The artist, SKINNER, is always trying to out-do his last piece of work; whether it’s a painting, ink drawing, or intricate wall mural. His work is driven by an insatiable desire to, not only be a better person and artist, but an overall better human being. The Oakland based artist’s youth, scarred with trauma, has led him to a life-long battle with depression and anxiety, but SKINNER refuses to allow it to drag him down. His drive has catapulted him into being one of the world’s most sought after artists—he is an artist that isn’t afraid to try new mediums and fail—because to him, it’s still a win! It’s easy to get lost inside the rich, black lines and psychedelic color schemes of his work, but what you find is inspiration and hope mixed with some metal, horror-movie themes and 80’s Saturday morning cartoon nostalgia. Spray Planet was blessed to be able to pick at SKINNER’s brain as he discussed his art, creative processes, his battles and his future. Read below to find out more… if you think you can handle it, that is.
SprayPlanet: Normally, this is where we start off the interview with the “what do you write” questions… you don’t write graffiti, though? The basic question still applies to any artist… so, how long have you been painting and creating art? Where did you grow up and where do you call home? Would you mind telling our readers what the early years of SKINNER looked like? Was there a specific moment’s in your youth that directed you into the path that you’re currently on?
SKINNER: Well, I always felt intimidated by the commitment you have to have to be a legit writer. Going all city--doing damage sounds like fun, but I always knew that I would probably end up distracted at the age I was doing illegal art. I’d blast the same profile on a wall with a fat cap and try to get it big as possible. It was really fun, I had a special bag on my BMX that I could hold cans in and I’d ride around all over and blast this stupid profile face. I thought it was cool and menacing but it was probably pretty wack. It felt good to get it down as big as possible, as fast as possible. But as an artist I was inspired real, real early by fantasy stuff and monsters and evil tigers and dinosaurs and stuff; movies and comics. The Hulk, Godzilla, mythology, Cyclops-lookin’ marmots and ultra man. I just went in on this stuff as a way to escape the uncertainty of being a kid in a chaotic situation, but as far as when I knew I should do it as a job? I had a real hard look at my life and my means and realized that I don’t have any money or any degrees or anything going for me besides drawing Satan and wizards hella good. Fortunately for me, that could be a job! Ha!
SprayPlanet: Your paintings have a psychedelic-black metal type of feel to them, which naturally leads to the question of what type of music to do you tend to vibe on? Also, there’s a horror-film genre-type of feel from your work as well. What were some of your earlier influences? Have your influences changed as you got older and your art matured into what it is now? Your animation reminds me of the old HE-MAN and THUNDERCATS style of artwork. Is this purposeful? Could the animation of the 80’s be one of your influences for today?
SKINNER: Well it’s kind of impossible to grow up in the 80’s and not be totally formed by the particular zeitgeist of the time.it’s just such a unique and focused time in art, music, design, politics.. It might have been the last decade where real originality was allowed into the mainstream via creators being in charge of the product instead of executives or A&R’s being in charge of you think about how everything now is kind of a remake from that time because it was a golden age of cool ideas being green lit by the gate keepers of Hollywood, etc… it was cool to be around as a kid then. I mean basically no one had a dad and we thought we could get nuked, but ghostbusters was sick! I’d say that my music videos and art is probably more informed by the 80’s than I’d like to admit. I’m always trying to separate myself from the obvious source material but I’m just fooling myself. Everybody can see what I’m doing and be like,” that’s just one part Dungeons and Dragons, two parts Beastmaster, three parts EC comics, and 4 parts trying not to suck!”
SprayPlanet: Your artwork seems to shift between different styles, is this purposeful? Some work has a crazy, bright color transitions and then some of it is very dark—how do you decide which direction you plan on going with a painting? Can you share some of your processes with us? Do you follow a certain routine when painting or do you let the art “create itself?”
SKINNER: Well I’m annoyingly ambitious and won’t focus on one thing, so the styles will all shift to kinda fit the project. Sometimes it’s just an excuse for me to try something new. I’m way too inspired by different shit, so of course I gotta try it all. I’m obsessed with good inking like old Bernie Wrightson or TWIST, or like comics illustrators ( usually old school) so I usually tend to go heavy into inking with fancy brushes and stuff. When I do a big mural, I use ink on top of spray paint to try and match my paintings. That’s probably lame, but I just try to lean into my strengths and build up the skills as I go so that one day I might not use ink but a thin tip and black. I use airbrush a lot on my small pieces to emulate a psychedelic spray style. I’m always on the lookout for a perfect line pull in my stuff. So satisfying!
