Through striking visual imagery, Jeff Soto communicates profound visions and fears, nostalgia of his youth, and themes of love, lust, and hope. Soto’s distinct color palette, subject matter, technique and bold themes resonate with a growing audience. Inspired by childhood toys, the colorful lifestyle of skateboarding and graffiti, hip-hop and popular culture, Soto’s representational work is simultaneously accessible and stimulating. Environmental issues also take precedent for Soto, who is concerned with conflict of humans trying to harness, or take advantage of nature. His paintings exude this tension, as robotic creatures duel, organic tentacles and flower bouquets thrive, and black smog looms amidst floating, ominous skulls. Jeff took some time out to talk to us here at The405 about his work and up coming UK Exhibition. Check It Out! When did you first realize that your ability to create art could actually become a possible career path for yourself? I thought I could do it at a pretty young, naive age, I was in high school and I told myself, "Jeff, you can make a living as an artist". Then it took me another 10 years of hard work, schooling and living rather poor before I figured it out. It's still a struggle and it's going to get harder for everyone until the economy turns around. How did you get into writing graffiti? What attracted you to this type of art? Did you ever get caught or find yourself in a sticky situation? Never got caught, but came close a few times. Most of my run-ins with police I just acted like a dumb kid out exploring. The police were usually pretty racist, they thought most of the taggers were "Mexicans", and since I am white I didn't get harassed much. If we had paint on us they thought we were huffing it, not tagging with it. Seeing that sort of racism really stuck with me and even though I know there are tons of good cops out there, in the back of my mind I am distrustful. But yeah, luckily, I never had any bad run-ins. I got into graffiti because I liked the anonymity/fame and I liked the art and destruction element. It also just seemed to go hand in hand with skateboarding. You also have a childhood love of skateboarding. Have you ever been approached by any skate companies who wanted to have your art work on their decks or have you ever considered doing something like this yourself? Yeah I have done some decks and in every case the skateboard companies were very difficult to deal with. It's a bummer because one of my dreams was to have artwork on skateboards but it became a business nightmare and companies were bad about paying up. I will try it again soon. The Environment and it's preservation is something that you clearly feel very strongly about, with there being so many references to this in your work; black smoggy clouds, oil and tar type bubbles and a real over all sense of grime. Has it always been your aim to convey this type of message or is this more of a natural progression in your work, evolving through your own personal views and beliefs? The environment is always something I'm thinking about. I used to be more aggressive in my views but I think I see things realistically now, or at least a little more realistically than I used to. I do my part, and I try to be green. We use re-usable grocery bags, I have a composter, I recycle, I try to save electricity, things like that. But I also grew up in a lower class blue collar family and I know that realistically, most Americans are more concerned with getting their groceries cheap at Walmart than pay more for the organic pesticide free (and more expensive) varieties. I think the kids are getting it though. On kids TV they are drilling environmental issues into them. I think it's good and the next generation will have the task to turn things around. I think they can do it. Have you ever considered doing your own comic book or working as a comic book illustrator? Yeah I have started several books but I'm not the best storyteller. I still plan on completing some comics eventually. I love graphic novels and comics. Does music influence you creativeness at all? What have you been listening to a lot of on your Ipod/mp3 player recently? It does, but lately I have been watching TV and movies while I paint. There hasn't been a lot of new music that's caught my attention lately, but then again, I'm a bit closed off to what's cool these days. Maybe because I'm older, I'd rather spend evenings home with my family these days than go to shows. The characters in your work remind me a lot of those found as Vinyl Toys. Do you know the things i mean? It seems like every artists at the moment has their own line of these little creature figurines out. Do you think we'll ever see a Jeff Soto line of Vinyl Toys come out in the future? I have had six or seven vinyl toys out but haven't done any for a couple of years now. I was pretty involved with them, took a break, and I am thinking about doing more. You’ve probably created hundreds of different characters that are incorporated into your abstract pieces. Summarize the process you go through in order to make a new one. Who or what influences you into creating a new piece? Well first I start drawing. Sometimes I just sit down and draw, sometimes the idea comes first. It's always a little different and I try to be receptive to finding inspiration. When I'm starting on a new body of work I try to keep an open mind. Usually one thing leads to another and before I now it I have a whole show finished. I just read on your website that you're doing an upcoming show over here in the UK, called Stolenspace. Could you tell us a little bit more about this? It's my first solo show overseas and it'll be my first visit to London. I'm excited! I'm working on it now, it's a smaller space than the museum show I just had so I'm going to be working a tad smaller this time. And finally, what does the future hold for Jeff Soto? In regards to your work, new projects and any other personal aspirations you have in life. Is there anyone you'd like to give a shout out to? Man, I have no idea what the future holds. We have another baby on the way and that is enough for me to think about right now! Shout outs to my wife Jennifer who's birthday is on Valentine's Day and my crazy/awesome daughter Shannon. Be sure to check out more of Jeff's work by visiting his Official Website here - Aaron Hunt