You can take the kid out of the wilderness but can’t take the wilderness out of the kid. Tuke, or Tukeone, was raised in the southwestern United States, wading in streams and hanging out in fields but currently resides in Denver, Colorado where he has been a style pioneer since he picked up a spray can in 1991. Often elements of nature inspire his work whether in color or form but often dance with echoes of alleyways and streetlights. His refined letter style, which has principles of light and shadow to increase depth, is recognized globally at this point, as is his name. His motto is “spreading love through aerosol attacks” and when he is not doing festivals in Europe or participating in national art shows, he can be found working with kids or designing workspaces and restaurant interiors with his friends Emit and Mike Graves for their collective, Expert Murals. We were lucky to catch up with him as he returned from the Meeting Of Styles festival in Belgium to chat about books, influences and drum & bass music.
Learn more and follow Tuke:
Instagram | Website | Collective
Tuke on Art, Books, and Libraries
- What book as a kid influenced your imagination to pick up a crayon and begin making art?
I grew up in Sedonia, Arizona, and was lucky enough to live by a creek and loads of wilderness so I really connected with Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Not just in a visual sense either, as it did inspire some of the little drawings I would trade with my mother on pieces of paper in my lunchbox but also in the ‘explore your surroundings and use your imagination' sense. I also enjoyed the character of Curious George and the simplicity of the way Charles Schulz drew The Peanuts.
- What book are you currently reading that influences you in either a creative way or a professional way?
I am currently reading Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. It touches on the way society pays too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they come from: that is, their culture, their family, their generation, and past experiences. Sometimes artists get read like the cover of a book and they have many chapters in their lives that lead them in the direction of the art they do and the artistic paths they take.
- What do you think is the most important resource that Libraries provide to you as an artist?
I have learned so much about art history from Libraries, there is a literal wealth of information on artists from the past. From biographies to art movements and just straight-up books full of paintings and drawings. Libraries are also a solid source for reference like if you receive a project and have to design something a certain way and have nothing in the area you are in to work with. There are not many sharks and whales in the wilds of Colorado but there are plenty in the Library.
- What is your current/favorite/most-used branch of the Denver Public Library?
I have always enjoyed wandering around the Central Branch; it is such an incredible piece of architecture in the city and chock full of tons of inspiration on its own. The Ross-Broadway Branch was my home branch for a while when I was down south of the city and I always enjoyed the friendly staff and browsing the selection of graphic novels when I would pick up my holds. But, I recently moved a bit north of the city and am looking forward to exploring the Ford-Warren Branch soon.
- If you were offered a gigantic wall on the outside of a Library, what would your paint to display what a library means to you?
I think I would try to focus on a native species of animal from our region and try to make it something that was not only beautiful but also educational, the Library is about information and I think I would want my mural to do the same service. I would love to get some local kids involved with a project like that as well, to give them a sense of ownership and belonging to it. I have worked with kids before on projects for their schools and the connection, you can make with them as far as inspiring them and giving them something to be proud of really comes through in the final piece.
Ex Libris: Denver Artists is a series featuring local street artists, focusing on their connection to books and the importance of libraries to the artistic community. Series concept and interview by Sean Ryerson.