SprayPlanet: On your Instagram, you continually keep fans posted on a stop-motion film that’s in production; would you like to tell us about that? What part do you have in this project and what have your expectations been about the project? Also, you’ve worked on other videos as well (Asleep in the Deep and Sultan’s Curse for Mastodon), how does your normal process of creating art compare to creating something like a video or animation? Those projects must have a completely different way of direction compared to your other processes; can you walk us through that? Were there any types of personal discoveries that you made along the way? Is film something you would like to get more into in the future?
SKINNER: Oh man SHRINE OF ABOMINATIONS! Yeah that’s a stop motion horror/fantasy film I’ve been working on with this incredible artist named Ross Kennedy. He does incredible stop motion and sculpting. We have done commercials for Adult Swim together and it’s just been a labor of love. I’m tired of Pixar man, I want straight up creatures and monsters and nightmare worlds, so that’s what we are doing! We’re hoping to make a short and do some Kickstarter action to see about making a longer, more insane film, so that’s the real goal. To make the most insane, trippy monster film of all time, and we’re gonna do it. The footage we have so far is fucking crazy; I can’t wait to show you! Working in film has been amazing for me. If I’m writing the narratives for music videos/animations, directing stuff or acting in short movies, it’s just fun as hell! The short horror film BUDFOOT that came out two months ago was really cool to share! People were really cool and supportive about it and acting is super fun. It’s just pretending really hard, I don’t know why actors get paid so much. They’re just pretending to be somebody else. I was working on another short horror movie before Covid, but it got put on hold of course. I had Pete Von Sholly, the legendary storyboard artist, do the storyboards first me. He also did the breakdowns for my horror comic coming out.
SprayPlanet: As a professional artist, you have your hands in a lot of different art genres, besides painting and film; in other words, you also do limited edition collectible toys—have you always wanted to make these? Or was it just the natural evolution of your artwork to grow in this direction? In one of your posts, you discuss a “permission slip,” can you elaborate on that for us?
SKINNER: Yeah man, making toys is really fun, because it’s another way to collaborate with talented people and cool companies! Plus it’s another hustle to get money to buy comics and mushrooms. My monster art kinda lends itself to toys so it seemed natural to go that way, and I guess a permission slip refers to giving yourself permission to do whatever you want. At least that’s what everyone should do. Life is so short, just do your thing, don’t be scared.
Spray Planet: As someone who doesn’t use sprays as a key component to his artwork, what do you think is the allure of spray paint versus other more accessible and accepted mediums? Bouncing off of the earlier question about walls, if you could paint one spot legal or illegal and without any negative repercussion, where/what would you paint?
SKINNER: Well spray paint is just straight up the most fun thing to do. It requires patience and dedication to get good. Or just to develop a style out of fun or not giving a fuck, too... it’s a very freeing thing even though it’s intimidating to most people. If I could paint one spot, it would be anywhere that helps people or a small cool business (comic shop or something) and that bothers squares and inspires kids.
SprayPlanet: Let’s shift the interview into a little different direction. With the craziness and intensity of current world events, you’ve really made a voice as to where you stand and how you feel in regards to social injustice and racism, how has the current events affected your work? Do you feel that your art is reflecting the current stresses cause by our world’s current state? Having such a huge social media following, do you think that your voice has the ability to be louder than others who may not have the same influence? How has having the ability to use this voice affected your overall view of social media and the influence that you may have over the people that admire your art and follow you?
SKINNER: Well I’ll just say that I’m really into the diversity of the people of planet earth and I love that it’s all different and people can experience their sexuality or culture or ethnicity or identity how they want and I’m into it. It’s like Star Trek to me; I’m just cruising around checking out the cool people and want to learn about them. I’m not into power structures and dehumanizing and I’ll fight that shit forever, even if it doesn’t affect me. The trippy part is, I’ve had these same views and feelings since I was little. Sure I’ve grown and have to always challenge the conditioning of our fucked up culture, but generally I always thought racism was totally fucked, LGBTQ+ Are great , cops fucking suck, war sucks, and that corporations and oligarchs are fucking over working class people. But those views only made me a “lib-tard” or some kind of radical leftist in the last 3/4 years. Not being racist or phobic became a Leftist idea once a racist, phobic demagogue got elected. I thought we were collectively on the same page, like the arc of justice was bending towards justice, but I guess I’m just naive. It’s ok though, the poison is being drawn out. Fear and hate is a sword that cuts both ways, so the burden of holding it is always cutting inward. I’m a hippie I guess. The last month or so I’ve been at protests and trying to be transparent about my intentions, but for the most part I just took a step back to not be a part of the noise and just push black artists I love to the forefront. I honestly don’t know what to do but be kind and loving and not take up space when it’s not my time, and maybe that makes me a lil' weenie but I don’t give one shit.
