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Back Talk with Jeff Soto

Juxtapoz // Thursday, 04 Jun 2009

Jeff Soto
(Juxtapoz cover #99) is one of our all time favorite artists. Not only is he a talented painter, but he is also a nice and really down to earth guy.


Soto has been busier than one of those furry mutant butterflies he paints, with a recent museum showing at Riverside Art Museum, a London solo show The Inland Empire on display now at Stolen Space, and (of course) a recent cover story with Juxtapoz for our April issue.


All this exposure left us hungry for more about Jeff. The real Jeff. Get to hear the man talk in our Back Talk feature below.


What's the first thing you did when you woke up this morning?


I woke up to my 3 year old yelling from her bedroom, “I have to go pee!” So I jumped up quick to help her. I remember I used to always wake up slow... but with two kids it doesn't happen often.


Something about yourself the average person wouldn't guess?


I hold the Riverside record for long distance kite flying.


If you had one day left on Earth, what’s left to be discovered?


I don’t like this question, seems a little sad. There's so much I haven’t seen, I’d probably just try to hang out with my family and cry.
What is your first art-making memory as a kid?


I remember drawing my dad, and I couldn’t remember if his mustache went above or below his nose. I think I drew it above his nose.



Do you need long periods of time alone, or are you energized by interaction?

I guess both, though for a long period of alone time for me would be after Jennifer and the kids are asleep. That’s a good time to get stuff done- the quiet late night hours working in my garage, last song has played and given way to night time silence of crickets chirping, a train whistle cutting through from ten miles away, a jet flying overhead (I always wonder where they're going, probably LAX). I like to work late at night but last couple of months I am so tired that I crash early.


Is being in the dark with the lights out frightening or comforting?


The Northridge Earthquake back in 1994 knocked out the power in my neighborhood. It was late at night, like 3am and it was almost pitch black outside; I think the only light was starlight. It looked like a real nightmare somehow. So yeah that could be a little freaky. Then again a late night “rendezvous” in the dark could be freaky in a whole other way if you know what I'm sayin'.

What's the most non-art involved activity you continually find yourself enjoying? 


I had a level 80 Tauren Druid but I've neglected it for 6 months... Oh I know, lizard wrangling! Tons of lizards, and at least one snake this time of year.


Have you been to jail? If so, why? If not, why not?


No, not yet. Why not? I don’t know, maybe I wasn’t as much of a risk taker in my graffiti years. I mean, I went out tagging a lot but I was quick to get paranoid and take off. I did weasel my way out of a few police situations. I thought I might go to jail in London last week, but the police never noticed- maybe they thought that someone painting during the day had permission.


What kind of car do you drive?


A grey 2004 Toyota Corolla.


What's your biggest non-green inspired indulgence?


Having a 9-week-old baby, I’d have to say disposable diapers are damn pretty convenient. Actually there’s a lot of speculation as to what's "greener"- disposable or cloth. Disposable fills up landfills, while cloth uses up water and heating (energy). We are pretty green in the Soto family- very good about recycling, we do composting, grow some of our own veggies, try to conserve energy etc., so maybe that makes up for the disposable diapers?

What is the single most important thing you did to breakthrough as a career artist?


Just kept at it through all the rejection notices from galleries. And I think at least for me, college was a good thing.


Best hustle you ever pulled?


Shit, probably my whole career, haha!


Are you ever bored?


Not really. But I'm usually pretty sleepy.

What excites you?


I have an unnatural love for food.


2023 will look like . . . ?


Probably not that different from nowadays. I was just watching old skate and graffiti videos we made in the ‘90s and things look the same but pants were higher-wasted and girls wore hats with flowers on ‘em (remember Blossom?). And guys and girls had real long hair.


If you could have a drink with one artist, living or dead, who would it be?


The easy answer would be Van Gogh or Frida Kahlo, maybe Warhol or Dali, but it would be most interesting to sit and somehow communicate with the Neanderthals who got up in the caves. We could trade hand styles. And we'd drink Diet Dr. Pepper.

Last passport stamp:


London, UK.


Can’t stand:


People who litter.


Can’t live without:


My wife Jennifer.


Words to live by:


"Now go out and do the right thing..."


More on Jeff Soto at





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