still deciding what it is that I want to do. I worry that there’s this expectation to have everything figured out straight away. But I’m still figuring it all out like everybody else. Sometimes it’s just enough to get by, you know.
Any shout outs you would like to make?
All the lads at Slam Warehouse, You guys make the work day fly by.
Any last words Tommy?
Skate for yourself and no one else.