Arts on the Square Vendor Spotlight: Meet Keith Perks of 1120 Studios

Sunday, July 13, 2014
We’re super psyched to feature Keith Perks of 1120 Studios.  He’s a designer, photographer, writer, fine artist and entrepreneur.  His D.I.Y. and don’t-take-no-for-an-answer attitude really resonates with us here at ScrantonMade. We got a chance to sit down with Keith and talk about his work and his passion for our local arts scene.

Hello Keith! 

Have you always known you were an artist? 

As far back as I can remember I was creating. I love movies and as a young kid I originally wanted to get into special effects. As I got older I really got into music and comic books. During my teen years I stayed active by making my own fanzines and comics, drawing, selling t-shirts I designed, and learning as much as I could about music.
I had about a year that I was out of college due to illness and that allowed me to spend some time with Marvel/Topps comic book artist, Armando Gil. He lived in Wilkes-Barre at the time and his words of wisdom to me were "get a computer job." I wanted a family more than anything and knew deep down inside, me trying to be a freelance artist and trying to break into the comic book industry was not going to help with that goal. I listened to him and opted for a steady nine to fiver.
When I started back at college I had changed my major to Graphic Design from Painting and Illustration and began doing design for businesses, organizing fundraisers, and interviewing bands for my first website. I became friendly with a few publicists back then and got to interview Life of Agony, Type-O-Negative, Reel Big Fish, Machinehead, Bloodhound Gang, Sepultura, and several others. Interviewing and reviewing was a whole other creative outlet for me.
Today I have many clients and my DIY background comes in handy. That ethic is open-minded and creative and it uses diverse methods to get jobs done. Being a 16 year old scrounging up money and finding ways to get a zine printed comes in handy when working with a band or company on a budget. I'm a thinker, organizer, and a planner and a good part of that stems from me being a broke punk kid trying to get his art out there.

You are a fine artist, photographer, writer, graphic designer and a business you have a first love?

My first love, my true music. Without it I wouldn't function. It's what gets me through the day. It motivates me and keeps me creative. It invokes feeling. During every single project I work on, music is seeing me through it all. Without it I doubt there would be anything else.

When did you open 1120 Studios and what is your specialty?

The 1120 website officially went up in 2003 although the idea of it and forms of it have been around since 1996.
I've dabbled in many styles and subjects since then, but I would have to say within my design work I specialize in anything weathered or worn. I love layering and using effects to gain that vintage look or a feeling of old and classic. I've always been drawn to the counterculture or things that are considered dark, seedy, or underbelly, so you'll find many hints of that within my personal photography work.

You’ve photographed a lot of high profile artists (Ani Difranco...swoon). Do you have a favorite story or a highlight of that aspect of your career?

Currently, I don't have proper credentials. I don't work for a magazine or newspaper so, I'm very fortunate to get my foot in the door with any bands and festivals. I get told no a lot, but some publicists take a chance with me. Just recently I got the ok to shoot Warped Tour which I was very excited about. As my portfolio grows my chances have gotten better.
I've photographed The Avett Brothers, The Charlie Daniels Band, Ani DiFranco, Jane's Addiction, Manchester Orchestra, Gogol Bordello, Circa Survive, Colin Hay, and tons of others. Each show or concert is special to me for different reasons, but some of the best experiences I've had are those in an intimate venue when I'm surrounded by a small group of fans singing along to the bands. Being in the front pushed up against the stage and it's 100 degrees and we're all sweating on each other and the singer is in my face and I'm dodging swinging guitars... for that night, we are all one. The art is in that entire experience. We leave problems at the door and get lost in those moments. It's a beautiful thing. I've shared many nights like that with bands and crowds and we all leave tired and soar and smelly and more often than not, a little drunk. Those are some of the best moments and I'm lucky to have had many.

Why do you think it’s important to participate in events like AOTS?

I'm a big advocate for anything "local" especially involving art and anything handcrafted. These events put local artists of our community in the spotlight and for those that may not have something brick and mortar such as myself, it gives us a platform to showcase our work and get it to the people like they did in the "old days"...before online stores and Facebook! So much is web based and we are cut off from that interaction. It's great to have an event that pulls people together to converse one on one and actually see and feel the merchandise. It's a great way to connect for both the buyer and the seller.
For me, even if I didn't sell anything all day long at AOTS, I was there, I supported, and I'm sure I'm going to make some new friends and contacts. So, it's very worth it for me to be involved.

What’s the best thing about being an artist in NEPA?

I think because of its challenge. There's been a resurgence of sorts for the arts and buying local and handcrafted. It hit our area a few years ago. It may be the hip and trendy thing to do right now, but I hope it's something that sticks around because of its actual importance.
Some of NEPA is stuck in old ways of thinking. Oldschool ways are fantastic. I'm a guy who appreciates vinyl, shaves with safety razors, and prays before dinner. Our grandparents had it right with certain things. There has been change, but it still has a lingering closed minded and backward thought process. Not so open to change. For some of us involved, we are pushing and striving to make it better and I hope because of our efforts the gates open and a real artistic spirit and freedom along with an open thinking and living finds its way in and stays.
Bigger cities such as Philly and New York have amazing art related events. They are events where diversity collides and it fuels creativity. I recently shot the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island. Between the half-naked mermaids, the cross dressers, and The Lesbian & Gay Big Apple Corps, parts of Wilkes-Barre would have imploded if it was held there...and it's a damn shame.
Right now it's exciting to be an artist in this area. I see many trying to push the envelope and challenge people and that is a very good thing.

Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about you?

I love Irish whiskey and beer, Swedish Fish, and beef jerky. Feel free to bring any of those to my tent on the 26th.
Also, I once helped save a green pig and I know Cytoxan kicks in after about 8 hours.

Find out more about 1120 Studios:

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