CityBeat's long been a fan of Saratoga Sake. We first ran his work on our cover back in September of 2008. His was the second art-showcase cover we did, which shows how high up on our list he sits.
Sake is a longtime, well-respected graffiti artist who cut his teeth on San Diego's streets. He's all grown up now—with kids and a wife (the lovely Stacey Poon-Kinney of Food Network Star and Restaurant Impossible! fame)—so he's done with the illegal stuff, but he still makes appearances at events like the recent Style-A-Thon at Writerz Blok to show kids how good graffiti is done.
It's hard to find traces of Sake's graffiti background in his studio work, which is impeccably polished, technically astounding and stylistically more pop-surrealistic than street. Sake starts every painting with a careful line drawing. The technique allows him to get more detailed and refined than painters who start with just a rough sketch or no sketch at all.
"Santa Deer," the piece on this week's cover, is based on the vintage deer figurines his grandma used to pull out every holiday season. He's fascinated with relics and styles from the days of yore. The vintage feel is well captured by Sake, who also tends to add a melancholic tone to his work. "Santa Deer," in other words, is about as jolly as he gets. In fact, one of the recurring themes in a series he's working on is skulls, so don't let the cute deer fool you into thinking his work is light and fluffy.
Sake's been on daddy duty for the last few years, but he still manages to find studio time every now and then, and he says he'll be ramping up his artistic output in 2014. His work will be in the Jan. 18 grand-opening exhibition of La Bodega Studios & Gallery (2196 Logan Ave.), a new collaborative space in Barrio Logan.
"I'm just preparing for the future right now," Sake says. "I'm trying to paint my ass off as much as I can."