“I’m young and I have a lot to learn, but for now, I’m going to be happy making art,” said John Sarkis, 25, who will have a one-man show of his 2-D and 3-D work at Langley’s Museo Gallery in March.
Sarkis grew up in Langley, the youngest of three sons of Paul and Micky Sarkis, who own Village Pizzeria. He graduated from South Whidbey High School in 2006.
Though largely self-taught, he credits his older brother Paul, his high school photography teacher Don Wodjenski, and his best friend Austin Reisman for helping steer him into an art career.
“Mr. Wodjenski helped me set up my own course and studio at school,” said Sarkis. “We found an old silk screen machine at the school and hauled it out and set it up.”
As a teen, Sarkis partnered with Reisman to carve and decorate skimboards, which they sold under the business name Jack’d at Choochokam.
“Austin is a carpenter and he helps me build things,” said Sarkis.
Museo gallery owner Sandra Jarvis bought one of their skimboards and saw the potential for a “street art” show.
“I wanted to do a show based on graffiti, but thought I’d have to go to Seattle to find the artists,” said Jarvis. “Then I heard about John and he gave me a list of local people to invite.”
The “Outside the Lines” graffiti and street art show at the gallery in 2009 also included John’s brother Paul Sarkis, Clark Sarbaugh, Denis Zimmerman, Yale Wolf and Derek Yost.
“It was a very successful show,” said Jarvis.
“John’s show in March is the first time I’ve done a one-man show in the gallery,” said Jarvis. “All our shows combine 2-D and 3-D pieces and John does both.”
“‘Outside the Lines’ was a starting point for me to paint full-time,” said Sarkis.
Also in 2009, Sarkis’ design won the competition for the Choochokam publicity poster.
“They made me ‘Artist of the Year’ for that and I got a free booth at Choochokam,” said Sarkis. “I sold gicleé prints of my paintings there.”
Currently, Sarkis lives the bohemian life in Seattle, sharing a SoDo loft studio with four other artists. SoDo is the neighborhood just north of Georgetown and is considered part of Seattle’s industrial district.
“We all inspire each other,” said Sarkis of his artistic studio-mates. “It’s a free world in SoDo where we can basically do what we want.”
Like graffiti artists, Sarkis is open to the possibilities of painting on anything, including vehicles, walls, skimboards and t-shirts.
He’s now working with a Seattle company, Black Rapid, on a line of silk-screen designs for t-shirts. His first design for the company is a caricature of a moose snowboarding.
“Anything I can paint on, I will,” said Sarkis. “I’ve been fortunate that my paintings have inspired other illustrating jobs for me. Now I’m doing graffiti with permission.”
Sarkis uses acrylics, spray paint, watercolors, pen and ink to create his freewheeling designs and portraits.
For the March show, Sarkis will create an on-site work, a canvas covering an entire wall of the gallery. He’s excited about creating a spontaneous work for the show.
“I like to do big, large scale pieces,” he said. “It’s also fun to go out with friends and do outdoor art.”
“The theme of my show is ‘No Rules Land,’ and I want it to be provocative, new and different,” said Sarkis. “Sandra has given me free rein and has been very supportive.”
“I like themes for bodies of work where everything talks to each other,” he said. “I also want the show to communicate an energy of the younger life on Whidbey.”
Sarkis’ “No Rules Land” show opens Saturday, March 2 with an artist’s reception 5-7 p.m. at Museo Gallery, 215 First St., Langley.
The one-man show runs through March 31.