SA Studios has been a lot more focused lately with greater visibility. We’ve been seeing collaborations with video game releases and more video content. Is this something we’re going to see developed more and more?
SA Studios has grown a lot and we’re able to do different collaborations now. Everybody’s ruining the word collaboration. But we’re a commercial company, and we need business to work. Throughout my whole life, I worked on keeping it real and keeping it hardcore. But with SA we will be doing big projects for big companies as an agency. If the work looks good and you’re true to yourself, you’re not selling out. We’re very careful in that aspect and we’ve turned down many projects.
I look at it as no different than what you do on the streets. You’re making a highly visible piece of art. People go out and paint on the streets to have their work shown, commercial work could be considered along the same lines?
It’s hard to maintain a hardcore image and yet work commercially. But if I make shoes I want to wear and the whole package is well done, I don’t see a problem. I think it opens the doors to so many other artists when they see somebody like myself who was able to design without going through design or fashion school.
Do you find it important to help bring up a new generation or at least help them out?
I try to start off by being an example. I’m a husband and a father now with four children. I’m a teacher with a protege that works under me. You can almost see the progression in my work. From when I was a single guy, smoking weed and drinking, I had a certain style. Then I stopped drinking and smoking, then came another style. I’m now 41 and married, so there comes a new style on its own too. I’m thinking a different way than when I once was a 20 year old kid.
Do you approach graffiti, tattooing and your other visual work the same way?
No, when I do graffiti, I’m usually thinking in the mindset of a vandal. Doing it fast, thinking the cops are coming. The goal is only to make it somewhat readable. When I’m tattooing, I’m more relaxed and I take my time. But when it comes to my other styles, I need to wear a different hat. A mural on a car under clear coat is different than being a designer with Illustrator. Each dimension of art requires a different approach and style.
You’ve become well-known for your graffiti and tattooing, but are there other platforms you’d like to make your mark on?
In the future, I want to get more into films and animations. I love designing electronics.
You did a few mobile phones?
Yeh I did a Side-Kick and two Metro PCS phones. Now I’m working on touch screen stuff, drawings, icons and different stuff like that. You get the sample back and you’re like ‘YOOOOOOO’. Just like when you get shoe samples back, your heart pumps. In the future I want to get more into cars. I want to bring car culture up to a new level.
Looking back, you’ve become an integral member of the Chicano community in bringing awareness to the culture. What are your thoughts on that?
I think it’s fair to say that Chicano culture and the Hypebeast crowd never really intersected before. They were far from each other but I like them both.
You’re sort of the point between both of them…
I need to be careful to make the right decisions such as protect the brand and everything we’ve worked for. It’s difficult to get respect from both sides. I’ve been drawing and designing for the “Hypebeast”/skate/shoe culture world, long before I was where I am now. I put up a mural inside of the UNION store in the 90s. Now people are like ‘come on in’. In this day and age, everybody is a critic and lots of are posting their comments. I don’t even read the comments cause it’s impossible to please everybody. The most important is your peer group and doing things for people you’re proud of. These days anybody can Google anything and they aren’t properly influenced. But there are those that look at Hypebeast and they can get so much information that would ever know.
Where do you think your success over the years has come from?
I don’t consider myself talented, special or really unique. Everything’s been done before. But can you take it, twist it and re-do it. I’ve been drawing my whole life and now people are saying ‘oh you’re talented’. I look at it more as a skill in an area I’ve been practicing for over 20 years. Some kids feel ‘oh I can’t do that’. I tell them I’ve developed the motions and the skills in my brain and reinforced it with my muscles.
Any last words?
For all the artists coming up, it’s important to visualize positive images. Don’t spend time talking shit about other people. Picture yourself doing straight lines, dig deep to create something old school and re-introduce it all while being as original as possible. Practice every day. If you work hard enough you can take care of people around you. I bought my mom a house and I don’t expect applause from it. I figure it’s what I’m supposed to do. I have an old school mind to take care of my family and children, and art has helped me do that. Additionally, through art I’ve been able to help and beautify my community. They say that the only thing that you can show at the end of your life is what you gave away, not what you collect.
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