This week, we release our first print with Greg "Craola" Simkins, called "Still I'm Grateful", a partnership we are really excited about! A few days ago we were able to catch up with the California native to find out more about his creative process, musical influences, and latest project, a stop motion animation film!
POW: When I first look at your art, I become lost in the different directions and characters of the piece, but at the same time it pulls me in deeper where I find a connection that would have otherwise been missed. How do you go about creating such surreal pieces of art?
Craola: I start with an element, a bird, an old couch, a book. I then look through my sketchbook at all the places my mind has been going. I keep a pretty current sketchbook full of notes and thumbnail drawings of ideas that I want to paint. I flip through the book and look for the most interesting content and then start adding them together in the attempt of composing a dynamic image filled with outlandish things that wouldn't really exist together. To say that I 100% know what I am doing when designing the next piece to paint is a lie. What I do know is that there is a place where these things exist, and there is a story unfolding, I am just creating the next snapshot in that place trying to capture everything that is going on. I call that place "The Outside" and I attempt to escape to it every time I paint. Most recently, the 8'x6' piece "Good Knight" had me locked in that world for many months. It was hard putting down the brush and leaving it when it was done. I need to do more pieces like that. It's where I can truly get lost.
Good Knight by Craola
POW: I was looking around and stumbled upon your “Be Street” play list, which I was jamming out to by the way! Such a diverse mix of genres. Does music affect your art in a way or is it just a means to escape while working?
Craola: A lot of pieces and ideas have jumped from the lyrics of musical artists. I look at all the mixed mash of genres as a historical timeline of growing up. The more classical, Jazz, big band, oldies stuff is what my parents and Grandparents would listen too when I was young. I have great memories of listening to my Grandpa sing Perry Como songs. The kids songs and folks songs are from the old cartoons I enjoyed as a kid and still do. The old hip hop was from my obsession with late 80's and early 90's rap. From there on I was deeply influenced with Punk rock and most my life was spent seeing shows and being involved with bands and had my toe in that world out here in the South Bay of Los Angeles. I designed show fliers, band merch and album covers for many of the bands that came out of our area. I was always into rock bands like the Cure, the Smiths, Nirvana, Violent Femmes, Sonic Youth, Simon and Garfunkel, the Beatles and anything that they influenced as well so I guess you can say I am completely all over the place with my musical interests. There is too much good stuff to listen to to lock yourself to one genre because you are trying to identify yourself with a subculture.
Still I'm Grateful by Craola
POW: You recently made a stop motion animation film titled “I’M SCARED”. Can you tell us a little bit more about the movie? Where can we view it?
Craola: We are actually still working on the Short and it is about to go to animation. The sets, puppets and props are all finished and I am excited to see what will become of this little piece of film we are making. The team involved has all been top notch and I am beyond humbled and appreciative of all there hard work.
POW: Personally, I am in love with your graffiti work above all your other stuff, but that is just my personal taste. Is your creative process different for each medium? (Paintings, Illustrations, Graffiti)
Craola: Definitely. My approach changes for each medium, but especially with my graffiti work. If I am doing letters, I really don't need a sketch, Although I do them and bring one to the wall, I generally just start with the 'R' or the 'A' and then throw the sketch away and try to make the piece flow with the wall. It is good that all these outlets fulfill a different need. It's like an itch that needs scratching. When I am painting a canvas, I want to paint a wall, When I am painting a wall, I want to ink some cartoon inspired tattoo flash, when I am doing that, I want to do some finely rendered pencil or charcoal drawings, and when I am doing that, I want to design logos and vector art in the computer. Each is satisfying in a different way but comes together in the end under the envelope of this same world I like to create.
Safe Haven by Craola
POW: You mention in your bio that you were inspired by Hawaii’s pristine natural settings to create several of your worlds, so to speak. What other locations do you channel through your art?
Craola: It's funny, that last trip to Hawaii made sense of a lot of what I do. It's all about habitats and the creatures who live there. But I want those creatures to journey into other places. Places that I haven't even been. Maybe it's my own desire to travel and see the world more. I definitely have the ocean town I live in when I create, even when you down't see the water, its just out in the periphery. Forests and cliff sides, caves and wells, trees and open places. That's where my head goes whether its not always conveyed.
Craola's mural outside Graphaids in Culver City
POW: Out of all the murals you have done, do you have a favorite? Where are some of the places I could go to see one of your murals?
Craola: I don't think I have a favorite. I always enjoy the time spent with my friends at each wall so it is hard to choose one. Anytime I get to paint with Dabs Myla and Witnes is a good time and this last wall we did together in Long Beach was a lot of fun. I just painted a wall on Washington near USC with my WAI & CBS crew members and that was a lot of fun. Painting walls has taken me to some interesting places. All up and down the coast to every corner of California, some pretty shady spots in the earlier years before marriage and kids, spots that we weren't always sure we would get out of intact. To some invitations to great locations like Miami art Basel and similar. The furthest I have gone was to Croatia for a graffiti Jam a few years ago. It is a highlight for me as I got to hang out with many graffiti artists who I have respected for many years growing up and beyond stoked to have gotten to paint with Sub and Ces, two of my all time heroes in the scene. I have become great friends with Sub and have learned a lot from his vast knowledge of all types of art. He is the true multi-talented renaissance man in this art world of ours, go look at his work or just google Tony Curanaj. Your mind will be blown. If you want to see some local walls, I have a few running around Los Angeles and Orange County. A new large one is on the side of Graphaids in Culver City which I am stoked on especially since they are my favorite art store by far. Go check it out and dip inside and get some supplies, they have everything!
For more information on Greg "Craola" Simkins, please visit http://www.imscared.com/