Jeff Decker: It’s Always Been About Speed



Jeff Decker is a renowned sculptor widely known for his work on motorcycles. One of his most notable pieces is By the Horns, a 16-foot-tall, 5,000-pound, hill-climbing bronze biker at Milwaukee’s Harley-Davidson Museum (below). He was profiled previously on The Krakens for his series Hunting and Gathering. Decker lives with his family in Utah.

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Talk about making the jump from artist to full-time career artist. I suppose the moment I became a career artist, was when I stopped working at the tiny restaurant my wife and I created, to work at a foundry. The foundry paid a few dollars an hour less than we paid our kitchen employees. Art classes at university didn’t motivate me, yet I kept finding excuses to stay in the arts. I suppose a selfish drive pushed me to stick with something that was counterintuitive to my own common sense. I was driven even more by hunting and gathering old stuff, than even creating, and the foundry offered a skill I could use in restoring motorcycles as well as casting sculpture. My bronzes have never garnered interest in the art world, but I did address a subject that most serious artist had ignored. It is easy to be relevant, when you are only fool doing what you do. Of course, any clever explanation I my provide for my art or myself, is just in hindsight. I never have much or had any method to my progress.

You once wrote, “There is nothing that embodies the urgency or our age and the modern synergy of man and machine better than a motorcycle and its rider.” Are there motorcycles you are still yearning to sculpt? How do you keep the pieces fresh and innovative? There is a reverence for Vermeer, a debt to Stan Wanlass and a nod to Elmyer De Hoya. Geiger, Odd Nurdrum, Rob’t Williams and the name dropping goes on… Murakami tickles me today and I’ll tell you something different tomorrow. DaVinci inspires more than any other. Obviously. But for me, it is not the Mona Lisa nor his religious work. His mechanical doodlings move me most. His grotesque sketches. The ideas he never brought to fruition. With the passing of centuries I am able to steal his ideas and marry them to mechanical wonders that now exist. So perhaps the motorcycle itself will not always be my only muse, but I have not lost my love for the damn thing yet.

Visit Jeff Decker’s website.

Follow Jeff Decker on Instagram.


Jake Parker: Mr. Jake Parker


Jake Parker is an incredibly talented and prolific artist. His art empire stretches across numerous projects and social media. In 2009 Parker started Inktober, a popular annual celebration of ink drawing during the month of October that spawns hundreds of thousands of images each year. His YouTube channel and online art lessons are also very popular. His newest book is called Little Bot and Sparrow (above). Last year he launched a Kickstarter campaign for a new project called Skyheart (below). Parker was profiled previously on The Krakens for his Fan Art. He lives and works in Utah.


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You are involved in so many different projects, what does a typical day look like? This is something that I’ve worked on for years and years and years, and I’ve gone through periods of time where I’ve wasted a lot of time and I’ve been really ineffective with my hours in the day. That’s frustrated me to no end. I feel like it’s kind of…I don’t want to say a sin, but it’s a transgression to the time that you’re given to waste it and to not be productive with it. I’ve been trying really hard to not waste time and to spend every hour of my day on something productive. Something that’s going to get me closer to accomplishing my goals.

In order to make my days more effective here’s what I do. I usually start my day around 9:00 a.m. That’s my workday, I actually get up about 6:00 every day. For three hours I make breakfast, and help the kids, and clean the house, and just kind of get that part of my life squared away and help my wife get her day set up. I’ll spend the first 15-20 minutes either reading my scriptures or reading a book about my craft, whether it’s a book on illustration or a book on being creative or something like that. Those two things combined really get my mindset in a place where I’m trying to put my work towards something. Trying to put my work towards, really a higher elevation of ability and creativity, and trying to chip away at these goals that I’ve set for myself.

Once I’ve done that, I’ll sit down and make a To-Do list for the day. Spend about five minutes just prioritizing and figuring out what actually needs to happen and get done this day. That’s been good for me, to just keep track of what my day is actually spent doing. I can look at the end of the day and see that list that’s checked off and realize “Okay, I actually did accomplish something.” That To-Do list is key. Once that’s done then I get started. I usually spend my morning hours doing creative stuff and then my afternoon will be spent doing more administrative stuff. It’s really because I feel more creative in the mornings, in the afternoons I can get interruptions and things like that. When I’m being interrupted it’s easier to just be answering emails, and handling making PDFs of stuff to send to clients, and doing phone calls, and things like that. That’s typically how my day is divided up. I’ll try to devote, in a week I’ll say “Monday is to this project. Tuesday is for this project. Wednesday is back on my first project. Thursday, half day I’ll spend doing this, the last half of the day I’ll spend doing that.” I try to give a big chunk of time to whatever project I’m working on.

