The Art Of Connection: An Interview with Skye Walker
Waves of color wash against a concrete canvas as muralist Skye Walker begins his work. Images begin to peak through the paint engulfed in vibrant tones of orange, blue and green. The San Diego-native, who specializes in large-scale art projects in public spaces, has taken his talents on the road and is currently traveling across the United States to bring a deeper sense of community to the places that need it most through his Mother Nature inspired works.
While the artist has always had a spark for all things creative, it was his unique upbringing that instilled a true love for the experiences art can bring. Walker’s parents, Morris and Lynn Walker, were entertainers and took Skye, aged 11 at the time, along with his younger sister, on a cross-country road trip. Akin to the modern-day Von Trapp family, the Walkers performed with an environmentalist agenda, one which is still apparent in Skye Walker’s art today.
Now, months into his Sea 2 Sea mural tour, Walker has taken time to reflect on his childhood, his inspirations and what lies ahead.
Come to Life (CTL): The two biggest things in your life are nature and art, what sparked these?
Skye Walker (SW): My parents were environmentalists and definite advocates for the planet. They had a real message of saving the environment. When my sister and I were born, they instilled that in us. As I did more art growing up, that’s really what I gravitated towards: doing work that revolved around the environment and nature. I’ve done stuff with urban vibes and cityscapes, but none of that really stuck with me like doing stuff that’s based around nature and the environment.
CTL: You were part of this traveling band as a child. That just seems like such an incredible way to grow up. Can you tell us more about that?
SW: So, when I was probably 11 and my sister was 9 he said, ”We’re going on the road, you guys are going to be homeschooled and we’re going to do this for a couple of years.” And so, they partnered with National School Assemblies, which is who they worked with before, and they lined up schools for us to perform for across America. We traveled and performed two different tours across the United States and performed at maybe 2,500 shows in that time.
CTL: That seems like a pretty unique way to grow up. How do you think it impacted you?
SW: As we traveled, we got to see so many different places in the United States that people only read about or heard about. We were going to see Abraham Lincoln’s home or we were going to see Wounded Knee in South Dakota. Also, just seeing the landscapes of America like the mountains, the trees, the valleys, the rivers, the oceans, and all those things just subliminally stuck themselves in my brain. My parents were obviously very encouraging about doing art and being creative, and not just in one thing. They really encouraged my sister and I to do what we love, whatever that is. My dad was an artist; he was also a designer. He also did murals, which is how I learned to do murals.
CTL: Could you share your thoughts on the impact that you feel art, and mural art especially, can have on people?
SW: Public art is such a great way to spread a lot of messages and inform people about things. Whether it’s about nature or a political statement. People like Banksy and Shepard Fairey do an amazing job of political street art where it’s very thought-provoking. [Public art] can be very beautiful and well-designed, but it’s also got a strong message behind it. And when you see murals like that, or something that’s really beautiful, it makes you stop and think and go, ”Wow. You know, that’s bringing up emotions and thoughts I wasn’t even thinking about before I saw that piece of art.” Those are the kinds of things that I strive for with my work to where hopefully somebody walks up and they’re inspired by what they’re seeing.
CTL: What was the catalyst behind the tour?
SW: I lived in San Diego for 18 years. I’d travel for work and I loved it and I’d go places and I’d come back. It was great, but then I was like, “You know, I wanna do something different,” and my friend Chris Benchetler had just finished his GoPro show. And we went to Seattle to premiere it at the EVO Store, we did a 70-foot mural together there. And during that time, hanging out in the van and doing the mural, I was like, you know, I thought about doing a mural tour for a long time. So, I came back, started researching and then by December, I found a van that I wanted to buy. While Joey Fandel and Johnny Wood were building my van, I was planning the tour. I was downsizing and kinda simplifying my life. And, yeah, by June 3rd, I had moved into the van, moved out of my place that I’d been in for 10 years and hit the road.
CTL: On that note of traveling through America, do you feel like there’s an importance in traveling in your home country as opposed to taking the tour overseas?
SW: America’s in a really tricky time right now politically speaking and there’s a lot of people that are super stressed and super worried about the future of things. [Through this tour], I’ve been reminded about how many great people are out there and [how many people] want help you and are welcoming. I think that in itself is very American. [It’s all about] helping people, being communicative, making friends, connecting with your environment and other environments in the country, and not closing yourself off to just one location because you’re comfortable there, which is so easy to do.
CTL: Do you feel like the experiences you’ve had so far are having an impact on the murals you’re currently working on or the ideas that are percolating in your mind for the art you’d like to create?
SW: I definitely have been trying to implement elements of wherever into the murals, whether it’s topography, or the state bird, things like that. A mural I did for this community called Lower Price Hill in Cincinnati was a pretty low-income community and I worked with Community Matters. They brought me in to do a three-story mural, and we got the community involved to paint and the kids to help sign their names and paint trees on it. It was really fun and it got everybody engaged.
Background Image: Bradley Smith – @bradleymichaelsmith
Pic 1: Jasper Newton – @jaznewt
Pic 2: Bradley Smith – @bradleymichaelsmith
Pic 4 & 5: Cort Muller – @cortmuller