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Philly Street Art Interviews: Stepping into the Portal With Void Skulls

March 6, 2019

(Photos by Streets Dept Contributor Eric Dale)

Welcome to Streets Dept’s newest series of street artist interviews, created in partnership with Philadelphia’s own unofficial official street art museum, Tattooed Mom. Each month, Streets Dept Contributor Eric Dale will sit down with one local street artist to ask them about their work. Together, we’ll learn more about the incredible artists getting up around Philly.

Editor’s Note: Y’all, with today’s interview we come to the end of our six-part first season of this new series of street artist interviews. Tattooed Mom’s has been an incredible sponsor and partner for this project, a project that’s working to archive the stories of some of Philadelphia’s most active and well known street artists. And, I’m so pumped to announce that Tmoms has signed on to support a second six-part season, which will be launching in May! In the meantime, we’re going to host an event with all of Season 1’s interviewees very soon, and we’ll be telling you much more about that in a couple weeks! For now, now back to today’s interview…

Void Skulls was born and raised in Philly—something that you can just kind of feel in her art. Her distinctive, hand-drawn “voids” feel right at home in our crazy and diverse sticker art scene, and her figural drawings are as grungy as our streets. I was unsurprised to learn that she sees her art largely as an outlet for stress relief.

But I was surprised by her newfound appetite for linocutting and wheatpasting. And one of the pieces she brought to install for this interview is the largest she’s ever put up! (I’m so honored!) So we may be seeing some larger work from her out on the streets soon.

Streets Dept’s Eric Dale: How did you get into street art and sticker art?
Void Skulls: [It wasn’t] when I first started doing art, cause I did art as a kid. I was aware of graffiti and writers and stickers but I wasn’t involved in it. I was just drawing. Four years ago, my friend introduced me to sticker art, and that’s how I met As Above So Below—now he’s my partner. I didn’t expect to meet him and get to know him, but he got me more involved in actually making stickers. I didn’t know anything about it! I’d never been here [at Tattooed Mom] before… I think my first time here was around Characters Welcome. I don’t think I was 21, so I couldn’t make it to the night show. That’s where it was poppin’ off!

SD: I get the sense from looking at your work that you’ve been drawing for a while. Did you study art? 
V13: I was self-taught. No one really taught me how to draw, but I had older brothers growing up and one of them would draw. He did animation style. A lot of video games, comics, anime—all that sort of stuff influenced me to draw figures. But they’re all deformed and cryptic looking. Haha! But yeah, I wasn’t taught how to draw or anything—it was kind of my natural outlet, for like, anything. Whether it’s stressful situations… I don’t know. We’re all going to die, so… Not to make it dark!

SD: Wow, yeah that’s a little dark… but I did want to ask you, because your earliest stickers are, forgive me, a little creepy—
V13: Oh yeah, they are haha! They’re totally creepy.

SD: What is that creepiness to you? Where does it come from?
V13: I think it just comes from within. It’s just something that comes out. I don’t think about it when I’m doing it; it’s just a natural process, like, excreting all this shit that’s inside of me. It comes out like that and it is what it is. I can’t really explain the thought process—I don’t really plan to do these things.

SD: Why do you think there’s so much dark, or grungy, or creepy sticker art like this, especially in Philly?
V13: It’s a dirty city. Haha! I don’t know… people go through a lot of shit. Art is like, a way people can express these dark feelings.

SD: I guess it just seems a little uniquely Philadelphian. What do you think it is about street art that attracts people who make these darker works?
V13: That’s a hard question. I don’t know… it’s like, choosing good over evil. A lot of people choose bad things to do.

SD: So you’re saying that since most street art is technically illegal, people tend to gravitate toward—
V13: —more negative things, yeah, something like that.

SD: How would you describe your art?
V13: Visual? Haha, I don’t know—that’s a hard one. It’s always different. I know how people make characters, and they kind of keep doing the same character. I just don’t have that! I make different things. Like, this is a block print… [She shows me a black, 3-foot-tall print of a swirling figure.]

SD: Wow that’s enormous! I’ve never seen one that big.
V13: Yeah it took forever to do!

SD: Your hand must have been hurting after carving that.
V13: Yeah. And this one here is [drawn] by hand… [She shows me another large illustration.]

SD: I’ve never seen pieces this big from you!
V13: Yeah, I don’t do big pieces often. I usually do handmade though—I really respect the handmade artists. I guess that’s really what my art is all about. I love doing handmade stuff.

SD: Did you ever consider developing a character instead?
V13: That’s really hard to do. It’s hard to come up with a character, because I just don’t formulate like that. I don’t like drawing the same stuff over and over. But that’s what I do with the portals and the vortexes you see. That’s just a repetition for me—a stress-relief type of art for me. A lot of people like it, because visually, it catches your eye. You can kind of spot it from far away; the thing’s like, pulling you in like a portal.

SD: Yeah! They’re really cool. So how did you land on doing the portals? That’s just what you were doing already and you decided to put it on stickers?
V13: I wasn’t really doing that before. I think As Above So Below kind of got me more into that, cause he also did certain portals. He would do like pyramids with portals in them. I [liked the idea of doing] something simple, cause I don’t know what else to draw!

