EK Interview: Greg ‘Craola’ Simkins

Greg Simkins everybody!  That’s right, GREG SIMKINS.  His thoughts.  His words.  Hiiiiiiis other stuff.  Like the army of mechanized G.I. Joebots that Greg has in the cellar of his house.  They’re painstakingly crafted to fit in with other G.I. Joes so the regular Joes won’t recognize them until it’s too late and Greg has taken over the world by subverting the minds of our children.  In like 30 years.  Read on my friends.

Introduce yourself.

My Name Is Greg Simkins, sometimes it’s Craola, I still bounce around a bit, and I am an artist.

art blog - Greg Simkins - Empty Kingdom

When you were a kid what did you want to be?

Up until I was 18, I was on a track to become a veterinarian. I had taken classes as a youth working with animals, worked with a vet from time to time and tried hard to keep my grades up to go into college for that field. I was drawing the whole time though and didn’t realize until my first semester of Junior college that I could actually be an artist for a living.


How have your friends and family supported your work? What kind of criticism have you received from them?

Well I have had nothing but support from those close to me. I was always the kid drawing in class, making art for projects and what not. My Mom and Dad were huge supporters and still are. My dad still makes all my panels and helps out in so many ways with the business.  I am truly blessed to have them. My biggest supporter is my wife though. It is her careful planning and foresight that has enabled me to paint in the capacity that I do. I love that woman.

I have a good group of guys working in the studio with me that will call me on elements in my paintings, you know, if they think I rushed something or am slacking in areas they’ll call me on it. It’s really helpful to have someone call me on it when something doesn’t look right.

art blog - Greg Simkins - Empty Kingdom

How do you think the criticism you receive from impartial observers differs from people who are close to you?

I feel that they offer a truer sense of what is going on. Those close to you don’t want to hurt your feelings; sometimes they don’t realize that they could be hampering your growth.


What is a piece of advice or criticism that’s really stuck with you?

The best piece of advice I have ever gotten was to discover my own voice in my art. Rings in my head all the time, it has been a huge part of my headlong dive back into animal based art which I have always been so obsessed with from childhood.  That kid inside of me who wanted to be a veterinarian is cheering me on at least.

art blog - Greg Simkins - Empty Kingdom

What do you think have been some of the biggest factors in your development as an artist?

Experimenting with different mediums, allowing myself to make mistakes and researching techniques are huge factors.  I also enjoy my artist friends and shared conversations about techniques and styles of art we enjoy have been huge in my growth.


How is your personality reflected in your art?

Definitely the daydreaming part of my brain comes out, some of the sarcasm as well, but I have a great respect for Creation and feel that it is my duty to explore these things around us, be it nature or even the creative mind we were given and see how the mixture of these gifts turns out.

art blog - Greg Simkins - Empty Kingdom

What different media have you used?

I pretty much have always use pen and ink and graphite. 1993, picked up spray paint and computer graphics, and in 2000 picked up acrylics. Those tools have been pretty standard for me, as well as collage and watercolor at times. Basic acrylics namely Nova Color and Golden make up the majority of my paints.

art blog - Greg Simkins - Empty Kingdom

What do you do to emotionally prepare yourself for a piece? What do you use to maintain that emotion through out?

I have noticed a routine before each large piece. I generally clear my painting area, line up all my paints, mix new bottles to use, organize my brushes, pull books and images that inspire me, break out my notebooks and sketches, redraw my favorite ones, Frankenstein them together a bit in Photoshop, redraw, then transfer.  This process feels so familiar now, that my brain just calmly follows suit. While I am painting I listen to a variety of media, music, pod casts, audio books, and movies do it for me. Keeps me relaxed for the long haul, which many of these paintings are.

art blog - Greg Simkins - Empty Kingdom

What artists are you currently following? Who have you been really impressed by this past year?

I try to keep up with what my friends have been working on, the past few years have been a whirlwind having started our family, so I haven’t gone to as many shows as I used to. I find myself obsessing over nature photography and animal shows more than anything. Books on flowers and architecture are what I gravitate towards, mainly because I am always looking at ways to enhance the elements in my paintings. I also generally look to graffiti when I want to enjoy some art gazing. Dabs and Myla have gone huge this last year and as well as being to of my good friends, they are awesome artists. I really enjoy what the 7th Letter and TMD’s do, they really have pushed boundaries with aerosol. Axis and Haste CBS are monsters and I love what they paint. As far as artists other than graffiti, KMNDZ, Alex Pardee, Bob Dob, Gunnar, Adam Hathorn, Matthew Bone, Craig Thornton, Mars-1, Oliver Vernon, David Choong Le, actually all the Convergence dudes and Zero Friends and tons more. I hate these questions because I always leave some friends out and hear about it later 😉

art blog - Greg Simkins - Empty Kingdom

By the end of 2012 what do you want to have achieved? Are there any projects that you intend to begin this year?

