Sket One

Sket One

Sket-One is one of the most prolific graffiti artists turned design gurus in America at the moment. As an art school drop out, he founded the successful Bode Jam, a tribute to the classic Heavy Metal illustrator Vaughn Bode, and also founded Unity Clothing.

Sket is also one of the most diverse artists in his field, refusing to be pigeon-holed, or restricted, especially when it comes to designing toys. He’s equally at ease when playing around with goofy 1950’s oil can characters or wildstyle graffiti monsters.

“I wanted him to be a retro 1950’s gas station toy.”

Format: What is your artistic background?
Sket-One: Starting drawing when I was five or six, like serious drawings. By the time I was 11 or 12 I started drawing graffiti. My father lived in Stamford, northern New York, and that’s where I first saw it, and that’s when hip-hop started for me too. I went to arts school at the Boston museum of fine arts, and that was in 1989. I never actually finished school, but that was no biggy, I just wasn’t a school kind of person. But we did start a graffiti class, so at least they respected that part of art, that was really cool. So then I left Boston and started a clothing company called Unity. I did that for about five years, and then life stepped in and that’s when I stopped everything and found a real job in graphics.

Format: Is that where the Bode Jam came from?
Sket-One: I was talking with a friend and we had a legal spot in Connecticut, an old foundation to an old factory and there were 70 to 80 spots and some of us were thinking how cool it would be if we could all go and do one theme for this museum idea. So we agreed to do Vaughn Bode’s work. So I arranged to have Mark Bode come down and paint with us and he was all in to it. I did it three years in a row, from 2002-2004, and then I stopped it for various reasons. People were just showing up to do random pieces and not really paying tribute to the Bode art. It became more a place for them to go to catch fame because they knew it would be in magazines and they’d get covered. However, we’re doing it again this year at a new location and it’s going to be a permanent, year round exhibit. That’s going to be in Milford, Connecticut. It’s in Connecticut because it’s in the center of all the major cities in that area, like Philly, NYC, Boston. We want to have everyone come to the middle. I’m from Connecticut and that helps too.

Format: What sets you apart from other artists?
Sket-One: I’m not a one trick pony. I don’t just do illustration, or whatever. Like some guys, when you look at a Tim Biskup painting, you know its Tim Biskup. When you look at a Kaws piece, you know it’s Kaws. I don’t have that. I get bored very easily. I like to do different things of everything. If it’s graffiti, most guys stick to one letter form, and they have this style that they keep doing and doing. Sometimes I’ll do something simple and then something wild style and then maybe something very simplistic and then something colorful. I’m all over the place, I don’t conform. I’m the same with toys. I don’t have a certain character, well I do, but I don’t continuously shove it down people’s throats. A lot of people do the same toy over and over and over again. It’s cool to have a family of toys with the entire same look but it’s kind of monotonous to me. I don’t collect it. Not that I don’t like it, but I don’t collect it. I’m not that kind of artist. I don’t think you have to be like that. Some people look at it as a branding standpoint. Like “I want to have people know that my brand is mine,” but they do it to the point that it’s repetitive, but I can’t do that.

Sket One

Format: You play around a lot with branding, what is your take on the state of the ad industry in America right now?
Sket-One: Marketing is marketing. It’s always been that way, but now it’s just this big huge machine. I’m kind of excited actually, because my age group is starting to get in the position of being able to call the shots on advertisements and you’re starting to hear cool music and see cool imagery, and out of the box kind of stuff. Coke has been messing around with toys. Some people think it’s crap because they’re messing with the subculture, but if you look at the big picture, you’ll see that they aren’t just corporate guys, they’re guys like us who have finally gotten to that level and are actually starting to filter some of their culture in to the advertising. I think that’s just amazing. I work in an ad agency full time, that’s what I do. I work in a marketing firm. I sit around a table and listen to guys even 15 years older than me. It’s annoying, they don’t get it.

Format: How has your experience been with Kid Robot?
Sket-One: They’re a dream to work with. They’re really awesome. Being such a corporation now, it just functions really well. They schedule your toys, they schedule your samples, when you get your cheque, they itemize everything that’s been sold. Everything with them is on point. Sometimes, with other companies it might take a year or two for your toy to come out and by that time the style might be passé, and that really sucks, obviously.

