Featured Artist: Gabriel Welch ( Omeka ) ~ September [ Symbiosis Exclusive ]

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Featured Artist: Gabriel Welch ( Omeka ) ~ September [ Symbiosis Exclusive ]

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Gabriel Welch, Omeka, is a stylistic yet futuristic artist existing before the human experience on 23rd of September, was born in Visalia, CA into a family of artistic clowns. Inspired by comic-book life around him, he became a young illustrator. He taught himself how to pencil, ink, and color by pulling a Plato-Aristotle learning concept as he generated ideas from the Masters of the comic craft, and thus, put his own creative spin on it. In his early twenties, he found a new feel of passion as he began a journey into the world of painting and sculpting. He moved his art into the streets to embark in a fast-paced journey of action style of painting, learned the calligraphy of handstyles on the run, and thus, created aerosol art in public by crafting elaborate multicolored stencil projects to brighten up the city and developed a quick stylistic flow through black marker tags.

His paintings are a self-reflection of his profound shamanic trance-like state that reveals he’s peaked through the veil of this reality as it reflects into a wild induced fever by bringing back glimpses of those inner or outer dimensions. His mind’s eye expands into deep consciousness as downloads of ancient knowledge guides his core entity into a live explosion of imaginative creations. He paints with a focused speed and manic intensity that is amusing to watch in a real live setting and a childlike innocence is even portrayed in some of his themes.

I reached out to Gabriel ( a friend I initially met in 2014 at Apache Pass ) to further discover his upbringing and everything from the present moment to inspirations to current projects to future goals.  Through our conversation, I can say that I have been inspired once again as he knows the importance of the simple things in life.  He shares such great passion and speaks his truth, which has opened up a channel of infinite possibilities.  Gabriel, like myself, is also fascinated with the number 23.  Be sure to peak his story as we also feature 11 originals and 5 collabs with his brother under, The Welch Brothers.  Be sure to catch him at Symbiosis next week!! Grab your tickets here.

A Conversation with Omeka

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Honor to connect through here my friend.  What does the present moment feel like?

An honor to connect with you as well. It was in Texas, at Apache Pass, that we first met and I gave you a rock with a 23 drawn into it. That may have been the seed that is now growing into this tree. Thanks for having me on for some Q and A. If I could sum up this present moment, I would say it feels like love and infinite possibilities, it’s limitless.

Yes I remember that day it was at Art Outside 2014 I believe. Super awesome times! I still have that rock with number 23 ya gave me! Thank you.  Can’t wait to see you at Symbiosis next weekend!! Yes to infinite possibilities! 🙂

Tell us about Stargaze Mafia.

It came to me after a mushroom fueled night of exploring and stargazing with a few close friends in an old oak grove called Mooney’s Grove in Visalia. We were at StarBucks having our coffee ritual after we watched the sun rise up and we would sun gaze into our closest star. The Egyptians would sun gaze as well. There’s something about staring into the sun that reminds you of your place in the universe and when you look into people’s eyes after sun gazing, they can see that bright star in your eyes. There’s more to it than that of course…I’ll let you look into more for yourself later.  So I look up at the Starbucks logo that morning and think, “hmmmmm how about instead of corporate coffee. It says StarGaze Mafia.”  I drew up a logo with a robotic alien astronaut of sorts with a green helmet and LED lights shining through his visor and designed the letters in a graffiti style around the alien which I still have laying around here somewhere in an old sketchbook – that was back in 2003.

At first, it was a way to describe leading a small band of rebels and artistic misfits into realms of psychedelic mayhem.  Later on, it would become the name of the art malitia that I saw myself forming. It also became 3 letters to let you know that SGM was a graffiti crew now as well. Although, I see it as a style of art and a story all its own. It’s limitless in its scope and inclusion of artistic mediums. Next month, I have a crew of Graffiti Artists painting at Great North and we’re being billed on the flyer as the StarGaze Mafia and it’s becoming something bigger than myself – my very own fight club. Where I’m Tyler Durden and if this is your first night out, you have to paint.

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You’re Omeka.  You’re half of the Welch Brothers.  You’re a part of Stargaze Mafia.  Share with us the story behind everything.

