The DART Interview: David Cruz

By Peggy Roalf   Friday August 30, 2019

Peggy Roalf: Which came first, the pencil or the pen?

David Cruz: First came the pen. At elementary school I use to populate my history books with ink drawings, and I also liked to delete some words to change the meaning of the texts, which made them more fun. My notebooks were always full of drawings from my imagination. 

PR: Please describe your work process—is most of your work done directly, or do you also use digital media? 

DC: I’m always drawing and from those drawings the ideas for my works are born; perhaps that’s why the subjects of my work are diverse. I try to get pieces of broken wood for my canvas supports, because I like the arte povera. For my work on canvas, I start sketching with oil stick or with brushes, building the images very quickly; in some ways the process is very long, but the action is dynamic. When I’m working I think a lot about chaos theories and how it maintains a spontaneous order that makes it different.

PR: What are some of your creative inspirations—artists, music, literature, culture in general—that you draw from in your work?

DC: I think lots of my references come from the environment where I live. Mexico City is a place with a lot of cultural wealth, which becomes inspiration to produce work. CDMX is full of little metaphors and unique experiences that generate a channel between my work and the environment. Like André Bretón said, it is a surreal place, a place outside of any kind of order or reality, and for me that works like gunpowder.

My childhood and youth were surrounded by impressionist paintings and primitivism, but also by the music, graphic arts and punk ideology. Another one of my biggest influences is jazz. I love the spontaneity and the energy of improvisation. And of course I grew up with the colors and stories of the 90s cartoons and comics. When it comes to literature, I like Nietzsche, Baudeleire, Berger and  Mexican writers like Juan Rulfo and Efraín Huerta.

PR: Could you tell the readers what about the primitive style appeals to you and where it originates?

PR: When I was very young I went to Mexican muralists exhibitions. I studied tiny fragments of these murals because I wanted to see the brush strokes; sometimes they attracted me more than the mural in its entirety.  I also visited an exhibition of art brut and expressionism in the Museum of Fine Arts that scared me a lot. I remember the shape of the strokes and their strength and expression. I think that primitive art is a brushstroke of the soul with a lot of accumulated energy.

PR: You work is populated by a cast of multi-species demons and otherworldly beings. Where do they come from?

DC: I think these characters come from my imagination. They are in-between the real world and my emotions. They try to convey a deep dark feelings that we can perceive in human nature before it withers.

PR: Do you draw much from observation or are your figures mostly from imagination?

DC: It is a combination of both. I really like to abstract the shadows of the things that I observe and feed them back through drawings from my imagination. There are works that require deep observation, of course, but I prefer the idea of being able to combine both ways of working.

PR: I like that you use so many different types of media, from simple pencil and paper to a thick impasto-like oil stick to chalkboard to scratchboard to collage. Is there any particular medium you haven’t tried that you’re waiting for some spare time to play with?

DC: I would like to start working on sculptures or three-dimensional pieces combined with found materials or paint. I would also like to work with the marks on the floor such as shoes, bicycle, skateboards, cars, animals, etc. In general, I would like to explore the expanded drawing—using any object at all as my next brush!

PR: Do you keep a sketchbook? If yes, how does that contribute to your work process? 

DC: Yes, I have a lot of sketchbooks going at the same time. In some I make drawings; in other, little studies of animal and human anatomy; in others I make collages. They are like a science laboratory where I experiment. Sometimes, those that go directly into the work are not necessarily the right ones, but I like that. 

PR: Please describe your workspace and how it contributes to the illustrator’s basic condition of working alone.

DC: My workspace has two large windows that illuminate my entire space; those big windows overlook a garden with big old trees that remind me of the history of landscape painting. The floor of my studio always has paint stains are like small traces of the color palette that I use.

PR: How do you know when the art is finished—or when to stop working on it?

DC: I think that the pieces are never 100% finished. Later on, if I feel that I might modify or fix things, this idea becomes an invitation to produce new works instead.

PR: If you could live and work anywhere, where would that be—and why?

DC: I really like the environment, culture and climate of París. It has a great contemporary art production, great museums, and regular promotion of art that simply does not exist in México. I think that could give any artist’s work more visibility.

Recently I was working in an engraving studio in Oaxaca; the calmness and the atmosphere of the planting fields, combined with the strong artistic production of Oaxaca, contributed to my production. Paris might offer a similar experience.

PR: What would be your dream job—the one thing you have always hoped for in an assignment? 

DC: I would like to work on mural projects for buildings in any part of the world. I feel it would invite children and young people to engage with art.

David Cruz was born in Mexico City. He has a degree in Graphic Design specializing in illustration from Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM). He completed several art, painting and illustration workshops at Academia de San Carlos in 2015, and was also part of the collective of illustrators, "a mano y pie".

In 2017, he began the Art and Design Masters degree in illustration and painting at UNAM, which he is currently completing. He has participated in different collective and individual exhibitions in Mexico City and in Spain, Holland, Colombia and Argentina. He is currently working on large format painting, engraving and illustration projects.
Instagram: @davidcrrruz