SprayPlanet: Shifting a little bit towards a little different direction and the previous question, in a podcast earlier this year, you talked a little bit about mental health and how the world’s current situation was affecting you. Would you mind discussing your methods of how you are dealing with today’s chaos? Is there, or was there, ever a time that you thought for sure that you weren’t going to make it as an artist, but moved forward anyhow? How did you find the strength to push on and press through it? Some of our readers may be currently going through a similar situation, is there anything you would mind sharing that could possibly help move them in a better direction?
SKINNER: I’ve suffered pretty badly from clinical depression my whole life and just recently started taking Prozac. It’s changed my life so much, for the better. Wayyyyyy better! When Covid hit, I felt kinda comfortable, because as a kid from a traumatic type childhood, I just kinda always held the feeling that everything was gonna fall apart, so I felt like,” oh this isn’t that bad, I was expecting worse.” But that’s a pretty nihilistic view, albeit one that’s telling of my perspective. I’d recommend people get on medication if their brain isn’t producing serotonin or chemicals needed to regulate a healthy mental perspective. I should have been on this stuff since I was 15. The things I do to stay positive in this time besides Prozac, is exercising, and listening to comedy podcasts but most important of all just being grateful for things moment to moment. I know that sounds so dumb but seriously, I think we just took so much for granted for so long that it’s time to just appreciate what you can. Be present with that taco, how delicious is that motherfucker? Be one with that taco my friend! When you’re lying in bed and you wake up at 6 am because you had too much tequila the night before and the sugars woke you up, just focus on the bed. That you have a quiet moment in your bed and it’s warm and you aren’t digging ditches and you aren’t homeless and stuff like that. I constantly think about how much worse it could be, and when I just stay grateful for shit, I’m way happier. Plus I need to keep my positivity and energy focused to be present in the fight to address the entropy of the universe, the injustice of the world, and the indifference of our society.
Spray Planet: We understand that this topic can be very sensitive, but it’s also a topic that’s very relevant in today’s world. Sharing the fact that you’ve struggled with depression and decided to take medication to help you cope and live with that depression, do you ever have to deal with people telling you that you shouldn’t be taking Prozac? Although it’s only been recent since starting the use of Prozac, where do you think your life would be right now had you not decided to seek medication? Was there a final straw or did you wake up one morning and decided to seek medical advice on it? Additionally, how has being on Prozac affected how you focus on your work? What would your advice be to a young artist who may be struggling with similar issues?
SKINNER: I expect there will be people who will say I shouldn’t take Prozac but I could care less. I don’t romanticize not getting help or like an artist should be all bummed out and struggl-ish. I don’t care about that shit. If you’re depressed, you know it is a bummer. Like legit nihilistic darkness informing your perspective is brutal and makes life so unrewarding. I like to chuckle and make people happy and feel happy too. A final straw was that I basically really felt like everything I had built could potentially turn to shit--my relationship, my career, my whole life. It just felt so trivial and worthless. But now I feel like it’s all trivial but I’m grateful. I’d tell any sad kids out there to get help and see what it’s all about. See if there’s a diagnosis because your brain isn’t releasing the right chemicals. A lot of it is from early development trauma and stuff. It’s not your fault, you deserve to be happy and party with big Skin dog!
SprayPlanet: With painting being a full-time gig, do you have any hobbies? How important is it to take a break from painting in order to regroup? Is it hard to take breaks? When you do take a break, how do you prevent yourself from worrying about deadlines? How easy is it to get back into the grind once you’ve taken that time off? While we were discussing this interview, you mentioned a trip to the mountains… from a content/creative aspect, how important is taking time from social media?
SKINNER: I love reading comics, books and looking at art as a hobby, but it’s basically still wound up in my career. I used to play basketball all the time but its hard now. It’s good to take breaks but I kinda just start tweaking in a piece and I don’t chill until it’s done really. I’m better about taking time though, because the world has been in timeout for Covid, so that’s cool too! As for deadlines, I’m a total nerd so I always get shit done ahead of time so I can focus on my own stuff. I’m doing less and less for companies so I can do my own thing though, so deadlines are t too brutal. Getting back into the grind is kinda hard right now. I just got back from the mountains and I want to just lie down in the sun and read comics. Being away from social media was incredibly good for my mind. I strongly recommend everyone give themselves a break. What good is knowing all the horrible shit you can’t do anything about if it’s just stressing you out? Unless you practice the art of having no attachments like a Buddhist, it’s really hard!
