Love, Devastation, and Poppy Seeds // An Interview with Jeff Skele
Austere sat down for a tasty interview with Dallas’ own artist, painter, and creative, Jeff Skele. Dig it?
What was the initial spark that drove you to make the style of art that you currently are immersed in?
Jeff Skele: Devastation. I lost everything when I blew out my knees. I lost who I was and my chance to express myself through playing soccer. I started drawing when both my legs were in full casts a year a part from each other. I remember, I made my first painting using plaster and house paint. I made a flower and I thought, “Man, this is fun.” Started drawing while working midnights at a military base. It made me feel good and people thought it was good enough to be respected and they respected me. And that made me feel good. And it got better. And it keeps getting better. I’m not going to stop because it’s one of the only things that makes me content, and mad, and feel everything. At least I have something to make me feel things. And that makes me feel good.
Is there a guiding philosophy behind what you do? A school of thought or set of principles that you identify yourself/your art with?
J: Let go. Like people who are interested in something but they don’t know what direction they want to go or they don’t know how to start – I would make them just relax and let go. You aren’t trying to impress anyone. Just expose what you are thinking or feeling. It’s somewhat like therapy. If I had to teach people art that’s what I would do. Here’s a bucket of red. Here are all the colors you ever wanted. Go to town.
What’s the sort of dialogue you’d like your work to start?
J: I like it when people say my work is weird or scary because I like that I forced them to see something they don’t understand, at least I created a reaction. I usually thank them. At least they felt something. At a lot of art galleries and shows, there are a lot of people who are just there to be there or because they said they were going to be there and they are looking at art that’s just hanging there. I’m glad when I am at least able to make one person experience something new.
If you could compare your method of getting inspired to an everyday profession, what would it be?
J: I guess since I have been living off of my art for four years, this is my every day profession. I’m also a business owner – I’m just a regular guy doing my regular job. They need me as much as they need a lawyer, a physician, a gardener. But as far as my method for inspiration goes, it’s random, it could last for days or a moment. I have to be in the right state of mind to create anything I like. Sometimes when I go to bed I can’t shut my brain off and then I know, it’s already painted in my head i just have to go through the motions. But sometimes, it’s just raw feeling and it all starts to come together and bam, you have a piece. I feel a whole lot more completed when I do something free and less thought controlled. I was pissed off when I made “Smoke Break” but I had no idea what I was going to paint and it just came and went. I did “Best Friends” when I found out Todd and Shay were moving and I started painting and it just happened, it just came and went. I started painting them with out thinking, just feeling, and I created them. And they came and they went.
“All Kings Will Perish”
What should creatives be doing to deal with the injustice in this country? What do you feel is your place in politics or activism, if any?
J: I think politics is like money, it’s controlled by the wealthy. I’m disgruntled that there is so much unhappiness because there is no money to share. If you take God, money, and power out of the equation it would level us all out. Those are the reasons why people are killing each other. We need each other to look past simple beliefs and ideas and try to band together. Some of my paintings are political, “Godless America” – we aren’t this way because we are “godless” but because we need god less. God simply representing the beliefs that keep us separated. “Trespassing” was a piece I did after the wall controversy – I don’t think we should be killing people trying to move, trying to work, trying to make their lives better.
Now, for some fun ones – if you could, describe how to make the cocktail that would sum you up as an artist or creative individual.
J: A Whiskey Margarita. But don’t get rid of the tequila – take a standard pitcher of margaritas and add a fifth of whiskey to it. Don’t replace the tequila with whiskey, let’s have both.
What’s the sensation – flavor, smell, sound – that you most associate with your style of art/expression?
J: When I see my artwork I can smell the actually things I used to make it: the paint, the wood, the smell of the cut grass outside the garage where I painted it. And I find those things comforting because I know how to use them. Recently I’ve been using oil sticks which I find kind of sexy because it’s a new toy to play with – even though some people think it smells like fish butt. I like it. Music is really important to me and I think my paintings reflect a mashup of stoner metal and old school hip hop, bright ass 80s and 90s colors and fashion included. Really bright. And Heavy.
If you were in a reality TV show style confession booth – what’s the sort of thing you’d say?
J: “What the fuck am I doing here?”
What’s your least/most favorite zodiac sign to deal with – or, if that’s not your thing, personality type?
J: I like people who know what their thing is, like Todd Bot: Art, Sam Damask: Bass, Frank Campagna: Gallery, Confetti Eddie: Magic, Ivan St. John: Lawyer. I may not know a thing about what they are doing but it interests me because they are interested. It ignites me to see their understanding and passion. Not that I dislike people who don’t know their thing, but I feel bad for them. You have to find how you connect with your existence as a person. When you have your thing it shows.
How do you take your coffee or tea? As detailed as possible.
J: Every day, I make a French Press at home and then I go get a Chocolate Nirvana and a lemon poppy seed muffin from Dunn Bros. It’s a sugary dream, plus, you can’t go wrong with poppies.
You certainly can’t, Jeff. For more beautiful artwork born of devastation – and fueled by poppy seeds – check out Jeff Skele and his work on Instagram or Facebook now.
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