In the Studio with David Cruz

By Peggy Roalf   Thursday June 16, 2022

Peggy Roalf: Which came first, the pen, the brush or the tablet?

David Cruz: I started with the pen during my school days, constantly scribbling in my notebooks. I was interested in exploring human anatomy, insects and animals. Currently I like to alternate between these three tools, since I have always liked the effects I can get quickly sketching with a pen and with brushes, then sometimes finishing them in a digital format.

Peggy Roalf: Where do you live and how does that place contribute to your creative work?

DC: I currently live in Mexico City, which is a very dynamic place full of cultural diversity that is constantly evolving. There are also abandoned or deteriorated places where it seems that time has stood still. These spaces somehow have a magical force that I think has contributed to my creative processes, as well as informing my color palettes and ideas about layering textures in a graphic style.

Peggy Roalf: Please describe your work space and how it contributes to the artist's basic condition of working alone.

DC: Before the pandemic I had a bright and spacious studio, but today I am somewhat of a nomad because there are times when I work in public spaces. This becomes my studio for several days or weeks, then I return to work at home where I do pieces of small and medium format. This dynamic has contributed to the fact that I feel free to paint on any support, from a canvas or a wall to reclaimed metal or wooden doors. I think that the studio is an important place for the artist, but you can do without it and choose to explore other spaces for making art.

Peggy Roalf: Do you carry a sketchbook? If so, how does that contribute to your work process?

DC: I always keep a sketchbook to make quick notes or sketches of objects, animals, plants, or simply everyday life. I also use the cell phone to record spaces or objects that interest me, then I make small studies in my sketchbook.

Peggy Roalf: You seem to easily switch between page-sized art and wall-sized murals. What prompted you to become a muralist? How do you develop and produce public art projects?

DC: In Mexico there is a strong tradition of muralism and since I was a child I always wanted to paint on the walls. When I visited museums, I saw the murals of great artists such as Siqueiros, Orozco, Tamayo, Rivera, and I was interested in learning how to transfer a small drawing from a sketchbook to the size of a wall. Little by little I learned how to do this. Now there are even digital applications that help you to solve this type of production challenge.

Other things that motivated me to want to transform my ideas to wall-size art are the colors and light effects you can get only with aerosol paint. We see this all the time in the graffiti on city walls. This “outlaw art” has always inspired me to create murals for public spaces.


PR: What are the logistics involved in producing your murals? Have you had to apply for permits?

DC: The process to paint a mural is somewhat complex, as you have to locate a site, develop the idea as a working drawing to get permission from the owner, and then get the materials and scaffolding to produce the piece on a tight schedule. I usually work with two colleagues who support me throughout the entire process as we are always working against the clock on projects like this. To date I have only done murals with the permission of the building’s owner so permits have not been necessary. But I would love to paint something illegal for the spontaneity of doing something quickly and subversively.

PR: I noticed that pre-Colombian carvings exert an influence on your 2D art. Could you speak about your explorations of these historic works and your affinity to these haunting figures?

DC: When I was a child I visited Museo del Templo Mayor, which is one of the largest collections of pre-Hispanic art in Mexico. I was always interested in the stories, legends, and myths surrounding the cosmogony of pre-Hispanic cultures. Seeing this work had a formative effect on me because the synthesis of the human body and facial gestures that look like masks—and the stories they convey—became a trigger in my own creative processes. 

PR: Do you use photographic reference materials very much? If yes, how do you avoid the pitfalls that can arise when working from reference images?

DC: I work with some photographic references, but I always make many sketches from these pictures until the original image disappears and only the idea of this visual reference remains. I usually sketch from observation, then make these conceptual drawings into collages. I am fascinated with collage, with the idea of modifying the meaning or form of things by combining images from different contexts and different periods.


PR: If you could work in just one medium for a year what would that medium be—what would you do to start out?

DC: I would like to experiment more with the mural, Given a year, I could develop a more concrete foundation for handling the technical, graphic and management challenges this work offers. I would also like to do murals in other countries and interact with more artists to share ideas. It's hard work, but it's really fun and interesting.

PR: How do you know when the art is finished—or when to stop working on it?
DC:  For me, the work is like a campfire: At the beginning it needs a lot of energy, strength and freedom and as you go forward you realize that the wind is enough to keep it going, since its flame is very strong and charged with energy. By the time you get to the end, force is no longer necessary. However, there are many pieces for which I like to re-ignite the fire.


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

DC:  When I was a student, a painting teacher told me that the power of art involves a continuing communication with the history of world art, For example, a dialogue between a work by Goya and a work by Otto Dix or a work by Turner with one by Cy Tombly. For this reason, I find it important to be aware of current art movements and to find that kind of dialogue among works by other artists. I like to look at anatomical drawing books and books about biology and botany. And I’ve always enjoyed caricatures and political cartoons for their concise pen and ink drawings. Cinema is also one of my inspirations, as films have a kind of pictorial truth that relates to painting. And I usually I listen to music while I’m working—jazz, Latin rhythms, or new music from other countries. 

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

DC: For me, learning to paint has always been the job I wanted; and I would like to take my work to other countries and teach other people how to paint

David Cruz was born in Mexico City. He has a degree in Graphic Design specializing in illustration and an MFA in painting, both from Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana (UAM). He completed several art, painting and illustration workshops at Academia de San Carlos, and was also part of the collective of illustrators, "a mano y pie". He has participated in various collective and individual exhibitions in Mexico City and in Spain, Holland, Colombia and Argentina..
Instagram: @davidcrrruz  inthestudiowith DARTinterview