In the Spring of 2017 I had the honor of painting Bill’s Wheels Skate Shop on Soquel Ave. in Santa Cruz, California. Bill has been running his famous SC institution for forty years, offering the best skateboarding equipment around (he stocks the Adidas Busenitz pro-model in my size) and showcasing some of northern California’s finest graffiti-writers (TiTs Crew, Lords Crew, etc.) as well as guest-artists from all over the country (and the world). I remember arriving in SC after a flight from Boston and seeing Massachusetts freight-legend “Ichabod” emblazoned on the side of Bill’s, sporting the familiar MBTA “Circle-T” crew-emblem. The exterior walls of the shop are well-curated with a choice blend of styles, so I felt in good company when Bill gave me a spot next to Australian native “Aerosol One” whose double-vanishing-point 3-d piece sprawls across the center of the back wall. The flowing geometric shapes of his piece give way to a hot-dog character sporting a mustache and emceeing the piece while puffing on a spliff:
I pulled out all the stops for this production, painting a greyscale portrait of Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn next to a burner in joker-colors that boasts two skylines (one rural, one urban) and a smooth three-purple fade. The timing of this mural coincided with the release of the movie “Suicide Squad”; I may have been subconsciously saturated with high-definition digital close-ups of the adorably sociopathic Quinn… she was a joy to paint in any case, especially her sneer, her viciously indignant glare, and the iridescence of her black-opal necklace. I painted her in about six hours with Montana Gold matte-finish paints, which are the most available German brand locally here in Santa Cruz.
What Santa Cruz production of mine would be complete without the inclusion of my west-coast connection, the Pride of California Thrash Kids? P-Ride caps off the wall in the three-spot, rocking a velvety-purple fill accented by psychedelic green orbs in the background. His letters are a tour-de-force in the kick-boxer-stanced style of norcal burning. His razor-sharp cut-backs and cracked antiquing create an intensely detailed piece that invites you to get lost in its smaller moments.
I’m back in the Santa Cruz area in 2018 and I’m stoked to announce that Bill has invited the boys and I back over to paint another production this February! Stay tuned for the new episode! Coming Soon!
How do we reconcile the duality of our own awareness? What kinds of psychological gymnastics are required to balance the waking life against the dreaming one? How can we convince internal enemies to break bread together within ourselves?: The yearning for stability vs. the thrill of spontaneity, the drive to create vs. the need to consume, the longing for connection vs. the sense of self-preservation, etc… I’ve been re-weighing these balances while focusing on greyscale portraiture here in Santa Cruz, California.
There are two ways to paint these pieces: from light to dark, or from dark to light. The former fades into existence, advancing from a blinding blank background like a piece of photo-paper dropped into the toner. The latter flickers forward from an endlessly receding void, like a familiar face pronouncing itself as it’s met by candlelight in a dark room. This latest freckle-featured addition to my Greyscale Girls series is painted from dark to light–negative values transforming to positive ones–a pixie-faced beauty beaming from beneath the Bougainvillea.
This collaborative piece resides in Soquel (pronounced “so-KEL”), a serene village to the east of Santa Cruz that remains a cradle of California surf and skate culture. When my partner and I strolled into the spot, our client was stripping old plywood from a backyard bowl to make way for a straight-up homemade half-pipe. Construction is due to be completed by June; the finished atmosphere will showcase both local skateboarding talent and the cutting edge of spray-can culture.
Dr. Pride rides shotgun in this speedy afternoon production, painted in under four hours circa Valentines Day, 2016. The fellow who commissioned this piece is raising a teenage son who dabbles in tagging (the purely signature-oriented side of graffiti); he was stoked to have some pros roll through and show the kid what’s possible. Make no mistake, spray-can art is the largest folk-art movement in modern history; it’s global, and it’s limits as a medium have not yet been touched, even as a new generation comes up on the block.