About Gil Batle's work
The prison ‘artist’ was a commodity.. He was like a magician… Even the toughest convicts were in awe at the artists’ skills … I was that commodity.. The ability to draw, my age and the fact that I was good at faking it (toughness) to make it.. Call it performance art… is how I was able to survive behind those walls.. Nothing Im proud of.. but funny when I think of it now.. I did tattoos in the joint.. Not daily.. and I have to say that my skin art doesn’t compare to my drawing patterns that I could sell in the joint.. I drew daily.. Mostly tattoo patterns and portraits of family members on the outside. I would have the inmate pose for a sketch and include them in a family photo they had in possession….as if the inmate were there with them in the final drawing.. I was pretty good at it too.
Im actually still in contact with a few of my fellow ex-cons (that have done their time already.. some still on parole) through Facebook and emails.. They've seen some of the egg photos and love them.. Sometimes I feel like a movie director when some insist that I do an egg about them.. while others dont want that. Sometimes I wish I can share my eggs with some of the guys on the inside.. They'd probably get a kick out of it.. As long as I dont use real names..
From the inmates/convict point of view, the scenes on the eggs are fairly common to these guys.. Stabbings are heard of all the time, I've seen at least 5.... some reported to authorities and some not..Ive seen 2 riots.. each lasting no more the 40 seconds with horrible results.. both at Jamestown.. I've seen a Skin Head get thrown off the 4th floor tier in San Quentin once.. what a mess.. they never caught the guys who did it.. Most rapes are consensual.. while some arent.. From the gang structures, the fear, the politics, how they coordinate checkings (disciplines), hidden weapons etc etc.,, that I have in the egg is part of prison living.. you get used to it.. Just gotta keep your head up, respect others and stay with your people.. The outside world is blown away by all this.. I have a few stories that are so complex that it would impossible to express on an egg.. No movie. book, painting or even eggs can express what it was really like in there..
I first select a theme for the egg.. which is a task in its self.. because there is an endless amount of themes to choose from... The first part of carving is the most challenging.. I've learned, through trial and error, that none of eggs, so far.. is perfect in symmetry. So, finding the center line or equator line rather... is the key to ensuring that the panels or frames fit parallel to the top and bottom of the egg.. This is why you'll notice that all the eggs' tops and bottoms are cut out because the never meet perfectly to the axis points. Once, these horizontal lines are penciled in.. the vertical lines are drawn.. Then, by using this 'ready made grid' to guide me.. it's just a matter of deciding where the panels or frames will be placed, Then the fun starts with characters, icons and scenes for the egg theme.. Its funny, the idea that it's an actual therapy for me... I actually have to go back (mentally) to prison to capture that feel of being inside that place.. Its a relief of gratitude when I look up from the egg and Im reminded that... Im not in there anymore..
Gil Batle, 2015