Artist Jeremy Fish moved around a lot as a kid, but he ended up spending one of his most formative decades, ages 8 to 18, living on Nelson Avenue in Saratoga Springs. Now based in San Francisco, where he graduated from its prestigious art institute, Fish is nothing short of a living legend in the illustrator and skateboarding community. And it should come as no surprise that his artwork—which exists inside a surrealist universe inhabited by cartoon skulls and animals like owls, bunnies, cats, and yes, fish—was directly inspired by the Spa City.
“I worked at the East Side Rec [skate park] from when it was built until I moved to California,” says Fish. “And I also worked at Jah Skate and Reggae Shop on Caroline Street. Those were my first artistic influences.” To demonstrate how far Fish has swum between then and now, in 2007, Nike honored him with his own signature sneaker—a rarity that sells for hundreds of dollars on eBay. “For a guy who grew up skateboarding at the East Side Rec, positioned between the football field to my right and the baseball field to my left,” says the humble artist, “I was probably the last guy in that athletic park that should’ve gotten a signature shoe from a major sneaker company.”
A coterie within that East Side Rec skater community, including Fish, has taken on a rather prominent place in the world, too. Since its founding more than three decades ago, the group, monikered the Silly Pink Bunnies (SPB), has transformed into an international brotherhood or “gang,” a descriptor Fish is quick to point out was coined by a local journalist, not him or any of his friends. “In the early ’90s, The Saratogian decided to write a very exaggerated article about ‘gang activity’ in Saratoga,” says Fish, who says the article incorrectly portrayed skaters and other youth of the day, who hung out along Broadway, as a menace to society. “It was sad and not even kind of true.” The SPB, though, who celebrated their 30th anniversary last year, are getting the last laugh: A documentary film about the group is due out next year, and well, Fish’s entire art empire—which includes illustrations, merchandise and coffee table books—lives at sillypinkbunnies.com. Take that, Establishment.