This could take a while to dig into. Let’s start with Omeka. First off, Omeka wasn’t the first name that I wrote when I chose a name to write starting back in 2002. It all begun during our writing trip. I started writing on walls as soon as I could hold a crayon and initially got into trouble writing in the 5th grade. My friends Raphael and Daniel had older siblings that were gang bangers and they asked me to join the gang. In order to join the gang, they said I had to get jumped in, so I let them throw punches at me for a while until they felt I took enough of a beating to be in the The Norteno’s ( or Northerners ).  We would write X4 and Visa ( Visalia – Visa X4 ) everywhere and I designed the letters to be bubbly and was the 3 dimensional artist of the gang. Sounds silly I know, anyway, a kid in class ratted on me for tagging on school grounds – this is where the trouble for me would begin. I was on red track writing graffiti for a gang that represented themselves with red. It’s funny I refer to myself as the Red Ninja these days. And my middle name, Martin….meaning: Martian – One who possesses war like qualities and abilities. Red is the color of Mars The color of passion.

Later on down the road, I chose the name TRIP, although, the first spray paint piece I ever did said MACHINE. I spent 20 years dedicated to drawing comics in sketchbooks and now it was time to take art to the streets. My first handstyle tags looked like shit and my writing was sloppy and back before graffiti, I spent little time dedicated to penmanship. I also formed the crew Foggy Minded Philosophers at the same time – it was my friend Marcus ( Cyst ) and I. We would walk around discussing all aspects of life, digging deep into our comprehension of the universe while getting up tags at the same time. It was fun as everything felt fresh and exciting again like when we were kids out causing havoc. The rush was addictive and it consumed me, which still does to a degree.

On to the next topic, The Welch Brothers.  I remember the first drawing we did together. I was about 16 and he was 11. It was a picture of little characters. We passed the sketch back and forth while living in Arizona, far from town out in the boonies. We only had each other to hang out with, so we drew a lot, and later on, when we got to California, we both got into sculpture and ceramics. We played with Clay together and still have some collaborative sculptures around the house. We’ve always worked apart. We’ve also worked together. We’ve painted, live together and apart.

birthofathenablogBirth of Athena ( The Welch Brothers ) 2012

It was in 2012 when my sister was pregnant with Athena that my brother came to visit in Visalia. I was severely depressed on the opposite swing of a huge manic meltdown and I got us a 3 x 4 blank canvas to work on. He wanted us to paint together and I was in a place of calm and cooperation. It was his idea to paint the entire background black. From there, we freestyle constructed the painting from scratch and it was great to connect like that. I didn’t feel like talking much at that time, so we painted, night after night – mostly in silence. Sometimes to music and we also spoke about things while we smoked cigarettes. Neither of smoke anymore, I quit, he quit and we’ve been saving a ton of money and lung health ever since.

I later came to San Francisco to work on completing the Birth of Athena with my brother. I did a bunch of handstyles of “The Welch Brothers” and my brother vectorized the handstyle and we had our logo. I then moved from Visalia to Grass Valley and from Grass Valley to San Francisco. A year of living and working with my brother began and it was a turbulent year.  Almost all of our work was done together in that year of living together. Living with my brother wasn’t always fun. It was work…lot’s of work, but look at what we accomplished together though. We also had lots of fun too though and I learned so much from him and that year living in the Bay. Traveling to numerous festivals and events, going on tour with Space Jesus & Freddy Todd. It was wild. We make a great team when we want to.

The thing is though, that my brother and I are both leaders, so there’s bound to be lot’s of friction in terms of control. My dreams and his dreams aren’t the same dream. He wanted to work on music with his friend Ryan Carrier as the Smoke Signals and I wanted to focus on building the StarGaze Mafia as a clothing brand, as well as a graffiti crew. He wanted to create Massiflux as a business and I wanted to be free from feeling the need to constantly collaborate.  In order to be happy, I need freedom to create when and however I see fit.  My brother and I are currently working harmoniously together and I want to support him in his dreams and in return I want him to help me with mine. We also have numerous unpublished projects in the works which we plan on getting together to complete soon.

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Are you currently focusing on your solo project more than collaboration with your brother, or vice versa, or a combination of both?

I’m focusing on my personal work once again. For me, the canvas is a sacred space to create and escape as it’s a very personal experience. I can share that space from time to time. I love working with my brother, love working with other artists, and I especially love working in solitude as it’s my place of meditation. It’s my sanctuary. It’s a place for me to tell my personal story. The Hero’s journey from my perspective. It sounds selfish, I know, all the me and my that I see myself saying.

