Do the monster mash


Photo By Larry Dalton

Inside the new Capitol Garage space at K and 15th streets are several pillar-like murals along the north and west walls. Imagine what might happen if you fed peyote to Toltec Indians and then gave them copies of superhero and horror comics and a set of Day-Glo paints. The murals are the work of Skinner, one of the more vibrant painters on the local scene. By day, Skinner teaches art to the developmentally disabled at the Short Center North; by night, he fronts a cartoon metal band called the Little People. And he paints. Prolifically. This Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, Skinner’s paintings can be viewed at the Toyroom Gallery, in the alley behind 2419 Second Avenue.

How long have you been doing murals?

About a year and a half.

How did you get into art?

Oh, man, I used to draw dinosaurs when I was like 5 years old. And I’d draw Airwolf, and helicopters, and fuckin’ thousands of Ninjas on a hill gettin’ blown up by tanks. And Godzilla. You should see my drawings from then—they’re bad-ass. I’m gonna put out a book called The Book of Warren.

That’s your real first name?

Yeah. My name is Warren Davis III. My mom called me “Pumpkin,” and then “Pumpkin Skin,” and then “Skinner” when I got older. I couldn’t rightly be called “Pumpkin Skin” right now, could I? [Hillbilly voice] “That sure would be adorable …”

And you grew up where?

A town called Cool. In the hills, where’s there’s hella coyotes hunting kids. That was a twisting experience for me [laughs]. There’s no authorities up there. It was a nightmare. When I was 5 years old? It was horrific—animals and people beating each other, people holding guns and pointing ’em at each other, and yelling and alcohol and fuckin’ rabid animals. My mom and I got cornered in our garage ‘cause my uncle Dwayne called me “Snake"—not Skinner. He refused to call me Skinner. He was in a motorcycle accident; he didn’t even have a leg—like he had a peg leg. His dog went crazy and cornered me and my mom.

Back to the art …

I started painting when I was like 17, 18. I got real crazy about art—like drawing obsessively, making music. I just totally get off on creativity and seeing what somebody did. I appreciate things, the action; I know what it requires—the energy, the effort it takes to do shit and sustain an abnormal level of creativity and thought. And I see a lot of people, and like I’m encouraging that shit. I always offer everybody: Come to my studio and paint with me. Let’s rock. We can jam. Not even half the people don’t even want to do art; a lot of people just want to talk about it. But I can’t say this town is totally lacking. There are opportunities for people to get acknowledgement for what they do, if they choose that. It’s not as hard as, say, San Francisco or whatever. I’m just some jerk; I’m just a little bit better than some of the people around here. But I’m putting it out.

How many pieces do you have ready for the Toyroom show?

At my studio, my house, my work, at school or whatever, I never have less than 50 paintings around—50, 60, 100.

How many for this show?

My first show, I had like 230 paintings; my second show I had about 180.

In one show?

Yeah [laughs]. My second show was like an art battle with Pete Bettencourt at the Toyroom. But now I’ll probably have like 100 or so—if they’ll even let me do that anymore. Because now they’re all hella professional, and they don’t have that much room anymore. They’ll just ask me to frame my best stuff. That’s hard to decide. I’m with these two other cats this time, but I really don’t anticipate them having that much art.

Who else is in the show?

Attaboy and, uh … Extremo the Clown [laughs]. That’s so fuckin’ funny. I’m telling you, it’s trippy. The other person who works like me? John [Stuart] Berger.

You two are my favorite painters in town.

Yeah, I like him. Actually, I just did a whole bunch of drawings for him as backgrounds for some of his newer paintings. Like all these underground fish. I tried to emulate those old wood cuttings, like giant sea monsters and shit. He’s the only person who—not like negatively or anything, but we encourage each other like crazy. I love John Berger. He’s the only guy I look to to try to balance negative energy off of me. He’s like such a fuckin’ Zen master.

You still in that band, the Little People?

We’re finishing up mixing this album. And then we’re going to record a whole new one.