Format: Have you had any crazy fan experiences?
Sket-One: Yeah, some people get pretty emotional. A lady that collected my stuff at the NY Comic-con came up to me. She was visually upset and overwhelmed by the fact that she was meeting me and that I was drawing for her. I was really taken aback. I’ve never had that happen before. It was weird, so weird. But I like fans, so that’s ok. I’ll take the time out for them any day. But nothing too crazy has happened to me. Nothing like Huck. Girls go mad for Huck. They want him to sign their tits and everything. He’s a crazy dude.

Format: What inspires you?
Sket-One: I always think that this is a lame answer, but definitely pop culture. Especially from the early ‘80s to mid ‘90s. All those characters, video games etc. Being an art director, I love fonts. I love typography. That’s where graffiti comes from. I’ve drawn a lot of vintage characters. I like the ‘50s style of old paper oil can art. It’s really weird. But over all, it really depends on what I’m working on and how I’m working on it.

Sket One

Format: Is there a favorite toy of yours?
Sket-One: Ripple. I’m glad he saw the light of day and so glad I did him the way I wanted him to be. I wanted him to be a retro 1950’s gas station toy. I wanted him to be iconic and simplistic, and I got to do it. My vision actually came to life, I’m really happy about that. It’s exactly what it’s supposed to be. People think it looks like the Ghostbusters toy, or the Michelin man, or something else, and I’m thinking there smiling, that’s exactly what I wanted you to say. I created him to be a brand icon for myself. The fact that everyone tries to nail him down to another brand icon is hilarious because, that means I’ve done it, I’ve already brought you in! The Ripple stance is also the same as the Big Boy. I’m really, really happy with him.

Format: Where did the Sketbots come from?
Sket-One: I designed them with Paul Budnitz, we worked together, he did some of the art direction with the colors. He wanted to make them cheery and happy, but I wanted the opposite. I wanted them to be dark. That’s why the chases have horns and evil grins. I wanted it to be dark and spooky, that’s why they come with lead pipes or axes. Paul didn’t put two and two together, but one of them is clearly stoned off his gourd. I slipped stuff by him as much as I could. I designed some of them with my daughters even; they helped me with the eyes and faces in Illustrator even, so the Sketbots were made with them in mind too.

Format: Where do you see toys going?
Sket-One: I think that toys are going to get darker. You have the cute toys and their designers, but I think that toys in general will go back to where they started from with more graffiti influences and cooler characters. Not the happy go lucky sort of characters you see a lot these days. The market is totally saturated. It’s so hard to stand out anymore.

Sket One

Format: What’s in store for the future of Sket-One?
Sket-One: More toys. I have some stuff lined up but I can’t talk about it. I’m doing an art show in London with the HTP Festival, and it’s going to be traveling from London then Leeds, and then to Glasgow. I’ll be doing live paintings whole I’m there. I’m going in to production mode right now, and when I get home, I’ll be getting to work. The stuff I’m going to be making now will be coming out in about a year from now. But, I actually just released this new book, you can write me at, because it’s not even up on the website yet. It’s going for about $20.

I’m also dying to do this art show with just one room that will be covered in different sized canvases covered in negative thoughts like “you will die alone” or “you will never live” or “I can’t do it.” I want to cover the whole room with all these negative feelings, but then have just this one light hanging, to be the positive thought. It’s just going to be black and white. I want to see how people react being surrounded by negativity.

Format: That’s pretty dark!
Sket-One: Yeah, it is, but I want to see it happen. I feel that we are surrounded by negativity all the time, but if people are actually able to see how it feels, and others feel to be surrounded by it so much, then hopefully they might walk out and think, “I don’t want to feel like that no more,” and it will have a sort of purging effect. I’ve been doing little pieces here and there already. I did a circus punk with the “You will die alone” quote already.

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Sket One

Jesse Ship
I'm currently Managing Editor of this little web mag here.
Jesse Ship

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