You are the most savvy, social media artist I know. What do you like or dislike about the new communication channels? I enjoy Instagram a lot because it’s very much based on visual communication. You can say a lot with pictures and I like that it’s contained in the phone and there’s not very much linking going on to other websites or to other things. It’s very pure, and it’s very…I guess I don’t want to say it’s very pure, it’s more pure than other because it’s all about creativity and “Look at this thing that I’ve seen, or this thing that I’m doing, or this thing that I’ve created.” It’s about sharing that instead of sharing links to other websites “Look at this and here’s what they’re talking about.” That’s what I oftentimes find is a problem with Facebook. I like Facebook in the fact that it’s great in having conversations with people. Twitter is really good for that as well, although I don’t have time to do as much conversation stuff on Twitter. Lately, probably my social media outlet of choice is YouTube. Just because I’m able to share so much of myself and my thoughts, and the community on there is very open minded and thoughtful. There’s lots of back and forth in the comments and stuff, and so I enjoy that. The thing I dislike is, again with Instagram, there’s a lot of people on there with short attention spans. That’s probably something that’s across the board with all of these things is the short attention spans. It’s really hard to grab people’s attention and to share stuff.

For two months straight I was talking about SkyHeart, which was my Kickstarter. For one month, all through Inktober, I did a drawing every day “Here’s this book I’m working on. This is my graphic novel. SkyHeart, SkyHeart, SkyHeart.” Every day. I was like “Man, I’m probably annoying these people always talking about SkyHeart, and then my little Kickstarter.” It was all “Go back to my Kickstarter. Go check out SkyHeart. Go check it out.” At the end of it, one of the last days of the Kickstarter, someone posted and said “Oh, what is this? You should make a book of this.” It made me realize, people aren’t on social media all the time, and when they are on it they’re whizzing through, looking at it, and you can’t expect that everything you do is going to be seen by everybody. I realized that to break through people’s short attention spans you really have to be…You either have to be super unique with what you’re doing, have some kind of imagery that just stops people in their tracks, or just count on your stuff not being seen by everybody all the time.

Visit Jake Parker’s website.

Follow Jake Parker on Instagram.


Leslie Graff: Organic


Leslie  Graff is a prolific painter with an intriguing collection called the Organic Series. She lives and paints outside of Boston with her husband and three sons. Graff says, “My organic works explore growth, connection, and our social experience. Drawing on the inherent metaphors of rooting, branching and fruition, these pieces represent the energy and yield that comes from our efforts, as well as our relationships and connections with others. It uses repetitions of small shapes and visual busy-ness to show the vibrancy of life, power of potential and the almost imperceptible, yet real, nature of change and growth.”


You color choices are bold and striking. What are your thoughts on color? I joke I use color obscenely, I have no palette modesty. Other people can do limited palettes but I love the full spectrum. Its hard for me to do pieces that are even confined to an analogous range. Its always instinctive for me to “cross the (color) wheel”. Its probably the element of design that captivates me the most. It’s probably also why I have a very big wardrobe (acquisitions mostly from the thrift shop) as l love pairing colors. You can create so much mood and feeling with color. I have loads and loads of colors of paint, as only certain lines make certain colors and I appreciate the subtle properties of color a lot. You can use color to just be flashy, but there is a lot of nuance in color, the subtlest shifts in intensity, or color make all the difference in nailing a piece with good color harmony. Color and flavor always have a relationship for me, I cook a lot (because I love to eat really good food) and paintings for me have a similar dynamic each piece, like a recipe is influenced by all the ingredients.

What’s the most gratifying part of being an artist? I would rather paint than eat or sleep and I very frequently give up both of those to paint. I often force myself to bed at 2 am. It even comes on vacation with me. I absolutely love the act of creating. Artist life is a perfect fit for me, both in purpose and structure. I love to inspire people, to share ideas, to help them feel powerful, deliberate, and valued. I see the work of art is to relate and inspire, to awaken people to deeper understandings of the world, to slow down, to notice, to feel, to capture the essence of things, but mostly to connect us. I love having others in my studio, and I think people can recognize it’s unique energy—or maybe they just like my playlists and treats. I thrive in an unstructured environment it makes me insanely productive. I am very “flavor-of-the-week”, always falling in love with new pieces I am making, and there is this constant crush energy—only its infatuations with ideas, colors, and patterns. Creating art in very psychologically intimate for me, part of my personal thoughts are embedded in every piece, there is always some thought, emotion, or meaning in my work I hold back only for myself and don’t share with others.

