There are two things that you must know about Greg Simkins, first he’s the nicest person you will probably ever meet. Secondly, his art will blow your mind. At the always lovely Merry Karnowsky Gallery, Greg, better known as Craola, amazed gallery attendees with his new body of work at the opening of “Cloud Theory.”

Renowned for his ability to create whimsical images with impressive details and superior technique, Craola’s work for “Cloud Theory,” was no different.  As the title of the show suggests, inspiration for the show came from above.  What started as a childhood game of staring at the sky and looking at clouds form and daydreaming them into shapes, became fuel for his recent work. “I wanted to see what parts of my imagination would stick to these puffy shapes when I sketched them onto canvas,” explains Craola. “I started with a loose cloud shape for each piece and allowed the creatures to invade them however it seemed natural.” The clouds morph into birds, killer whales and assortment of creatures both real and fictional.

Teacups and antiques found their way in several paintings in “Cloud Theory.” These items represent his way of balancing the hectic elements with serene items from his childhood. Growing up he spent a lot of time with his grandparents who collected tea sets and antiques, these items today bring him solace and revert him to a simpler time.

Craola’s work reads like a story, his continual use of characters intrigues viewers. The white knight plays a reoccurring and pivotal role in many paintings. He is his hero in the back story of his work who is allowed to experience venturing “through the looking glass”, into a made up world that he refers to as “The Outside”. The knight is a shape shifter of sorts and his suit helps him hold his form. “Anything and everything I paint makes sense in this world,” he explains.  “Which gives me artistic license to paint whatever I want. There are really no rules there except to express whatever is going on in my head. A story has crept in there throughout the years, one that I can’t reveal entirely here, but will do so in the future,” he continues.

He alluded to themes in his previous show, “The Pearl Thief.” Again we see the use of pearls to represent dreams, with black pearls symbolizing nightmares. Once each pearl hatched it contains creatures and images that the viewer would see in his paintings. Hidden inside a majority of Craola’s paintings is INLE, in reference to the black rabbit of INLE from the book Watership Down. To him the black rabbit represented being fearless of death. Fans with a good eye can also find 280 in select pieces from Craola, the number is indicates the page in the book you can find the description of the black rabbit.

Despite the crowd of people circling Craola at any given time, he took the time to sign people’s books, posters and whatever else they had in hand. He took picture after picture and had conversations with anyone that came up to talk to him. It was refreshing to see an artist with such a huge following remain so gracious and congenial with his fans. “I really appreciate everyone who came out to the show and am humbled by the kind comments and great conversations I had,” remarked Craola. “My goal is to inspire others to create art and enjoy escaping into their imaginations and from some of the conversations I had it sounds like I am getting closer to this goal.”

In addition, the Merry Karnowsky Gallery is also displaying work from Johnny KMNDZ Rodriguez.  The two artists’ work will be in exhibition until May 19.

– written by Keisha Raines, with photos by Birdman for Warholian

Via Merry Karnowsky Gallery:

Johnny Rodriguez (KMNDZ) – Square Gallery
April 21 – May 19, 2012
Opening Reception Saturday April 21

For more on Greg “Craola” Simkins visit his site here:

For more on the show visit: