Artist Explores the World of Psychedelic Mythology

By Judith Kahn

Skinner, an Oakland-based artist of fantasy/horror illustration, currently has an exhibit of his striking art in The Hot House Gallery. Located in the 4 Star Theater at 2200 Clement St., Skinner’s work will be on display there until March 1. It brings an underrepresented facet of art – and perhaps a new audience – to the Richmond District. 

While it may initially be shocking for some, Skinner draws a distinction between the horror of his images versus the horror of our current world. 

Skinner. Photo by Kristie Harris.

“What I am making is an act of creating a mythology of existing in a world where horror is constant,” Skinner said. “The horror of the world is endlessly reinventing itself at our own peril, because we refuse to change our selves.”

Skinner has had previous shows in Tokyo, the Philippines and Europe. He has also created murals in Russia, Cuba, Europe, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Oregon.

Originally from the California Gold Country town of Auburn, Skinner lived in Sacramento for 15 years before moving to Oakland 10 years ago. His father was a day contractor who disappeared after Skinner’s parents divorced when the artist was 6 years old. His mother had a demanding job as an office manager, and he characterizes his childhood as “a low-income situation with no time for arts or luxuries.” 

“My mom encouraged me to draw and to enjoy reading fantasy books,” he said. 

“Megogod Eternus” by Skinner.

Skinner said that the reality of his daily life in his early years was partially what induced him to escape into a fantasy environment. There his mind was able to wander freely and escape from the day-to-day limitations of the reality in which he found himself. 

With few resources available, Skinner had no schooling in the arts as a child. As a young man, he took a few classes at Sacramento City College, but then stopped. Yet the arts called to him because the process of creating it provided a field in which he could test himself and find out his true capabilities, and nothing could prevent him from making art. 

“Being creative is a survival mechanism as much as a way to know myself,” he said. 

Screen shot from Skinner’s website (link below).

The idea of the importance of self-knowledge is a consistent personal value for Skinner. He sees it as critical to forming a healthy society. 

“Our society is a place of horror because we refuse to take accountability for how we participate in it,” he said. “It’s a Jungian thing, really. The personal shadow doesn’t get dealt with, so the societal shadow keeps growing.”

There are several artists whose work has inspired Skinner, including Jack Kirby, Frank Frazetta, and Bernie Wrightson. These artists, he says, were committed to seeing how far they could go with their art. 

Skinner. Photo by Kristie Harris.

“I love Jack Kirby because of his unyielding imagination and drive,” he said. “To create wildly and with abandon. No filters, no inhibitions. I believe he may be one of the greatest Americans to ever live.” 

He admires Frank Frazetta “because he gave validity to fantasy and horror in a way no one ever did.” Skinner pronounces Frazetta’s artwork “unmatched in tone and skill!” 

But Skinner counts Bernie Wrightson as one of his true heroes. With his own abiding interest in uncovering and acknowledging the shadow in the individual and collective psyche, he says of Wrightson: “He delved deeply into the macabre shadows of illustration that no one had been able to touch. Greatest horror draughtsman ever!” 

The artist has branched out over the years, having taken his first big plunge into committing himself to full-time art during the recession of 2008. 

“Thankfully my professional relationships led to opportunities in writing and directing music videos, live animation projections, and IP commercials,” Skinner said. 

He organically moved into scriptwriting, acting and production, and enjoys the collaboration and “connectivity with people that has enriched my life in ways that being an isolated painter never could.” He finds it “infinitely more inspiring than working alone” and a natural outcome of his efforts to develop and expand his own creative self.

“Leg of Horror” by Skinner.

Skinner is not short on projects, and several are now in the works. He is involved in a stop-motion horror/fantasy film called “Shrine of Abominations” and a video game called “Flesh Haunted Lords.” Meanwhile, he is working on a comics anthology called “Skin Crawl” and the accompanying radio drama podcast, as well as a full-length live-action film called “Dungeon Crawl.” Of course, he will continue to be drawing and painting as much as possible. 

He has conflicting views of life in San Francisco. What Skinner loves about the City is tied to its generations-old legacy of, somehow, forever being ground zero for all things counterculture. Among many other art, literary, political, musical, sexual and social movements (think mid-century free concerts in Golden Gate Park, for starters), this, of course, includes underground comics (Zap Comix) and “the weird art scene I came up in.” Of SF, he says, “It is beautiful and charming in so many ways. Just a special place.” While the City’s draw is real for Skinner, he goes on to say, “The things I don’t like are when it is hijacked by tech start-ups and there’s no infrastructure to support mental health and drug addiction. Also, the wealth disparity has made it dystopian.”

If you missed seeing his work in person, his website presents a very healthy sampling of it, including videos, news, and a photograph of the artist at

Skinner. Photo by Kristie Harris.

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