Interview with Jason Cruz

Here’s #5 in our series of our contributing Artist Interviews. 

1.        How long have you been doing art?  Well, Most artists have been doing it their whole life, myself included, but I didn’t follow my passion for custom cars and bikes until 2007. I never really had a set style or focus before then.

2.        How did you first get started?  I used to be a graffiti artist in a top crew but that ran its course. Around that same time, I started illustrating for Joyride Snowboards back around 1990 and worked crappy jobs while freelancing in the action sports industry. I’ve had over a hundred crappy jobs that had nothing to do with art or design all the way up through when I stopped going to art school. You wouldn’t believe some of the stuff I’ve done. I then got recruited by Arnette Sunglasses to be their Art Director in 2002. Worked in that industry for awhile but was never really happy. I left the industry and later went to work for Hot Wheels designing for everything “non-toy”, (clothing, skateboards, bikes, backpacks cake toppers, pencil cases, etc. etc.)

While at Hot Wheels, they asked me to help develop a new style of car illustration for their boy’s apparel line. I wasn’t used to Illustrator and wanted to learn it so I illustrated my first car at that point and loved the cleanliness of the program. They told me the look wasn’t what they were looking for, laid me off and then used that style a couple years later. That was a great job; I would have stayed their forever.

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3.      What was your first commercial job?  Joyride Snowboards.

4.      When did you first start referring to yourself as an artist?  I’ve always referred to myself as an artist.

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5.      What was the first piece of work you sold and do you know where it is today?  Snow board graphics for Joyride. It’s all in landfills across America. People don’t save old snowboards.

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6.      Is art your primary business or is there anything else that you do for living?   Thankfully it is NOW. Like I said, I’ve had so many crappy jobs it’s great to finally be able to support myself doing car and bike stuff exclusively. I’ve got some projects on the table right now that may take away from my illustrating time this year but it’s all stuff related to the custom bike and car industry. It’s going to be an interesting year.

7.      Are there any special works that you would like to share with our audience or perhaps some new ones that have not been published elsewhere?   I pretty much post everything on my site as soon as I finish it. I have some cars coming out for Jada toys, Johnny Lightning and Hot Wheels this year.

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8.        What’s your media of choice?   I work in both traditional as well as digital media. I don’t really have a preference; I do however like the final work to NOT look computer generated. I use a lot of pen and ink, pencil, Illustrator, Photoshop. I am going to make a serious effort to paint this year but we’ll see if that happens or not.

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9.      What are some other tools/supplies/mediums that you primarily use for your work?  I love to sculpt but don’t do it very often. I dabble with pinstriping but there’s already a ton of amazing stripers out there, so for me it’s just another thing I can do in my personal work to add another layer of interest. I’ve had an airbrush for a year now and haven’t used it yet.

10.      What, besides your art, brings you creative fulfillment?  I don’t know about “creative fulfillment”, but I spend a ton of time on car, van and bike blogs pulling references and seeing what’s going on in the scene. I go to shows as often as possible, and have been focusing a lot of attention on our van club and working on my 74 Econoline. I also like video games and naps!

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12.      How do you know when a piece you’re working on is done?   When my deadline is past due.

13.      What are some of your artistic goals for the future?   My brain is reeling every day with new ideas of projects and things I’d like to do so it changes constantly. I’m a Pisces man; I can never make up my mind. I’ve got 3-5 business possibilities on the table right now and I haven’t decided which ones I’m going to pursue. Whichever option I choose will determine the bulk of my work for the next couple years. It will definitely be car and bike related though.

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14.      What other artists or movements influence your work?  Oh man, Williams was hands down the biggest. I had a few of his posters when I was little that my dad bought me. I used to stare at them for what seemed like hours picking out all his detail and brush strokes. I used to collect David Mann centerfolds as a kid as well. Later on it was dudes like Coop, Weesner, Shawn Warcott, Alan Forbes, and Schorr.

Nowadays, I am more influenced by time periods specifically the sixties and seventies. For me, the seventies was the last great decade for this country. Before MTV, computers, cell phones, the “war on drugs”, and everything else that sucks nowadays. People appreciated things more. Time moved slower. You had to really search for stuff that you thought was cool. People actually spent time together. Sure things were gaudy, but I personally love that era. It was all so much more interesting than the way things are today. People took pride in developing skills and talents. That’s another interview though. When I create a piece, it kinda takes me back in time for a second. I want to push that even farther this year with my work. I want my art to ooze the time period I’m depicting. I’m not quite there yet, but that’s where I’m heading.

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15.      When you start a new design, no matter whether it is for work or your own personal portfolio, what are the first things you do?   I spend days researching people or cars or letter styles. Once that’s done and I’m happy with the direction, I research a little more until my wife kicks me off the computer and makes me spend “quality time” with her.

16.      I know it’s probably hard to pick, but do you have a favorite out of the work that you’ve done?  Probably the poster series for Dice Magazine. I’m proud of the work I’ve done for Cardboard Robot clothing as well. I like it all, if I didn’t, I wouldn’t show it.

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17.      What kind of projects are you working on of your own right now?   Well, I’m about to start working with Matt and Dean from Dice on a van magazine called “Slot Mag”. I’ve also got a 50cc motorbike company called “Veteran Black” that’s in development right now and there’s a partnership with some automotive apparel lines coming out this year that I may be involved in. I have a signature die cast car coming out from Johnny Lightning later this year and a few other things I can’t mention yet, he he he. People can check my site for updates in my news section. And I’m still freelancing!

18.      What advice would you give for artists who are just starting out?  Don’t waste your money on art school unless your parents are rich, focus on subject matter you love and your whole world will open up, take as much figure drawing as possible, (I can’t stress that enough), surround yourself with like minded hard working people, and don’t let the computer become a crutch!

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19.    And lastly, a fun question! All artists have their quirks. Name one of yours.  I love vans, trikes, gassers and bell bottoms way too much.  …now if I could just find some bell bottoms.




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