AK Art: For the Bakers, art is a family affair
Some couples are so close that they can finish each other’s sentences. Jeramie and Jess Baker, also known as Baker and Smudge, have a bond that goes beyond words — they make art together.
The Bartlett High School sweethearts met in art class and immediately hit it off. They moved to Seattle for art school in 2001 and came back to Anchorage in 2004 to start a family and pursue their dream of becoming full-time artists.
After getting commission after commission, they decided to put a name to their art. In 2007, Smudge Monkey Studio was born. Not long after that, their now 6-year-old daughter Lola came into the world. A budding artist herself, their energetic daughter is the monkey in the partnership, they joked. At a South Anchorage Kaladi’s over the weekend, Lola — with her fashionably dressed Barbie in hand — sat with her parents as the couple talked about their art. Bubbly and inquisitive, she wasn’t afraid to ask questions or talk about which of her parents’ pieces she liked the most.
Lola also indirectly helped Jess Baker discover her artistic prowess with maternity-themed wood pieces.
“When I got pregnant with Lola, that’s when I kind of found my niche for doing the wood pieces,” she said. “I wanted to do a maternity piece … I wanted to do something that wasn’t a belly cast or photos or anything like what everybody else had.”
The finished product, a silhouette of her likeness amplified with colors and intricate designs — caught people’s attention. Soon, other expectant mothers were asking for maternity wood pieces. She still makes them today, but Smudge Monkey Studio art has expanded since then. These days, the duo dabbles in digital design and other kinds of custom art. They also sell merchandise embellished with their designs locally and online.
The couple has regular gigs around town, but Jeramie Baker has kept his job at Fred Meyer to help pay the bills. He still makes time for them to collaborate on pieces, though. Forever a fan of the basic pencil and paper, he’ll sketch the base layer. Then, she brings the color in the form of acrylic paints and markers.
“I’ll design a piece or two and hand it over to her and she’ll add the color, the paint and just add a whole other layer, texture or look to it,” Jeramie Baker said. “The final thing is a mixture of me and her — it’s her style on top of mine, making one unique, cool thing.”
Sometimes they work separately, but because they have similar artistic influences — comic books, animation, tattoo design — teaming up comes naturally, they said.
Producing art is easy compared to trying to run a business. They tested out running a physical shop for a few months, but found it was too costly to maintain. With online shopping and social media, however, Smudge Monkey Studio is still in the public eye.
“Social media has changed the way art is sold and found and distributed,” said Jeramie Baker, citing Facebook as a huge driver for them.
Nothing can replace shows in the community though, they said. This week, they’ll be the featured artists at Bailiwick’s First Friday event. They also have events lined up with Tap Root Public House and Alaska Denali Winery later this year.
The ultimate goal is that their work becomes profitable enough that Jeramie Baker’s non-artist job becomes unnecessary.
“One step at a time,” he said. “We take it one day, one show at a time and let it grow.”
If you go — First Friday at Bailiwick
- Where: 245 W. Fifth Ave. #110
- When: Aug. 1 from 6-9 p.m.
- Cost: Free