Meet Skye Walker
Gianna: Welcome to Studio Sundays, Skye! To start off, could you share a bit of your background and how your life changed when you became your own boss and a full-time artist?
Skye: After college I moved to Encinitas and started working in the surf industry. I worked for Rip Curl as a Senior Designer, and then Prana as Art Director for a couple of years. I was laid off in 2009 when the economy collapsed. It was a very jarring moment because I had worked so hard to be an art director. I hadn't painted a mural in ten years because I'd been focused on working in the action sports industry. Then I got a call from Whole Foods Market and they said, “Hey, an artist up here referred us to you. Would you want to do a mural for our store in Encinitas?”
They hired me for one mural and I did it in two days. Then they hired me to do the entire store, and eight more stores after that. By the time I did the third store, I was like, “Oh, this is it.” Now I had to retrain my brain to do what I've always known how to do, though I never saw it as being plausible a career.
My dad taught me to paint murals while I was growing up and I attribute my ability to be a self-employed artist to him. We had an artsy family, a family band, and we traveled the country performing. This experience helped me go from being a graphic designer in the action sports world and translate those skills to murals. I've been self-employed for fourteen years now and have never looked back.
Gianna: What is your creative process like from conceptualizing to actually getting that final piece of art?
Skye: I'll start off with some little thumbnail sketches and very quick doodles in my sketchbook to see what's working as a composition. I might not even have exact elements, but I'll have a circle, a blob, where I have mental placeholders for whatever the featured item is. Depending on how fast the project is, I'll jump on my iPad and work up a really quick rendering so I can change colors quickly. Because when you're presenting to clients, if they want a color change, I'm not going to go back and redo a watercolor rendering to change that color.
Now, if it's a commission piece for a home, I'll do a hand sketch and leave a lot of room for playing on the final piece. I definitely have a love/hate relationship with the digital world. I think we all do. I truly love the tactile, touching the pencils and brushes and actually drawing it out. It all stems from thumbnail sketches. It's cool to go back and look, because sometimes those little itty bitty sketches stay true to what I actually come up with. Sometimes those sketches might not work for that project, but they work for something else.
Gianna: I love the mural you painted at evo Seattle a few years back. I think that's first how I learned about your work. How did that come about?
Skye: That mural was a collaboration with Chris Benchetler. He was releasing a ski film and we worked on the mural together, it was his first big wall. I was appreciative of him for bringing me on. He is super talented and an epic skier. During the project, he had a van that he used for his film at the time. When we were doing the mural, I was reminded of growing up and doing the van life thing with my family, before van life was even a thing. I had wanted to do a mural tour for a long time, so I thought, “I need to get a van, do a mural tour, and travel around the United States.”
In 2018, I moved out of my place of Encinitas and did a year and a half mural tour across the country, painting thirty murals coast to coast. I literally had two murals booked. I just kind of sent it out in the universe, like, “I need to do this.” It was a beautiful adventure of making new friends traveling across the country.
Gianna: So you only had two murals booked? Did you just post on social media like, “Hey, I'm gonna be here. Does anyone need a mural?” What was that process like?
Skye: I started promoting it on social media five months beforehand. My second mural was in Mendon, Nevada, but when I got there they didn't have a budget secured. I was like, “What do I do?” Then I was introduced to the High Fives Foundation, and I went up to do a donated mural for them. Here's the beauty of it. Flash forward to this year, I just went back to the High Fives Foundation and did a huge mural and a whole merch collab with skis, apparel and more. It was beautiful synergy that this little thing from years ago flourished into a deeper friendship, a bigger project.
To leave something in the world for people to see in a community is special. I'm gone, I'm not in any of those states. But the work I did lives on walls that people get to see daily, and I can only hope that inspires somebody, makes somebody happy, makes them think, or makes them go, "Wow, I could do that.” Maybe they don't want to be a muralist, but it inspires them to pursue photography, etc.
Gianna: What are you excited for and hopeful about in the future, whether that's a trend or a personal goal? What's giving you hope right now?
Skye: My father, unfortunately passed away in October of 2022. He’s my biggest cheerleader, teacher, and just my best friend. This year has been very difficult to just kind of recalibrate life as it was versus where it is now. Because of the void that he left, I want to continue my work and push myself to be better and to honor what he did for me. How he led me to be where I am. This year was very much about distraction with trying to work as much as possible to move through grief and change. I had to step away from doing personal work.
This next year, I want to move into doing more personal work in my studio to focus on an art show. I haven't done a solo show in a long time. I'd like to contribute to communities and create a show for the future me to be stoked on, while continuing to grow as an artist.