SprayPlanet: What makes this interview so fresh is that you’re not a graffiti writer, correct? With this in mind, what are your thoughts on graffiti? You do use sprays in some of your work and in your larger murals; so with that in mind, what’s SKINNER’s thoughts on using the can to create art and using it as a tool? Have you ever collaborated with any graffiti artists? Do you ever paint murals for yourself? The overall consensus for graffiti artists’ is that your work is generally finite and non-permanent, how do you approach art in relationship to time? What’s more important the art itself or the impact it has on the viewer?
SKINNER: I don’t do graffiti, I just don’t think I could hack it. I think I could do it now more than when I was younger because I care way less about going to jail and stuff, but I’d probably just annoy everyone with my weak throwies. Maybe I should try. I always thought DIO would be sick. Write DIO and make a little “SLAYS emoji” next to it. All the Graff dudes I’m buddies with have been kind enough to let me get in on their productions. Quake has been incredible to me--getting me in on LORDS productions. I miss laughing with him and talking about aliens and shit. I paint murals for myself, I’m ready to do more! I want to do full monstrous insanity, and I’m gonna try to get some walls here soon. I just finished a cool one for a gaming shop here in Oakland. The shop had a wall in front and I was just like,” let me blast you out an insane D&D situation here! And they said,” can you make a bad ass black lady in armor?” And I was like,” YEAH!” The original lady who owned the shop was black and I just thought that was pretty cool. I have so much fun painting murals because I get to meet people. All these incredible black women would walk by and tell me to make the fingernails longer and her eyelashes bigger. Who am I to argue.
Spray Planet: The world of graffiti can be finicky when accepting outsiders or non-graff writers in, does being accepted into such a culture affect your walls at all? Do you think that, since you’ve established yourself with the locals that it’s easier for you to paint walls? You lived in Sacramento before moving to Oakland, how is the art scene compared to those two cities? Can you elaborate for our readers?
SKINNER: I try to be drama free and honestly, I just don’t assume any knowledge of Graff politics. I try to be cool about people’s spaces and walls, but I have a very accepting attitude if it comes down to someone hitting one of my murals. Shit happens sometimes and I can’t control it. Everything is fleeting and I’m just some weirdo on the periphery of this shit. I’ve had people send me photos of stuff I did years ago and someone tagged on it and they go,” look man someone dissed you.” And I just go,” oh man finally, that mural is embarrassing.” Like if I do some masterpiece I would be bummed, but I kinda just accept that it’ll happen. Could you imagine me like beefing with somebody? It would be hilarious.. Sacramento has a killer art scene but then like all things, it changed and kinda got more into bistro’s and breweries. It lost its charming grime, but that’s ok too I guess. Sac is where I came up, but the opportunities not being there and the heat were too brutal. I love Sac though. It’s tough. Oakland is so beautiful and has really been an incredible city for me to live in. It’s just the best. I love riding my bike around and smiling at people and everyone goes,” there goes smilin’ ass Skinny with the little muscles.”
SprayPlanet: Since we’re discussing you working with other artists, without giving away too many details, is there anything that our fans should know about that may or may not be happening in the next couple of months? Can you give our readers a glimpse, but not give it away, into what you have going on with Spray Planet and, from a scale of 1 to 10, how excited should we be for this release?
SKINNER: Besides the movie Shrine of Abominations, I’m doing stuff with Municipal Waste, Melvins, Unbox Industries, I’m relaunching my website, I’m gonna do more comics, animated metal movie called a Planet Of Doom, Halloween haunted house branding for Drag legend Peaches Christ, secret video game stuff ( but features a very legendary skateboarder) but doing the stuff with SPRAY PLANET is going to be amazing! I’d say 10! I feel really honored to be included because I use rattlecans, but I’m not a Graff guy. I’m just hyped to lend energy to something I think is an amazing part of outlaw American culture.
SprayPlanet: Lastly, what can we expect to see in the next year or so from SKINNER (besides the Spray Planet collaboration)? Are there any other big projects or pieces that you’d like to share about that may be in the works? Also, most importantly, where can your fans find more about you, drool over your work or buy some art and gear? Are there any “shout-outs” or “hollas” you’d like to give?
SKINNER: In the next year, I’d say you can see more horror comics, the stop motion film, more paintings, toys and clothing releases. MURALS and who knows what else! You can buy my books, and other stuff in my webstore shopcriticalhit.com. Shout out to Tim Heidecker, Dj Dougg Pound and Vic Berger. Thanks so much y’all, stay strong and be cool and fun and listen to Judas Priest.
MTN Colors x SKINNER x Spray Planet Artist Collab!!
Be on the lookout for the NEWEST Artist Collab between MTN Colors and SKINNER dropping this month! Be FIRST to know by signing up here:
Skinner’s work can be found and purchased at:
Interviewed by: Kasm (On Instagram: @kasm78)