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Jan 23, 2008

Greg Simkins' Scurvy Nevil for Vivisect Playset

Greg 'Craola' Simkins'  Scurvy Nevil is one of eight figures in  the upcoming Vivisect Playset minifigure series from  STRANGEco based on the annual gallery exhibition curated by Luke Chueh and hosted by Gallery 1988. The Vivisect Playset Series will drop at the official release event on  Saturday, January 26th, 2008 (6 to 9 PM) @ Gallery 1988 Los Angeles. We first featured Scurvy Nevil a little over a year ago for a Proto Monday post. Today, we have an  exclusive  first picture of the rare pink, silver and white edition of the figure.  This is not a straight colorway but features a modified design.  To go beyond the dope pictures, we went one on one with Greg about Scurvy Nevil and the challenges of translating art to vinyl.

Hi Greg. Before we launch into talking about Vivisect Playset, let's start with your paintings.. Your  wild menagerie of creatures are familiar yet not.  They're mutated visions of characters and animals from folklore, mythology, pop culture and 'toons.  How do you describe your art style and do you find it overwhelming incorporating all the various elements? As in... wait, just one more guy over here, or what if... ?

Sometimes it gets a little overwhelming. At the drawing stage, I can put as much into the layout as I want and not think about how long it will actually take to paint the image. When it gets down to painting it, the cool little last minute addition can take an extra day. This is usually fine with me if I feel it helps the painting. It occurs more than not these days. I create a very loose sketch for the painting and allow a little bit of freedom during the execution. All the fine detail stuff like filigree, jewels, lettering, patterns, and textures are just painted on with no sketch, i usually have in mind what these details will be, but don't feel like sketching them first.  Most of the fogged out background stuff is free styled too.

Describing the style of my paintings is a little hard. I think of it as fantasy/surrealistic/pop art. Some people call it low-brow, but I say we come up with a new term right here and now and call it MAGIC-BROW! Or Unicornistic because the majority of the paintings were painted with the blood of the Unicorn that lives under my stairs.

Tell us a little bit about your Vivisect Playset figure, Scurvy Nevil. You created him specifically for the series, right?  Where did the idea come from ?  You've done a few pirate themed paintings. Is he connected story wise to that previous work ?   

I created Scurvy Nevil around the time I painted "The Ghost of Captain Bristlebeard" so probably  a little bit of that vibe snuck in there.  I wanted to do a tentacled creature for my first toy design and Nevil is what came out. It was also a good opportunity to work on a first project with STRANGEco. They are a great group of people, so it made it fun.

You often incorporate symbols and your own mythology into your work.  The rare chase Scurvy Nevil seems to be another example with the mysterious "280" surrounding the anchor symbol.  What's it all about?  Or at least give us a hint ?    

A lot of people ask about the "280" in my paintings. I was writing it on stuff before I even picked up a paint brush and it has taken on a little life of its own. A few people know what it is and I would be doing the rest a disfavor to just tell them what it was without a little hunting. A hint though. It was told to me by a rabbit in the moonlight.

Your skill as a painter is quite impressive and seems to grow with each new piece.  One comment I've heard from toy collectors is the worry that your sweet painting style doesn't translate well (or hasn't yet) over to toys. Scurvy Nevil is your first original toy and the one that has collectors most excited to date.  Can you talk a bit about creating original toys (as opposed to platforms) and whether you see particular challenges there given your painting style?  Are you looking to achieve a look similar to your paintings with your toys or change things up a bit?

I appreciate the criticism and agree with it. I think it is hard to get the unbalanced long thick to thin elements with vinyl that I can get with my paintings. Maybe I am just a bad designer and that's the problem, but i think the limitations with vinyl are a bit frustrating sometimes. I enjoyed doing the Walrus toy that recently came out for Upper Playground (Ningyoushi) and felt it came out pretty sweet. That came from a drawing I did in like 2002 as a study for a Walrus and Carpenter painting i wanted to do at the time. Later I redrew it as a T-shirt design for Upper Playground and then we did the toy. I had already had the design finished for Nevil by the time I did the Walrus for anyone looking at the time lines.

Creating original toys is still fun even with the limitations. I find it more satisfying than platforms, because it is my design from the ground up, although platforms are cool because it is a collaborative effort.  Honestly it is cool having a piece of my art or one of my characters made into a 3-D object. I like the vinyl, and am glad that I have been given an opportunity to make some toys, i would also like to explore other 3-D outlets, such as bronze, resin, wood carving (like carousel horses), etc... Taking the characters off the canvas and making them 3-D makes them a little more real.

I am not entirely trying to get a similar look to the toys as in my paintings, not yet anyway. I need more experience to figure that out, and this is still pretty new to me. I want to make the toys look like something that might live in the worlds I paint.

What's next ?  And the question I have to ask is the one on the minds of almost every collector out there... When can we expect to see larger original vinyl from you ?

Next up is a solo at M Modern in March. I have a few new characters to introduce at this show and am looking forward to it. A larger vinyl is perhaps on its way. Keep your eyes peeled, it might be cruising in off the horizon sooner than you think. And hopefully it will change the naysayers' minds (mine included) on the translation of my work from canvas to vinyl.

[Vinyl Pulse would like to thank both Greg Simkins and Jim Crawford of STRANGEco for making this feature happen.  If you live in SoCal, be sure to check out  the official Vivisect Release event with artist signings on Saturday, January 26th, 2008 @ Gallery 1988 Los Angeles.]

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