Maker Stories: Andrew Cruz

Once you meet Andrew, you quickly know you have encountered someone that sees things differently. There’s an implicit humility and value for culture. With a strong eye for aesthetic, while applying fresh meaning to symbols, he is a creative soul you want to know. Recently we sat down and he shared his creative journey, from childhood to present.

Keep reading for the full post after the jump!

Maker Stories: Andrew Cruz

What started your love of creativity?

My whole family is super creative. It started with my mom and dad, honestly. My dad was a photographer and had cameras. He was always taking pictures. My mom would always do these little paintings here and there. But she had a studio to work on her projects at our old house back in New Jersey. She had some paints, stuff she would make, flowers, and cake making. She would bake and create stunning wedding cakes for people. She would make all of our birthday cakes. Growing up with three other brothers, my mom would always have something on hand for us to do. She was a creative person, always asking “What can we do next?” She had such a strong imagination, always thinking about what we were going to do next. She was feeding us with resources, materials, and the idea that anything was possible. There was this idea of no limits, we had imagination and could picture doing anything. Growing up, my brothers, of course, Chris was in graphic design. He was always working in Photoshop. Michael was always sketching and did an apprenticeship in tattooing. Sean and I were the skateboarders in the family. All of our skateboards were covered in different grip tape. We would make t-shirts with skateboard brands, cutting stencils, and making stenciled shirts. We always grew up on the creative side of things. I always wanted to be different from everyone else. I wore the weirdest stuff in high school, pairing together all sorts of crazy outfits. I don’t think I realized it then, but I was searching for a creative outlet. Being the youngest brother, creativity kind of just made a path in my family and trickled down to me.

What are some of your inspirations for your creative process?

If I’m in a city, I make sure to head to galleries and museums to see what people are producing, where they find their inspiration, and what they are creating. When you’re in a gallery, there’s a time distinctly set apart for inspiration. There’s a sacredness to it. For inspiration, the city honestly. One time I did a work trip to New York (I used to work in men’s suiting), there was graffiti everywhere. Regardless of what city I am in, I love looking at street art, murals, and what is on the walls. I look even further than most. I look at the details and the things the people didn’t intend to create. It’s a piece on the wall where time has unfolded another story. It’s been there for four years. Rain, wind, and elements have come. Other people have sprayed on top of it or on it. As the layers happened, I absolutely loved the way it looked and wanted to figure out a way to mimic natural wear and tear on art and on a canvas.

What has inspired transition your style of graffiti and transferring it to a canvas? How do you choose to layer mediums?

For graffiti, I never went out doing illegal art. I probably wasn’t bold enough to do it. I didn’t want to get in trouble (or have a record for that matter). I never went out tagging on the streets. I gravitated to canvas as the means of expression. I simply thought, “This could be cool in someone’s home or even my home.” I would try to figure out what I could hang on my walls that I liked from the street.

There’s different spray paints I choose to use. There’s Montana 94, Montana Gold, and it’s intended for art. (It’s not the spray paint you buy at The Home Depot.) It has different pigments, textures, and can pressures. There’s both high and low pressure cans that regulate how fast the pigment will come from the can itself. Then there’s also different tips of the spray paint where you can manipulate the paint- whether it’s coming out fine or wide. When I layer on paint, I use acrylic, ink, brush, and use a lot of stenciling. I’ll go into Photoshop, manipulate the picture into a two or three layer stencil of a picture I’ll print out. I’ll print out three pictures and cut out different shapes for each layer, exposing each level of details. I make my own stencils and also stretch my own canvas.

You mentioned you recently moved back to Redding. What has this process been like and how has it impacted your craft?

I lived in Redding for 9 years prior to moving to Houston. My wife and I both did school where we met. We got married, her family lives in Texas, and we wanted to try something different so we moved there. When we got to Texas, I had no creative outlet. I tried to find different things there. I would try to keep my work small. I would play with drawings in a sketchbook. I never had a dedicated space to my work. All of my paint and supplies remained here. I tried different things- a bracelets, and all sorts of different things. But nothing felt the way it did when I painted. There’s something about when I paint that is so freeing. I can just do what I want, and when I had my dedicated space, I didn’t have to worry about keeping things clean. I could get paint on the floor or the walls. It gives a sense of freedom to the piece itself. But I didn’t have that in Texas. Until I moved back here, I hadn’t done anything, creative wise for four years. That was one of my things when we moved back. One, we wanted Eloise (our daughter) to grow up with the family and her cousins, and be raised within this culture. The other thing was that I would have a space to pursue my art again. With being back, I was able to turn this portion of the house into my studio. I was able to unbox my paint, set up my studio, and create a space where I create all of my art. Whether it’s creating canvases, jackets, or other creative things just for myself, like bracelets, I have a space to create what I like.

Denim jackets are an interesting choice of canvas. (Available at Sketch & Press.) What preempted the idea to shift from a canvas to customizing denim jackets?

The story behind the jacket came from a place of boredom. I was sitting in the living room one day and thought, “I want to paint on my jacket.” I never painted on fabric before other than spray painting on a t-shirt. I took my jacket and painted a skull on the back of a jacket.

