A few months ago, we took a field trip to Cerulean Gallery in Dallas at the invitation of the gallery manager. Now, we all know it's a slippery slope when Shauna and art meet; chances are she is not walking away empty handed. And our predictions rang true when we stepped in to the gallery and spotted the work of Austin artist Jeff Skele. His collaboration with Nic Noblique, Storytime, features hand painted sculptures that combine Nic's abstract shapes with Skele's characters. Needless to say, it was love at first sight, and it only made sense for us to share his story and his amazing work with you on our Artist Spotlight.
SGD: Can you briefly walk us through your story? How did you get started and how did you get to where you are today?
JS: I hail from Virginia Beach. I always wanted to be a soccer player but I blew out both of my knees. There was about 5 years of not knowing who I was. In 2007, my father got me a job as a security guard at a military base where I worked midnights. Everynight before work, I would pick up a tattoo magazine and use it as a drawing reference. I started making full page color drawings not long after. I met local artists and showed them my work and they were really impressed and I liked that feeling. At that moment, I realized I should keep going. Drawings turned into paintings, which turned into art shows.
In 2013, I packed up and moved to Dallas, which forced me to survive on my art. I reached out to Kettle Art Gallery, owned by Dallas-local artist Frank Campagna, asking to be featured in his gallery. In a month’s time, I was showing him my work and in a couple more weeks, I was in my first gallery show. I became a permanent fixture in Kettle, while also entering numerous festivals, live-painting events, and also honing my skills as a studio artist.
For a short time, I lived with Nic Noblique, a sculptor, who built up my confidence as a self-taught, full-time artist.
I moved to Austin in 2017 with close friend and fellow artist, Todd Bot. We both really dove into the art scene here by painting at events, painting at the famous Hope Outdoor Gallery, and spent late nights in the studio. In that time, I met a large group of artists -- now my close friends -- who inspired me, brought new opportunities to showcase my art, expand into mural work, and shared valuable insights about creating.
SGD: Has it been a smooth road? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
JS: Absolutely not. The biggest struggles have been believing in myself and carving out your own space in the art world as a self-taught artist.
SGD: What are you most proud of and what sets you apart from other artists?
JS: A moment of validation for me, I won 1st place at an art festival in my hometown. I gave the ribbon to my parents and it's still hanging on their mantle to this day.
My work ethic. All I know is how to work. My father instilled in me a strong sense of work ethic and would always say, “no one is ever going to knock on your door and give you anything.” When I get stuck, I don’t just stop working. I switch mediums or canvases, or start finger painting.
SGD: What advice would you give to someone at the start of his or her career?
JS: There are no mistakes. Every stroke is a lesson. Each piece is important, even if you look back 10 years from now. This isn’t easy, it isn’t for the faint of heart. You gotta want it, you gotta believe in it, you gotta work hard.
SGD: What artists do YOU admire and why?
JS: I admire all artists trying to live this dream. I see people working and the growth in their work and that just pushes me.
SGD: If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
JS: Honestly, probably a construction worker. Ties back into my work ethic and my desire to work hard, with my hands.