We must take time to nurture our hearts and our minds.  Self love is crucial. Setting boundaries is healthy. You can’t help or heal others if your internal world is in ruin or chaos. Being self centered is okay. Allow yourself the space and time that you need for any and all things. My brother, on the other hand, loves collaboration and cooperation with others. That’s where he finds his joy and feels that collaboration is perhaps the highest form of creation. I think both of our paths are beautiful and I’m lucky to have my brother on my side in this life. We can do big things when we choose to work together in harmony.

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What or whom initially inspired you?

I would say my father. I remember as a child, walking into the garage while he painted a brightly colored blue buffalo onto a wooden grape tray. I would sit near him and draw a robot transforming in a flip book that I created around the age of 7 or so. It was a windmill that transformed into a robot. Transformers had a huge impact on me. Captain Mark and the draw squad taught me how to draw boxes and every episode he would add to his piece called “Secret City”. I didn’t have access to paint as a kid, so I mostly doodled which is also my clown name. Doodles the Clown. I Soaked up inspiration from Bob Ross early on.

Later, my dad and I would sell comic books together at the local swap meet. My brother and I laugh every time we set up prints at festivals. It’s the same way we would set up comic books at the flea market. Some things never change. Comic book artists were my biggest influences, such as Jim Lee, Todd McFarlane, Sam Keith, Frank Miller, and Marc Sylvestri just to name a few. Van Gogh is also a huge influence on me when I first began painting impressionism. Mucha, Gustav Klimpt, Egon Shiele, H.R. Giger. This list goes on and on.

You’re a visual painter and a graffiti artist.  How would you say both styles of visual art reflect and help to further resonance into one?

It’s been the most beautiful thing seeing them go from being completely separate art styles to now where I have witnessed graffiti infiltrating every aspect of painting. The speed and style of graffiti can’t be unwoven from my canvas works and neither can my comic style illustration. It’s all merging together into one style.

You come from a family of artists, in what ways would you say your upbringing has influenced you?

My mom is a clown. She’s very creative and her creativity is more towards the theatrical side. The comedic side. She raised us so well that the sacrifices she has made and her selflessness has impacted me in ways that touch people beyond my heart. Her huge heart has taught me the influence and impact kindness can have on people. That’s how we will be remembered – how we treat others. That is an art unto itself.

My dad has influenced me immensely. I’m a lot like my father. I would watch him paint christmas windows growing up. The way he painted pine trees with a chisel tip sponge brush is the way I paint pine trees today. His influence is heavy on me. He’s wild, raw, manic, and expressive in art, writing and comedy. I got really lucky to have the parents I do.

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You mentioned to me last year that your sister Sarah had begun painting.  Any updates you can share?

Interesting that you mention my Sister. We have a few collaborations in the works at the moment and I’m hoping that she can come to a festival this weekend with me. I think it’s time to introduce her into the festival community. She has amazing ability and potential and I’m lighting a fire under her to get grinding on the art. She’s gonna surprise herself more and more and wow the world. Can’t wait to see her bloom into the artist that she has always been.

You exhibit your paintings in a wide variety of styles ranging from “Art Nouveau of Glasgow style and beautiful women, to abstract futuristic expressionism, surrealistic panoramic landscapes,  powerful Totem animals, to architectural graffiti and wicked wild styled yet otherworldly new-found worlds.”   From your styles, which one do you find yourself expressing more during present moment?

In this present moment, I’m diving back into abstract non objective future worlds. I’m also really into building future tree worlds currently. The Totem piece is also nearing completion. I have so many paintings and plates spinning right now that it makes my head spin.  I must remember to breathe and work on one painting at a time although I find myself spinning paintings like a dj would vinyl, rotating through a whole crate of styles and genres.

Share with us your most memorable festival experience.

I would say this is hard to pick.  If I had to choose one though, it would be the time my brother and I were painting on the left of the stage at Gem and Jam. Random Rab was playing a set and my brother went over to Alex Grey who was painting to the right of Random Rab. And Alex came across the stage and painted with us. That was an incredible feeling to have him in the center of the painting with us and speaking to each other while we painted.  What a historic moment in our lives. Then…Random Rab came and painted on the canvas with us after he played his last track. Whooooaaahhh!!!  That was magical.

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What’s your goal for this year?

To get way outside my comfort zones and to create a clothing line. I want to see StarGaze Mafia become a clothing brand. To create the beginning of a graphic novel. I want to build things. I want more community involvement. I want to teach painting workshops and to seek out help from my community to dream bigger. This year is almost over so I don’t want to overwhelm myself with too many more goals. I’m already accomplishing many of the goals I set out to accomplish this year. Still, strive to get higher and higher up your list an push yourself really hard towards the end of the year.

