The Sweetheart Tree – Greg “Craola” Simkins

Having a completely overactive brain can be really confusing and a bit trying sometimes.  It can be absolutely brilliant when you have a number of things to do as it can really assist with thinking about a lot of different things at once, making you a master of multitasking, but it can also make you get inside your own head and give awful thoughts of self doubt and and lead people to misunderstand you.  This is potentially why I really identified with Alice from “Alice in Wonderland” as a kid.  She was a girl who just didn’t fit in anywhere, an over thinker who fell down a rabbit hole to a crazy world that put her brain to the test.  Alice came across the doldrums in the midst of her adventure but overcame them.  Only to return to reality after running from the Queen of Hearts and her pack of card guards for no one to believe her.  They thought she had been day dreaming, or utilising her creative thinking…granted that inevitably she probably had been…but much like the Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” all the adults around patted the girls in the head and the normality ensued.  Many people have put these stories down to nonsense and have linked them to tales of opiate use, but actually I think these stories were really down to escapism.

How many times have you sat at work longing for something much more exciting to happen, like a white rabbit carrying a watch running by that you could follow, or at least day dreamed of being on a beach rather than being stuck in an office?

Greg “Craola” Simkin art work is literally this, the moments between you concentrating on what happens, as your mind wanders to other things.

Born in 1975 in Torrance, California, Simkins grew up with a number of animals, including rabbits which tend to feature heavily in his work.  He started drawing very early in his life, with influences from books such as “Watership Down”, “The Chronicles of Narnia” and “The Phantom Tollbooth”.  By the age of 18 he moved into the graffiti arena, creating large scale works and refining his colour techniques and styles which he has now transferred over to his acrylic works.

Simkins received a Bachelor’s degree in art from the California State University and went on to be an illustrator for various clothing lines and bands.  He moved in to video game design but continued to paint whenever he could.  In 2005 he decided to become a full time artist and has been included in many exhibitions, as well as selling out his own solo exhibits.

I selected “The Sweetheart Tree” for this article as I like how blatant Simkins is with the fact that his art is about escapism.  The escape sign points both ways, meaning that your mind can escape in any direction it chooses.

I love the tree in this, as it reminds me of the pumpkin Jack from “Return to Oz”, a heart carved on his head as if it is overruling in this situation.  On the top of the tree is a masked animal with wings, while below it a starry octopus entwines its tentacles around black and white shaped gourds.  Weird fish swim in the inky depths while silhouetted bird and fish can be seen in the black background.

The colour pallette of the piece is vibrant and takes me back to childhood books and animated films.  There is a beautiful whimsy to Simkins work, which really echoes his ethos of daydreaming.

There really is no deep and meaningful message to this painting, or any of Simkins paintings, but I am drawn to them, time and again, for their imaginative charm.   I do however really like his repetitive iconography that appears through his work, the use of animals and the black and white gourds, provide a consistent throughput to his pieces.

If you want to see more of this stunning artist, you can find his website here.

What do you think if Simkins work? Why not tell me in the comments?  Like this post?  Why not share it.

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