…my biological mother was an artist. I know now that I was meant to be an artist from birth. -Olson Skoolanski founder of Works Of Mike, llc
If you’ve been freqin’ the illest techniques with us since day one, then you’ve read it time and time again:
Artists are born, not made.
You can’t learn this shyt but that doesn’t mean your spleen can’t glean a thing from the multifaceted artiste, Olson Skoolanski or plain ole Ol’ Skool to The Black Freq Sheets. Let’s see if we can keep up with one of Tennessee’s most iconic artists while discovering how tf he came to be.
Nothing plain about the man who fixes colors on surfaces in a kingly fashion for his soul’s sake and ours. We linked with the graffiti god to discuss his muses, influences, inspirations and had no intentions on getting into the how (we already know he was born that way!) but the why on the other hand… We HAD to know.
We called him. He answered.
There are SO many gifted people on the planet but walking that truth is another story entirely. Fear has a way of keeping some of us from becoming ourselves. The Black Freq Sheets keeps a keen eye out for those bold enough to BE, despite themselves.
They say we are all our own worst enemies.
“It’s definitely been therapeutic. Knowing that once I connected a pencil or a pen to the paper I knew that I could pour my feeling onto that paper through that instrument,” lends Ol Skool. He continues, “I put 100 percent of my life experiences into my work. It has shaped me as a man and an artist. Not only am I able to talk about my work, but my personal experiences through it.”
As selfish as it sounds, one of the main reasons artists create is for themselves. Garbage in, beauty out. It can be a burden to some but also a calling.
Ol’ Skool remembers, “I once had a kid that I was teaching art to hit me with some knowledge that was even heavy for me to absorb immediately:
“He who bears the crown dons many hats.”
I truly understand that now.”
‘Many hats’ is pretty much an understatement. We first met Ol’ Skool over a decade ago when he stepped up to complete an album graphic image for The Alley Angel Artists Aphropik. You read that right! Album art people. #nobounds
“With any visual art, most of the time, the goal of the artist is to connect his personal expression to the viewer. So, one of the things I’ve always tried to do with my pieces, is to make an emotional connection with the viewer. Human emotion is easy to sense or tap into. It makes the person reflect… makes them dive into the work and view it from within themselves,” offers Ol’ Skool.
The decision to become a vessel for creativity is always involuntary. Artist are born remember? However, one can choose NOT to walk in it. It’s usually a pity but it does happen. Unfortunately, this happens many times for lack of an example of how to be. It can be hard for even the most gifted artists to see themselves as such without a living example.
“I never made the decision, it was made for me before I was born. It’s in my DNA,” he laughs. “I really didn’t wanna be an artist, until I was intrigued by JJ from Good Times.”
“I started trying to redraw some of the paintings he was “painting” on the show. The work they were showing that he was “creating” was so inspiring, so unapologetically black… I didn’t know of any black artists at this point in my life, so this was new to me. I wanted to be one,” adds Ol’ Skool.
Examples are good. Living examples of who you can become are always useful and if they are non-fictional, it’s even better. 😉 Imagine the disappointment young Ol’ Skool must’ve felt when he inevitably discovered JJ was an actor… a good one… but still just acting like a painter. The Black Freq Sheets is all the way here for Ol’ Skool’s response.
“After learning that JJ wasn’t the artist creating the work and it was actually Ernie Barnes, I got mad and stopped watching the show! I Became lil’ militant Michael,” the artists laughs. “But this started a discovery stage. I saw all of the other works of Mr. Barnes, learned of John Biggers, Romare Bearden, Aaron Douglas, Greg Ridley… all amazing black artists.”
That’s right! Disappointment can lead to discovery if we allow it. If you’re gifted, negative emotions become fodder for creativity. That discovery would lead Ol’ Skool to work with some of the most iconic artists in Tennessee and even those close to his deified mentors.
“Upon moving to Nashville, I worked at the main art store in town where I had the pleasure of meeting Greg, who was taught by Aaron Douglas. I met Marvin Posey, who is a relative of the Posey family I grew up with. James Threalkill, who is my biggest fan, Michael McBride, TSU Professor and mentor. I am so proud to say I used to carry their basket of supplies around the store while they shopped. Some of my favorite collaborators, wow, this list is lengthy,” agrees Ol’ Skool.
Lengthy as it may be, it includes premier artists in Nashville and beyond. Some of these artists have been featured right here in The Sheets! “My current boss and former art shop extrodinate, Elisheba Israel, Thaxton Waters, and Brad Wells are some of the most fun and creative artists I’ve ever worked with. Brandon Donahue, who is now a TSU professor, has been a big influence based off of his approach to his works. The show with James and Mike was amazing. Jay Jenkins, Arjae, and Doughjoe have been amazing to work with as well,” remembers Ol’ Skool.
He continues, “Artists sometime tend to create creative friction while working together. Sometimes it blossoms into greatness, other times explosions.” Maybe that’s what the hell he and Elisheba are doing in those pictures above… creating creative fiction… #artistsarestrange
“Currently, I’m finishing up the next 10 paintings of a current collection, which will be on display in the month of March in the TSU Avon Willams campus Library. In total, once this collection is complete, there will be 30 paintings.”
Preview The Undefined Collection below:
“I love working on canvas. I’m also working on an animated short and several other personal and private commissions. I got another project on the rise that is close to getting off the ground, I’ll have to keep you posted on that one.”
“Some other digital projects are also on the table. It’s amazing how much work you have in progress when you actually have the chance to see how much isn’t finished yet,” Ol’ Skool laughs. This author however is just in freqin’ awe! He continues, “I’m always working, so my audience will have to keep up.”
We will do our best to keep up!
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