Grunge Paintings by Spring Break Jake
Whether you love grunge art, have never heard of grunge art, or simply just don’t understand it but have some curiosity about the subject, you’ve come to the right place. Grunge art–which emerged in the 80s through mid-90s–sprung forth in an effortless effort to defy the mainstream. It was created for the rebels, the rule-breakers–the ones who color outside the lines and would rather stand out than fit in.
Grunge art is raw, chaotic, overwhelming, messy, and most importantly, rejects the idea of a perfect, polished, and cookie cutter world. Instead of praising idealistic versions of people, places, and things, grunge art and music salutes the not-so-perfect reality of life–raw, gritty, and erratic. Forget glossy, “finished” productions–grunge music delivers the stripped, more emotive version of artistic creations. No sign of neat and clean over here–in fact, grunge paintings emphasize the absence of glamour, represented in the form of edgy, foggy, muddied, discolored, low-fi images and distressed letters.
Boiled down, grunge art keeps it real, using tons of vibrant colors, overlapping shapes and images, and messy, hand-drawn writing to convey that being authentic, messy, and imperfect is art to its core. After all, isn’t that what art is all about––unrefined self-expression in its purest form?
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A New Wave of Grunge Painting by Spring Break Jake
Spring Break Jake–an immensely talented Oregon-based muralist and painter–puts a nifty spin on grunge art paintings, using beachy motifs and tropical imagery to give grunge characteristics a whole new meaning. Spring Break Jake has an intriguing way of juxtaposing the positive pleasantries in life with the darker, more melancholy aspects of life and death. He draws inspiration from the great outdoors and his own personal experiences to create deeper meaning around the idea of duality–for without darkness there is no light.
Spring Break Jake hopes to spread positivity through his works of art, using beach goth stylistic elements to highlight how beauty and death can coexist. His brush strokes are somewhat messy, raw, and full of emotion–embodying grunge art. Common elements you’ll find in his work include palm trees, bodies of water, skeletons, and skulls.
Types of Grunge Art
Grunge art is multifarious, and the appearance of grunge art paintings can differ depending on the subgenre of grunge style. Let’s examine all the diverse pockets within grunge art that make this genre of art so fascinating.
90’s Grunge Art
90’s grunge art–heavily influenced by the grunge music scene–became widespread in none other than the 1990s. Think punk rock meets heavy metal. You’ll often see a lot of darker, moody colors in 90s grunge art, including brown, beige, gray, and black. These colors are considered to be grimy and dull, specific to grunge art style. Grunge art has a similar feel to cartoons, often depicting dream-worlds with dark imagery, sarcastic overtones, gloomy elements, colored drawings, splattered paint, and sharp or quick pencil or brush strokes. It almost looks as though it is painted over film, or made to look like old, decaying filmstrips.
Grunge Character Art
Grunge character art often includes unruly lines and scraggly textures, dirty stains, smears, and rough, hand drawn details. It is designed to look real and raw, because it is real and raw. Characters in grunge art tend to have sad expressions, often looking down, teary-eyed, worried, or even unbothered. Rough line work is used to define hair, wrinkles, body definitions, and clothing, almost as though you are looking at comic book characters or cartoons.
Graffiti Grunge Art
Grunge wall art often is jumbled and looks as though it was done in a rush. It contains smears, splats, sprays that aren’t congruent, often in vibrant colors with blacks and shades of gray, with many shapes and letters overlapping. Think of it as a sloppy spray-paint job, but with the essence of Picasso. You’ll likely see black outlined figures and words, with a mixture of words and images.
Grunge Music Art
Grunge music is a form of art that fuses elements of punk rock and heavy metal, creating an alternative rock sound using unusual techniques that defy the “rules” of music. Lyrics of this style tend to be more apathetic, angsty, and moody, often talking about loneliness, sadness, drugs and sex. Dissonant sounds, strong and powerful vocals and riffs, heavy reverb and dramatic effects, and overall ambient, melancholy tone helped characterize the genre. Thick guitar riffs, heavy hitting drums, alternating time signatures, as well as diminished or strange sounding chords, are also signature sounds and styles common in grunge music.
Grunge music created an era of anti-rock star bands, with Neil Young considered to be a major influence on the grunge genre aka “the Godfather of Grunge,” and Kurt Cobain as “The Father of Grunge”. Notable grunge style music groups included Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and Pearl Jam. These bands inspired many other artists to embrace the imperfect, moody style within their own works of art.