Well I have a big show coming up along with Johnny KMNDZ Rodriguez at Merry Karnowsky gallery on April 21. I am really looking forward to this show, as it has been one of my favorite galleries for many years. I have my second book coming out this summer as well. The first book “Drawn from the Well” has done very well and is a 300-page book of drawings. This second book will contain only paintings and some of the stories attached to those paintings. I am really excited about this one. I believe I am doing another painting seminar at this summer’s Hell City Tattoo Convention in Ohio. It should be a great event. Beyond all the art stuff going on though, I am more excited about the birth of my second son this summer. Dynamics will be changing of course, but can’t wait to meet this little guy.

art blog - Greg Simkins - Empty Kingdom

How is your approach different for a drawing, a painting and graffiti?

Wow, all are super different but almost all start with loose thumbnail sketches, never too tight, I like to work off a loose sketch and than work towards tightening. This helps me get the composition right. Graffiti letters generally flow off the head. I may have a loose thumbnail or the drawing of one of the letters with me, but then it is mental game of it’s own. With my canvases, I like to have a general idea transferred and then room to freestyle while I am painting.

art blog - Greg Simkins - Empty Kingdom

Which did you start with?  How has your technique, your lines, your detail and the way that you approach a piece changed over time?

I started with pencil or crayons if you really want to go back. My line work is always changing and I am always trying to refine what I am doing. I have gotten bolder in approaching a canvas, it isn’t as intimidating painting a large one any more and I generally prefer big pieces.


How many tattoos do you have?  How do you decide that a piece of art is good enough to become a tattoo?  If you could have the work of any artist alive or dead tattooed on your body who would it be?

I have lost count. I am almost 37 and have been getting tattooed since I was 19 or so. I used to draw my own tattoos in the beginning and that was a mistake. I generally look at a tattoo artist style and tattoos and if I like what they do generally just say “something like that…but add what ever you are into these days”. I think people need to educate themselves on getting tattooed, especially with so many amazing tattoo artists out there, it should be easy to get good work, but you still see people getting hack jobs from kitchen wizards because they want to save money, they just don’t realize that the laser treatments and cover ups are going to cost money too. About the dead or alive tattoo work, that is a tough question. I already got my Mike Giant tattoo and since he has been a huge influence since my early graf days, I am stoked. But I generally get tattooed by my friends and wouldn’t change any of them and am stoked on Gunnar finishing up my chest piece and Adam Hathorn zapping my other chest panel with my sons name on it. My buddy Jeff Page has a rad drawing for the top of my thigh as well, so I’m stoked.  If I could plug one thing about this, I would say that if anyone wanted an excellent tattoo and experience getting it, they should go to Guru tattoo in Pacific Beach, San Diego. Aaron DellaVedova has made a great shop over there and everybody that works there is excellent.

art blog - Greg Simkins - Empty Kingdom

What are some of your sources of inspiration?  Where do you go when you’re feeling artistically or creatively drained?

Definitely animal and nature books and shows, but also the antique mall, animated movies, the library, Natural History Museum, The Getty Science and Technology center, or the park to feed the geese and ducks.


Do you have any shout-outs or announcements or final comments?

For Sure, I always like to thank Jensen Karp, Katie Cromwell, and Matt Revelli for helping me enter into the gallery world, always grateful for you guys. Thanks to my friends from all over the graffiti world, the CBS, WAI and Bashers crews. Werk for all the help with the websites. Jason and Josh at To Die For for the hard work. Thanks to Trekell brushes for all the support and putting together my artist series brushes. What’s up to my studio mates Kevin Pasko, Graham Curran, and Bob Dob and my intern Jordan Mendenhall. Mostly I thank God everyday for His sacrifice and the smaller bit about allowing me to be an artist for a living and surrounding me with the people in my life. Truly always thankful and grateful.

art blog - Greg Simkins - Empty Kingdom