For me, the skull means far more than what it means in popular culture. A lot of people think it means death. But for me, I look at it as the basis of creation. It is the foundational structure of all of humanity. Without a skeleton at our core, we would lack a framework, shape, and movement. There had to be something crafted and formed within us, something that could take on an identity. As a check bone is different from the eye, the Lord created this and it allows each individual their uniqueness, their inherent identity within their frame. He is the ultimate creator.

I wanted to put the skull on the back of my jacket and I just distressed it, hand painted it, and wore it around. Amy (of Sketch and Press) liked it, she messaged me, and approached me asking if I would create three jackets for her shop. I purchased three jackets, distressed them, and found vintage patches, pins, and created unique jackets that are wearable art.

What are some of your current projects? What would you love to see happen in Redding in the public art space?

This year I’ve been focusing on creating a larger body of work and building out my canvas collection. I’d love to do a mural in the local space and allow people to see it and engage with it on a larger scale. The thing about street art is it lends itself to a much larger audience than those who might follow me on Instagram or Facebook. I would love for the city of Redding to allow for more street art and public art in general. It’s pretty limited. There’s a wall I’ve driven past for years and I want to do a mural on it. I literally think, “That’s my wall.” There’s a wall that’s an abandoned building, it’s the perfect size for a really cool mural. Everytime I go to a city, there’s always something like that. There’s always these feature walls in parks and public spaces that elevate the city in some way. People, stop, engage with it, and if you live there it’s an element of culture that becomes apart of your daily life. It gives off a cool vibe and inspires creativity. Redding doesn’t have that anywhere besides those who are illegally tagging. Most of that is done within a second and doesn’t look good. It’s not intended to ever be art, but rather strictly tagging. No one has taken time to create a stunning street art mural. There’s people that I look up to like Shepard Fairey of Obey and there’s Mr Brainwash. Mr. Brainwash, kind of has a twisted story in the way he took other people’s stuff, but the way he looks at art and his process is phenomenal. There’s Roa and the way he does street art, using only black and white is so cool, pushing the tones and values past what most people would do. There’s this art in large cities and people often visit these murals solely to take pictures of them. They have become cultural icons of the city itself.

I would love to have something like that in Redding. I look at the wall I love and know there’s so much possibility. Street art leaks out positive creative ideas. It is something you pass when you drive, you get to look at it as you’re in traffic, and it is integrated into your daily life. While galleries and museums are great, street art and a jacket, is far more accessible to the greater public.  

What are the tensions of being both an artist and simultaneously working full-time? How do cultivate creativity as you can’t fully dedicate time to your craft?

That’s real. Bills have to be paid you know. Prior to moving back, I worked in men’s suiting and retail in Houston. In a way, that was a creative outlet for me. I was able to measure and create custom suiting. They sent me to New York for training and really invested in me. They were an awesome company to work for. Then I could offer the customer with a product that was true to their style and an amazing experience. When I knew I was going to move back, I quickly realized there was no men’s retail market in Redding (Redding is different than any other city). I knew I was going to have to do something completely different. I loved coffee. I loved drinking it, the feeling a good cup could provide, but knew nothing about it. When I moved back my brothers kept an eye out for me. I reached out to Theory and they trained me in all things coffee. It was a completely different world than anything I used to do. It was a day and night change. It was a great place to work, a phenomenal atmosphere, and the co-workers are awesome.

In that, whenever I get an off-day, you have to make it a priority to work in the studio. If this is your dream and your vision, if it’s the thing you truly want to do, it isn’t just going to happen by you sitting there. It’s easy to talk about how it’s all going to happen. Yet, there’s the grind and actually getting it done. That’s what I’ve been doing. Every time I get a chance, I come into the studio and do a piece. A lot of times when I’m in here, I don’t have an idea of what I’m going to create next prior to showing up. I have so many ideas in your head. When you get into your space, it often all goes blank. Sometimes you just have to show up and find what comes to you.

The other day, I had some time. I grabbed some paint and splattered it to see how it would come out. Then there was another time where I grabbed these cool images from vintage magazines, drawing things on the papers, and figuring out concepts. When I do stuff like that, it gives me ideas of what I can do in the future. A lot of my work involves layering. It might start out small with playing with images like these. Then I might rip it up, tear it, and layer it on top of a canvas. I might be able to use it for something else.

Do you find most of your inspiration when working analog? Or do you also find inspiration digitally?

I’m someone who is really hands-on in my process. I really do need to get to my studio and start playing with things to get inspired. I might look on the Internet to discover other people’s art, what their creating. There’s a really cool show on Netflix called Abstract. I really love this show due to the way they showcase an artist’s journey- where they started, where they are at, and what they are doing now. Stuff like that sparks inspiration. When inspiration hits like that, I know I need to head back into the studio and create something and try to make it happen. Even when you don’t feel inspired or like doing it, there’s getting past that block and just trying to do something.

Where can we find your work?

Instagram and a local Redding shop, Sketch and Press. 

You can find Andrew on Instagram here and here. Give him a follow and support this amazing creative!

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