You Will Love This 'Craola' Even More Than The One
You Adored As A Child
When I discovered that world-renowned artist Greg “Craola” Simkins, originally, wanted to be a veterinarian, two thoughts came to mind. First, “Makes sense given the focus of much of his work -- animals.” Second, “Thank God he didn’t do it and became the artist that God intended him to be.” I couldn’t imagine the loss art, industry, music...and his many fans would have endured, given he had taken a more conventional route as opposed to the one that placed him in the doorways of Disney, Pearl Jam, Robin Williams and more.
Greg is a creative mastermind, who has made a career out of allowing us to peer into HIS mind through canvas. His ability to combine ‘polar opposites’ in ways that engage, provoke, and delight can’t be described. You must see his work to truly understand. Luckily, his newest solo exhibition titled Beyond Shadows (KP Projects/ MKG Gallery in Los Angeles) will provide you with the opportunity to do so, between now and June 18th. I recommend you take it.
What continues to amaze me about Greg is his unique ability to feature a multitude of objects in one painting without compromising any of them when pulled together. They blend beautifully while remaining strong in their distinctions, without detriment to the totality of the piece. Nothing gets lost in Greg’s paintings. “Meaning” merely increases, individually, and as a whole.
You can learn more about why that is in Greg ”Craola” Simkins interview below. Then, mosey on over to his site to experience the monumental depth and extrordinaty virtues of the artist-painter whose work evokes more color in one's thoughts than the box we grew to love as children by a similar name.
What is your personal mantra?
"Calm Before Storms"
If you were to describe your art to someone who is completely unfamiliar with your work, how would you describe it?
I generally say it's a mash up of old Disney movies mixed with Salvador Dali, rendered like the 'old masters' while watching nature programs and drinking too much coffee and studying birds.
What one word has been used most to describe you and do you agree with it?
don't know. That's a tough one. People say I'm a nice guy, but I am very sarcastic so I don't get it.
What is your favorite piece of work of yours up to this point? Why?
I enjoy a lot of them, I recently finished a piece called "The Glass Piñata", which pictures a group of barefoot boys with sticks climbing a tree, attempting to break open a glass piñata full of salt-water taffy while a girl with boots looks on with a fake smile on her face, sitting on a wall with the words "I Told You So" written on it. The piece popped into my head in an instant and reflects my feelings of raising crazy adventurous little boys.
Share the process you go through (from conception to completion of a work).
I generally keep a 3" sketchbook with me in my pocket at all times. Any thought, note, or idea that pops into my head, goes into this book. I then sift through it for the strongest idea and print it out 'larger' -- in yellow line. I redraw it a few times until I'm happy with it. At that point, I gather some reference that will guide my color choices and texture choices. I, then, transfer the sketch and begin painting. I also like to keep the image open for some spontaneous additions, if warranted. Sometimes the piece turns into something completely different with these additions and I am happy for it.
What influences have impacted your work the most?
What originally grabbed me and started my love for drawing was old cartoons. I don't mean the cartoons of the 80's (when I was a kid) but the old throw back Disney, Warner Brothers,Terry Toons, Popeye, etc... cartoons. I would start my day off drawing along with these programs. Later, it would be animals who were my most important subject matter -- twisting them into fantastic creatures like in the story books I enjoyed so much growing up.
As time went by, I was greatly influenced by the works of artists like Peter Paul Rubens and Caravaggio and other old masters that I would encounter when going to museums with my parents. By the time I was 17, I encountered one of the single most driving influences in my life that has stuck with me and driven me in all my endeavors. I was introduced to 'graffiti' through not just the walls in my city but a book called Subway Art. Seeing what you could do with just a couple of cans of spray paint became a pursuit that I took on.
It is a mix and jumble of all of these things as well as tattoo art, antiques, and old stories that make their way into all the works I create.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
That's tough. There are many. I try to keep oblivious to what is going on in my own genres, currently, as I really am trying to remain un-influenced by my contemporaries. It is tough trying to avoid being a derivative. But to answer this question honestly, I always want to pay respect to those who came before me: Robert Williams, Mark Ryden, Todd Schorr, Anthony Ausgang, Joe Sorren, Gary Baseman, Tim Biskup, Shag and so many more that I, apologetically, have left out. My contemporaries: Mars-1 Alex, Pardee, Lola Gil, Brandi Milne, Bob Dob, my graffiti heroes Seen, Ces, Risk, Axis, Plek, Belin,Vyal, Dabs and Myla, Tyke, etc. Abstract: James Nares, Jackson Pollock, etc. I love John James Audubon and feel that I am most attracted to nature and bird photographers more than any genre of art.
What do you say to the young artists whose parents are completely against them pursuing a career in art?
Listen to your parents ;) For the most part, you will know that your path is to make art if those around you are encouraging you to go down it as well as your parents (in a perfect scenario; I know all parents don't get it and need some persuasion). Outsiders - with no stake in your career - noticing a talent or spark in you can be a good sign that this may be a thing for you.
I grew up desiring to be a veterinarian and even began college to do so. I took art classes as well and my teachers kept trying to get me to switch majors. I was picking up random art jobs on the side as well, so it became a natural transition to work in the field and not just an obsessive hobby. I didn't just flip a switch one day and say, "I want to be an artist." I just always was one.
When all is said and done, how do you want to be remembered?
As a good man, who led my kids down the right path in life and loved my wife more than any other.
Is it any wonder why Greg "Craola" Simkins is one of the most sought-after surreal painters of today? Or why - when you look at his work - it inspires you to think beyond your comfort zone and rekindles a sense of kid-like magic in you?
That’s a glorious state to experience again...worth becoming more familiar with his work, first-hand, in my opinion. You might just want to invest in one of his paintings as well. After all, how many opportunities do you get to feel like a 'kid' again? Not to many, I imagine. Here's one where you can.
Many thanks to Greg “Craola” Simkins and the Simkins' team for making this interview possible