SD: Why do you sometimes call them “vagina portals”?
V13: Well, they do look like vaginas, so that’s one answer. I don’t know… I just like drawing vaginas! People draw dicks all the time, and there’s nothing special about it… it is what it is. A lot of people also see different things. They interpret my art as either a nipple, or a fingerprint…

SD: I can see fingerprint more than nipple…
V13: Yeah, I don’t see nipple, but people tell me they see that.

SD: Where does the name Void Skulls come from?
V13: I was prepared for you to ask that cause you ask almost everyone about their names! I had the name [Void Skulls] for my gamer tag for Xbox. When I needed to come up with a name, I just needed two words to come together, so [ultimately] it was kind of a whim.

SD: I’ve never seen your name on a sticker, you rarely caption your posts on Instagram, and you’ve only sold your work once before. Do you enjoy being a little mysterious?
V13: Yeah, I kind of do. I like being anonymous. I don’t like writing my name all the time. I don’t care about having a name. If I wanted a name, I would start writing [graffiti], but that’s not my thing. But I like writers! I just feel like my work can be recognized just by looking at it at this point. It’s cool to see and hear other people be like, oh you’re that person! They’re, like, shocked.

SD: That made it really hard for me to find your Instagram account when I first started seeing your work! But you do write “v13” on some of your stickers. What does that mean?
V13: It’s an alias, pretty much. Like a nickname, instead of “Void Skulls.”

SD: A few years ago, I saw that Stikman had put one of his stickers right on top of yours—how did you feel about that?
V13: I thought it was funny. Haha! It kind of made a cool collab, but it was forced. I don’t think they meant to do it in a “fuck you” kind of way, cause then you would just rip the sticker. You would just tear it down. I mean some people can see that as hey, you’re going over my shit, and they’re offended. I didn’t care. I just thought it was kind of cool!

SD: I kind of saw it as an honor, because I’ve never seen him go over anyone before!
V13: I thought it was cool. I was like, oh shit, he just went over this thing, but now they kind of mesh together, and kind of look like they are just one whole thing. I’ve never seen them go over anyone’s stuff either. They’re kind of on their own territory. I think it was thought out—like, yeah, this will look good.

SD: I think your designs make great backgrounds.
V13: Oh yeah, they do. I’ve had a couple on boards for Characters Welcome, and most of them were backgrounds. That was cool—it looks good.

SD: You recently started making linocut print stickers! How’s this medium working out for you?
V13: It’s pretty new to me. I’d never cut linoleum before. It’s hard work on the hand. But it’s fun! I got introduced to it by Angry Elephant and Nuto Studio—she got me into the linoleum thing when I came over to her studio. That’s what she does—she cuts out linoleum and that’s how she makes all her printings. I’m like you’re insane. They take up a whole damn wall! But I like the permanence of the block. I can keep repeating a design, and it’s kind of nice. I’ve never done that before.

SD: So are you planning on continuing to do linocuts?
V13: I think I will, if I have ideas for them. I kind of want to branch away from the repetitive portals. Those I can do a little faster, but this kind of shit takes forever. That’s why I don’t do it that often.

SD: How long does it take you to make one portal sticker?
V13: It depends how many layers I put onto it. I like to layer it—I’ll work on like ten stickers at once, all the same layer, cause they need to dry. But I can get some done in three minutes, two minutes…

SD: Wow! I would have guessed it takes a lot longer!
V13: Some of them take a little longer. I think it’s the colors, honestly. I do dark art, but I love bright colors; like, greens and pink are some of my favorite colors. But then I have dark, black art, and you wouldn’t think my favorite color is pink!

SD: Do you have anything else new in the works?
V13: I definitely want to do more wheatpastes. I want to get a little more involved with bigger pieces. I feel like the bigger pieces get recognized more. I don’t really care about, like, “blowing up” or [getting] attention from it, but it’s cool to have your stuff out there where someone can recognize it. I really want to do more out in the wild, though. I’m going to put one of these [large pieces] up here, but I kind of want to branch out more to doing wheatpaste in public. That’s not really my thing—I don’t carry around a spray bottle and bucket and brush. That’s a lot of stuff; usually I just have the stickers.

SD: Well good luck! Let me know if you put up some big pieces.
V13: Thanks! I will.

SD: What’s your lunch order at Tattooed Mom?
V13: I’d have to say it’s the cheesy tots. That’s my go-to, besides the $1 dollar tacos.

SD: Thanks!
V13: Thank you! I’ve never been interviewed before.

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PHILLY: Join Tattooed Mom’s for the next Philly Queer Bazaar on Saturday, March 16 starting at 1pm!

The event, as its name suggests, is a shopping event featuring queer, Philadelphia-based business owners! Vendors include: Bee Daddy, Laurel Tree Bindery, Hearts & Bruises, Bearded Noise, Melmos Dog Treats, and Bomani Apparel. ALL are welcome to support and shop… Learn more now here!

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Read past articles from our Philly Street Art Interviews series by clicking the artists name: Hope HummingbirdFaithsFunnnBob Will Reign, Taped Off TV, and Low Level!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. lucillenorella permalink
    March 6, 2019 8:25 pm

    Hey Conrad….take a look at my Street art…a 17′ x 48′.LucilleSent from my Verizon, Samsung Galaxy smartphone

  2. Tatterhood permalink
    March 7, 2019 3:31 am

    I rather like them x

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