Introducing GREG ‘CRAOLA’ SIMKINS
Our BFFs GelaSkins are doing artist interviews from time to time on their new blog. Given we're tied at the hip like the besties we are, we wanted to share this interview with long time artist friend, Greg 'Craola' Simkins.
We have worked with Craola for a decade and to celebrate we asked him to answer 10 Questions to give us all a glimpse into what makes him tick, how he works and how he got to where he is. As part of the introduction, we are offering y'all 20% off Craola's whole GelaSkins collection & Nuvango collection using the code ‘CRAOLA20’ at checkout. The code is valid from until March 31/2017 midnight EST. Shop his full collection here. Read on for our rapid fire interview with Craola→
1) How long have you been painting? That's a good question, I have been painting with spray paint since 1992 and with acrylics since 1999, watercolors since 1993. I have been drawing since I was a little kid and don't remember a time that I wasn't making art.
2) Did you always picture yourself as an artist 'when you grew up'? Or was there something else you thought you'd pursue? I always did art to occupy my time, but was on track to becoming a veterinarian all the way into the beginning of college.
3) A veterinarian, that was top of my list as well :) What changed and led you to art? I decided to pursue art full time due to circumstances such as getting my first job as an illustrator. I just followed where my talents were leaning. I never gave up my love of animals though and chose to paint them and draw them instead.
4) We talk to a lot of artists who found their first years as a full-blown artist to be a struggle.... what helped you power through those days/months/years? It was stressful leaving college and trying to find that first job. I was waiting tables and doing little freelance gigs, as well as doing projects to build my portfolio as well as spray painting graffiti murals, but I made sure to always have a form of income, just in case an art career wasn't meant for me. I was sought out for a full time illustrator position at a street wear brand in Los Angeles shortly after graduation and put my nose to the grindstone and worked hard. I always pursued my own art in my off hours, so I always had a thick portfolio and a desire to learn new mediums always kept me excited. That's how I got into acrylics. Sure it was tough in the early years, and I don't think the nervousness about employment or where your next paycheck is going to come ever goes away, but working hard and always making art has something to be said for itself. A good work ethic can take you far. After a year and a half as a street wear illustrator, I was hired at Treyarch/Activision as a texture artist working in video games, mainly Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2X and The Spiderman titles. Always painting my own work on the side. After 5 years in video games I was invited to show in a couple notable galleries and have been on that track ever since. I have been a full time gallery painter around 13 years now and love it everyday.
5) Lighter question.... music or no music while creating? If music... who would we find you listening to these days? Yes and yes. I go through different moods. I have a music playlist on Spotify called CRAOLATV which houses a bunch of old cartoon theme songs as well as music from the past. I enjoy a variety of music from punk, to indie rock, to classical music, but my favorite band over the past couple years has been "The Dead Ships". I enjoy podcasts and audiobooks as well. I just binge listened to the entire Harry Potter series for the third time and am listening to "The Hobbit" again right now.
6) Okay, here's a standard question but we know our fans want to know: What inspires your work? How do you go from point A to point B? I love storytelling and old stories from my youth still inspire me. Fables and tales that involve going into magical worlds like Narnia, Wonderland, Oz, etc. will always stir up images of the different things you would find there. That is why I created my own world called "The Outside". It helps make sense of my cast of characters and strange lands.
7) Every now and then on your instagram stories you share your behind the scenes work, but you also share some insight into your studio/home life. You have a couple of kids running around ... do you find they have helped shape your work? Or motivated you to build new characters or pieces dedicated to something more youthful? Naive? I think that my boys are amazingly creative and talking with them and telling stories to them has inspired a lot of what you see in my work. From the Strawberry Octopus to "I'm Scared" (our animated stop motion short film) a lot comes out from just telling stories with my two little monsters. **click the link to watch a free download!**
8) Do you have a favorite work? Or series? ..or perhaps something you worked on that you learned from? "The Pearl Thief" exhibit and story is where I started fully forming what "The Outside" is and I have to give credit to Nick Cassavettes for that one as he was the one who kicked me in gear to create my first large scale masterpiece which has spurned an entire multi-show body of work. Each show now spills into the next having more ideas than time to paint them. I've got hundreds of loose sketches that would make good paintings but not enough time to paint them all. It's a bit frustrating.
9) Through your instagram you share your love and respect for your supportive partner in work & in life - @jennmonsta. Have you two always worked together? What is it like working with someone you build a home life and work life with? I am beyond blessed to have Jenn in my life and if it weren't for her organization and planning skills, I would still be working at a desk somewhere and not pursuing this career which I love so much. She is very savvy with her business skills and keeps me on track with my calendar, as well as managing our household and pulling her end with the kids, I have no idea how she does it, but I have so much respect for her and how her mind works, not to mention she's a beautiful gem amongst it all:) Our minds are plugged in very differently, but I believe it is those differences that make it work.
10) Lastly..... and easy one... if you could only pick one paint color for the rest of your life...what color would it be? Burnt Umber Dark