Greg "Craola" Simkins is a Fine Artist based in Los Angeles and raised on cartoons, well written stories, animal planet, graffiti and tattoos.Escapism is as good a label to his work as any...have a look and use your imagination.
I haven’t always liked stretching canvas and never thought I would be doing it on a regular basis but these days, it has become more of an adventure than a chore. It is the sponge that soaks up all the thoughts going on in my head. Having an overactive imagination since a very young age, it has always made sense to me that any artwork I develop should be composed of these vivid thoughts. What used to take form in crayons and pencil, evolved into pen and ink drawings, spray painted murals and computer graphics, and has further morphed into the acrylic paintings I create these days. My childhood obsessions with Disney cartoons, Lorne Greens’ New Wilderness and books such as Watership Down and The Phantom Tollbooth have become fodder for my work as it develops today.
I have become increasingly interested in the rabbit holes we fall down when daydreaming. So many have created worlds in their art in which to escape and inhabit, and for others to enjoy. We have seen glimpses of them in Narnia, Wonderland, Middle Earth, Neverland, and Hanalee. As homage to these types and shadows of other lands, I have attached the all-encompassing title, “The Outside”. As our imagination takes over, we tend to leave what is ordinary and go outside of ourselves to visit these places. This is why I paint and what has inspired me over the years to grow as an artist. It is the constant search for what else is on the outside.
After a family trip to Hawaii, I was struck by the beauty everywhere - from the flowers and the trees, sunsets and clouds - to the incredible colors of the fish and wildlife in the reefs just out front and buried in the ocean. I swam where fish and sea turtles where everywhere and I couldn’t feel more blessed to be interacting with such beautiful creatures. Upon watching a documentary shortly after on Yellowstone National Park, I was amazed at the number of different elements in nature that are so familiar to me but will never be realized by each other. We will never see snow covered coral reefs inhabited by butterflies alongside moray eels. Deer will not gallop beside killer whales and birds will never share their nests with a family of jellyfish. Of course, it is now my job to make some introductions and see where they go. These are some of the symbiotic relationships that are going on peripherally in the world I paint into. They are what make up the eco-structure of “The Outside”. My characters that live there find nothing foreign or strange about their surroundings and introduce them to newcomers as one would to their backyard garden. “The Outside” just…is.
At the end of the day, when the paint is hardening on the palette and the final coat of varnish has been applied, I sit back and lace my fingers behind my neck and escape into what was once trapped in my head. It is no longer the blank canvas that I cut my fingers assembling. A mass of wood, staples, linen and gesso the acrylic brush strokes are barely noticeable. The long journey from blank slate to finished piece is now finished and I now get to enjoy a glimpse of what is going on inside “The Outside”. To have your own viewfinder into this world, I invite you to explore my artwork at the "Gallery" section of this website.
-Greg “Craola” Simkins
Greg Simkins was born in 1975 in Torrance California, just south of Los Angeles. He grew up with a menagerie of animals including a number of rabbits, which often emerge in his paintings. He began drawing at the early age of three and was inspired by various cartoons and books. Some standout books that still find their way into his art are Watership Down by Richard Adams, The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster.
Simkins’ art continued to progress to the age of 18, when he started doing graffiti under the name “CRAOLA”. Graffiti art became his impetus for creating and gave him the confidence to paint large works. In addition it taught him perspective, color theory and further developed artistic skills, which later translated into his work with acrylics.
After receiving his Bachelor’s Degree in Studio Art from California State University of Long Beach in 1999, Simkins worked as an Illustrator for various clothing companies. He later moved on to Treyarch/Activision where he worked on video games including Tony Hawk 2X, Spiderman 2 and Ultimate Spiderman while attempting to paint with every free moment he had.
In 2005, Simkins pursued his desire to paint as a full time artist. Since then, he has been featured in numerous group exhibitions has had successfully sold out solo exhibitions. His art is seen in a wide variety of industries from clothing to video games and has also come to life in the form of toys. His client/collaboration list includes Disney, Mattel, Upper Playground, Juxtapoz, To Die For, Vans, Converse, AFI, Saosin, Gym Class Heroes, Pennywise, STRANGEco, Ningyoushi, Kid Robot, Zero Friends, Epitaph, Dark Horse, Iron Fist and Pulse International.
It is his careful weaving of pop culture, the old masters, nature, carnival kitsch, and (most importantly) his warped imagination, that makes Greg Simkins a sought-after surrealist painter today. Simkins’ artwork currently appears in galleries throughout the world.