Any favorite foods?

Sushi, Thai, Pizza and Breakfast Burritos.

What helps to keep you motivated and balanced?  

The fact that I may die at any moment. I have so many paintings that I want to paint before I die. I balance myself through dance and exercise, lots of ninja training, meditation, and owning my darkness, really owning it.  Also beaming with light, transcending duality, and overcoming fear is my ultimate Mecca. Embracing the struggle. It’s a sacred struggle. A duty I wouldn’t want anyone to take on other than myself.

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What atmospheres would you like to explore that you’ve never been to before?

Japan, Thailand, India, Africa, Ireland, Peru, Australia

How do you view our community shifting?

It’s becoming somewhat self sustainable. I see all of our individual potentials and collective power growing. Of course, we are all subject to corruption like anything else. Our community could be a model for a new way of life and if we had more permanent places to gather, I could see us building some very beautiful future tree villages. Earth architecture workshops led by my good friend and brother mister Michael Wood.

Community gardens are building a better way of life to leave our children and more of us are standing up to protect rivers and land. I see things shifting in a positive direction for the most part. I also see the influence of corporate greed within festival culture. We’re all influenced by capitalism to a large degree, so it’s hard to predict where our community is shifting. Our tribe is strong though and the darker, more malevolent forces, which seek to poison and corrupt our tribe, will eventually find themselves ostracized from our clan of forward future thinkers.

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What’s the creative process like?

I tend to paint to high energy music and I use spray paint and acrylic. I paint in oils as well. I have anywhere from 1 to 10 paintings going on at once. Attacking them all at once when one painting loses my interest or another dominates my attention.  I’m all over the place in my studio. But lately, I’ve been able to hone in one particular painting and become possessed by it. I will paint it with such intensity that it would make my fellow Futurist proud.

What’s your favorite color?

Red.  It used to be green, then blue. I mean, how can you pick one color. Grey has always been my go to color of choice though.

If you could be any animal what would you be? What’s your totem?

Oh boy! I would be a hawk because I miss having wings. I would say I’m a bear though and a red fox, and a wolf. I’m definitely an owl and a mantis. I’m wild. I’m a lion.  I’m a dragon.  I’m a phoenix,  a pegasus, a snake, and a spider. I’m a double helix and I’m any animal I need to be for whatever the moment calls for.

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What do you do more – live painting or studio art?

Studio.  Although, I paint live a lot  it’s a toss up in the Summer.

Any advice to any fellow visual artists?

Get to work.  There aren’t any shortcuts. Stay focused on you. Do and paint what makes you happy. People will talk shit. Let em’.  At the end of the day, are you happy.  Stay true to you.  Do the work.

What style of music do you feel fits your flow more? 

Progressive Trance, Oldies, 90’s rock, classic rock, reggae, Future DubStep. That crazy future bass kids be making these days, old school hip hop. Lots of Trance though.  Above and Beyond is a must on long lonely nights in a studio. Future sounds of Egypt is also a must.

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What are some of your techniques with the brush?

Chisel tip brushes are my jam. I like to paint with a zen like flow. In a Japanese or Chinese watercolor style. A wet brush dipped in paint is like sex. Push it around with passion, every stroke fueled with passion. Painting is sex.

Share with us your fascination with the number 23!  Definitely my favorite number too.

I was about 15 when I began seeing it everywhere in everything  As if the Universe was speaking to me directly through numbers. And not only 23, but seeing synchronicities in everything. Also, I was born on the Autumn Equinox at 2:23 am September 23rd. My brother was born June 23rd. I think for me, seeing 23, means I’m aware at all times of my surroundings and the signs that come to me as well as omens. Like a road marker on the path of life. 23 reminds me I am right where I am supposed to be, so I snap into the moment when I see it.

The 23 Enigma.  I mean, it very well could have been the common thread that brought us together in the first place and here I am answering questions you’ve compiled for me. Plus, I just love the number 23 without needing any reasons. Also, 22 is the number of order. There are 22 major Arcana in the Tarot and just past order is 23. It’s a number that signifies infinite possibilities. It’s limitless. The earth spins on a 23 degree axis. That says something to me right there. We spin through the cosmos on the number 23. It’s a number of pure magic and illumination. Lot’s of love to everyone out there. This is Omeka One…..Signing out. Look after each other. Buh bye

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The Welch Brothers 

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Stay Connected with Omeka , Stargaze Mafia, The Welch Brothers, and Symbiosis.