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ARTIST JEFF SOTO talks about his favorite books

Readersvoice.com aims to give people a few good reading tips. You might want to check out some previous issues, too, for more interviews and reading suggestions. This issue I contacted actor Jeneffa Soldatic, who lives in New York where she is a member of the prestigious Actors Studio. First up, though, I sent some questions off to Jeff Soto, a Southern Californian painter whose work is influenced by numerous master painters, as well as things like 1950s science fiction robots and cacti. He has exhibited in galleries in the U.S. and Europe, and his paintings have a technical excellence, imagination, and sense of fun. So read on.

Here’s a link to Jeff Soto’s website to check out some of his paintings first. His website has links to other interviews which feature even more of his artworks.
READERSVOICE.COM: Can you talk a bit about the hernia operation you just had, how hernias come about, how it has affected your art work or your schedule, and how you’re spending recovery time? Has the experience benefitted you in any way?
JEFF SOTO: Before I answer any questions I want to warn everyone that I tend to ramble. Okay now I’ll answer some questions!
Hernias can come about by straining when lifting something heavy. Sometimes it’s a defect that people have from birth that rears its ugly head later in life. It’s caused by the intestines pushing through a weakness in the abdominal muscle wall. It’s one of the most common surgery procedures, and I’ve met so many people in the last few months that have had an operation. I think it’s more common in men than in women, but I’ve met a few women that have gone through it.
The actual operation was strange and fascinating actually. I’d never had surgery so it was all new to me. I was interviewed by half a dozen nurses and poked a couple times by the nurse who was having a hard time hooking up the IV.
Then they wheeled me off to the surgery room. I asked the nurses if they ever watched ER. “Nope”, she said, ” I get enough of that working here every day”.

Then I was laying on a table looking straight up into turned off lights. It was just like the movies, someone placed an oxygen mask over my face and told me to take deep breaths. Immediately I felt a little weird.
I wanted to laugh, and I might have actually, because I took a few deep breaths and it felt like I was shrinking into my brain!
All the sounds (they had James Brown playing in the background) abruptly slowed down and my vision seemed to darken and things got smaller. I think I probably fell asleep with a big smile because it was just so wrong man!
Next thing I know I’m opening my eyes and I’m in a different room. It felt like a second went by. I was thinking maybe I didn’t even have the operation. So I felt down with my hand and I was shaved and bandaged! It was so weird!
After the operation they make you hang out a bit and make sure you have no problems taking a piss. It was very difficult to walk, I hobbled over to the bathroom, a nurse holding my IV thing. I think my ass was hanging out of the back of my gown. Am I sick that I think it’s funny that people saw my hairy ass hobbling down the hall? After that I went home and have been recovering by watching TV, sleeping a lot, playing a video game, and recently getting some illustration work done.
I think the experience of surgery has given me some insight into the whole process of how it all works. If that makes any sense…

RV: Can you talk a bit about where you grew up and what it was like? Did you go to college in the same area, and where do you live now and what’s it like?
JS: I could easily write a book on my life up to when I completed college (I got my BA two years ago at the age of 26), but I’ll try to keep things short.
I was born in Fullerton, CA, but I grew up in Riverside which is around 60 miles east of Los Angeles. I was ten when my family moved out here and I had three younger brothers.
We did all the things kids do in the suburbs. We played sports in the street, climbed trees, threw rocks at houses, found vacant lots to play in, explored the Santa Ana river which was about a 1/2 mile away.
We did a lot of drawing too, even though I’m the only Soto brother to pursue art as a career. We all enjoyed drawing. Skateboarding was big in our area so there was always a jump ramp in the street and we found old concrete drainage ditches to skate in. I think at the time skateboarding and art went hand in hand, so it was natural to be interested in both. Somehow, in high school I got heavily into graffiti. I became obsessed and my grades plummeted to D’s and F’s. I got my shit together last minute and barely graduated.
I started community college and ended up being there for six years. Then I transferred to Art Center in Pasadena, CA. I still live in Riverside and not much has changed it seems. It’s part hick, part gangsta, part dirtbikers, part Goth, a little ghetto at times and yes, I’ve seen a few mullets around here. It’s a pretty normal town, it’s not very wealthy but not super poor either. There’s no good bookstores out here, the art scene is small but growing, and the smog seems to be getting a little better.