I am a very connecting social person, but I also love the solitude of painting, it’s process and experience. I usually have one of my many playlists on or audiobooks, podcasts, movies. I zone in and out of paying attention to them. I find I have developed a deep self-awareness as I spend so much time in my own head tapping into thoughts and feelings. It allows a unique awareness of the nuanced flavors of emotions and energies. It gives time to explore the deeper parts of human experiences, tensions and bigger existential conflicts. For me creating is energizing but also very calming in almost a meditative way, It lets me make more sense of life’s complexities.

Visit Leslie Graff’s website.

Follow Leslie Graff on Instagram.


Cristall Harper: Flowers

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Cristall Harper is a prolific painter and lover of flowers. She once wrote, “I inherited my love of flowers from my parents. On vacations, they take more pictures of the local flowers than their own family, something I’m now guilty of as an adult. I like the artistic challenge of taking something traditionally feminine and fragile, like a flower, but redefining that femininity with strength and confidence.” She was profiled previously on The Krakens for her series of dog paintings. Harper lives in Utah.

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Talk about your soap venture. It’s so funny to me that you asked about my soap venture. As if I didn’t have enough to do already being a full-time artist, I also make my own soap. I don’t know, I just love making things with my hands. I decided one day to take a lotion-making class at Thanksgiving Point. The lotion making was a bust but I sat by a lady who has made her own soap for decades. After class, she taught two of us how she did it and I was hooked. I make enough soap to keep my family supplied and to sell to friends and neighbors. It’s all just word-of-mouth. I made a blog for my soap sales venture and it’s – maybe some day I’ll have an Etsy store, but for now it’s a wee operation out of my kitchen that makes my house smell amazing and makes my friends and neighbors happy.

What’s next for you? My 2016 is totally booked, and my 2017 is quickly filling up. I’m so blessed. I have my first big show at my Park City gallery (milestone!) booked for the summer of 2017. I’m marinating on the idea of entering a couple of new markets. There are areas of the country with a strong art scene I feel my work would fit into nicely. First, I need to acclimate my business and my production to the two new markets I have recently entered (Sun Valley, ID and Jackson Hole, WY). I have the mindset that I will be as successful as I choose to be.

Visit Cristall Harper’s website.

Follow Cristall Harper on Instagram.


Ryan Muldowney: Artistic Omnivore


Ryan Muldowney is a teacher, painter, and creator and is currently an assistant professor of studio arts. Muldowney received a BFA from The University of the Arts in Philadelphia and an MFA from The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.  He lives in Virginia with his family and has also had works of fiction and non-fiction published. His series unraveled was profiled previously on The Krakens.

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Describe yourself as an artist. I am something of an artistic omnivore. My interests in art are various and I like to allow myself the freedom to explore any and all avenues of creation in the execution of my work. As a young artist I would often hear to my chagrin that it was important to consolidate your interests and develop a characteristic style, but this never sat well with me as I was unwilling to lay aside the sometimes-incongruous battery of artistic interests that continually held my attention. To this day I have never yet been able to settle down, and every time I stumble across something new that I like, I do it over and over again, refining and experimenting until the body of work no longer holds any mystery for me and then I move on to the next thing.

You once wrote, “I seek for mastery, not of process but of understanding.” I see mastery as one of the most important ideas to which we can cling in this life. It is an all-governing principle. I seek for mastery in all aspects of my life including my art. But I have unfortunately found mastering a process to be an unfulfilling shadow of true mastery. I have come to feel that possessing a superlative technique in painting or drawing or some other process is ultimately a dead-end as technical mastery only leads to the elimination of possible outcomes. I prefer to work inexpertly and with uncertainty so that by my struggle I may gain understanding of the intrinsic qualities of new tools and new materials, and by my experiments I create little worlds of possibility that are new to me and that allow me to understand a little more and see a little further into the darkness, into the great “mystery”. Mastery of understanding can only be purchased with the coin of inquiry, and I prefer a practice that is fundamentally questioning rather than being a master of process who can do nothing but make statements.

Visit Ryan Muldowney’s website.

Follow Ryan Muldowney on Instagram.