Grunge Pop Art
Pop art was created as a form of rejection–however, instead of a rejection to polished work, pop art rejects the notion of individuality. Pop art embraces mass-production and elements from popular culture, using silk-screening to generate multiple copies of a work of art. Grunge pop art adds an extra layer to the vibrant colors, overlays, textures and shading. Think of pop art with more character, messy lines, and shapes, giving it an overall filthier feel.
Urban Grunge Art
Urban grunge art blends urban scenes such as diverse geographic locations with special patterns or urban features–cars, building lights, street lights, puddles, gloomy backgrounds. It’s a blend of urban developments and chaos–often in the form of mixed media with more abstract variations of buildings, using shapes and colors to represent windows and doorways. The structures are less defined but still represent urban or city environments.
Dark Grunge Art
Dark grunge art is typically characterized by distorted and jagged words, as though it is hand-drawn. There are often rebellious themes such as dull and muted colors and uncomfortable facial expressions that seek to challenge mainstream art. As the title states, dark grunge art is darker, edgier, and offers rebellious elements like cigarettes, glitches, neon lights, and lots of black.
Soft Grunge Art
Soft grunge style–also referred to as pastel grunge or pastel goth–is more delicate and dainty than typical grunge art. Soft grunge incorporates more feminine colors, more romantic elements, and is generally more cutesy and deliberate when compared with other forms of grunge art. In terms of fashion, soft grunge style might look like pleated mini skirts, crop tops, emphasis on pinks and purples, and sparkles. Some would say soft grunge art is somewhat counterproductive to grunge art, as soft grunge art is more thought out, planned, and put together than typical grunge art.
Abstract Grunge Art
Abstract grunge art is more interpretive, evokes emotion, and combines shapes, colors, and shading to create grungy imagery. This style of art often has bright color schemes, with overlapping, unrefined shapes such as squares or rectangles. It is more interpretive and less blunt than other forms of grunge art.
Frequently Asked Questions about Grunge Paintings
Grunge paintings color outside the lines, and have no limits. They tend to be sarcastic, twisted, and often come with a narrative–sometimes in the form of overlaid, messy writing or typography. Grunge paintings typically look weathered and give off the “worn in” look, which adds some extra character. Grunge art challenges social norms and artistic norms, making us ponder on the meaning of art.
Grunge art can be seen in many forms–concert posters, video games, comic strips, street art.
Some different styles of grunge art include…
◾ 90’s Grunge Art
◾ Grunge Character Art
◾ Graffiti Grunge Art
◾ Grunge Music Art
◾ Grunge Pop Art
◾ Urban Grunge Art
◾ Dark Grunge Art
◾ Soft Grunge Art
◾ Abstract Grunge Art
Grunge aesthetics can feature darker colors, layering, mismatched styles and patterns, overlapping shapes and images, messy handwriting or quickly spray-painted words that aren’t consistent–grunge art knows no bounds.
Believe it or not, a lot of popular grunge art paintings come from artists that don’t have big names or remain anonymous. Afterall, grunge art paintings often come from rebels, who don’t care as much about a title as they do about the overall message of their work.
That said, there are some notable grunge artists who paved the way for what grunge art became and is today. Jean-Michel Basquiat, an early explorer of grunge painter and neo-expressionist, has a good deal of famous grunge art pieces featuring chaotic lines and shapes with sketches of heads and body frames. Daze is a famous grunge art painter who became popular during the street art movement, known for writing graffiti on the New York Subway. These artists both created grunge style art before it became popular.
Other notable grunge art painters include Artfux–a New Jersey based art group that pioneered culture jamming–parodying ads and hijacking billboards to drastically alter their messages. They pushed boundaries. Many other popular grunge paintings embody feelings of rebellion, using heavy textures, spray-like effects, splashes, and squiggles to demonstrate imperfectly perfect art.
Interested in adding some edgy artwork to your humble abode? Spring Break Jake is a creator and seller of original grunge paintings and prints, often featuring work with skulls, skeletons, and figurines cast against coastal imagery and tropical elements. He uses shades of black cast alongside more vibrant hues of pink and blue to create mystery and wonder. Check out his site to see his work!
About the author: Courtney Pester is a San Diego-based San Francisco bred millennial with a passion for design and self-expression. She prides herself in her charcuterie board making skills and has a soft spot for animals. When she’s not pumping out articles, you can catch her playing tennis and enjoying the diversity of events and restaurants San Diego has to offer.
Media credit: All images in this article about skull paintings by Spring Break Jake are courtesy of springspreakjake.com or IG @springbreak.jake.