Over the next few months, we will be focusing on painters and artists who help add color and style to our world. You'll know some of the names, but others are just starting to build a name for themselves within the community. Stellar artwork is an important factor in the advertising for any event and for t-shirt sales. The artist must understand the client's vision and bring that vision to life. The artwork normally helps set the tone for the event or product sales. I met Jason Cruz back in early 2012 and have been a fan of his ever since. Jason has created artwork for Dice Magazine, Street Chopper, Wrench Magazine, Loser Machine, Born-Free, Noise Cycles, and Heavy to name a few. It's easy to see that his illustrations have helped move each brand forward. Let's face it; we're all walking billboards for any company we support. The simple act of wearing a t-shirt will often bring like-minded people together that were once strangers. Jason has been creating one hit after another; staying true to his craft all the while. I hope one day you have the opportunity to speak to Jason face to face. You'll leave with the impression that he lives, sleeps and breathes all things ART and enjoys every challenge that's brought to him. Take a moment to meet my talented friend, Jason Cruz. - Lisa
Photos by Andrew Saavedra
Name: Jason Cruz
Business: J Cruz Studios / Eternal Trip Collectables
Location: Lakewood, Ca
Tell us a little bit about yourself. I grew up in South Chicago until 8th grade, and then moved to Southern California. Bounced around a bit after high school and settled in Lakewood in 2008. I managed to buy a house just a few blocks from the cycle swap in Long Beach, which has been a big help in getting me clients and illustration gigs. Eventually, I'd like to move some place a little more off the grid, but this is home for a while. I've been illustrating bikes since 2005 and have been very fortunate to work with quite a few great builders and brands. Past and present clients include Harley-Davidson, West Coast Choppers, Loser Machine/Dark Seas, The Factory Metal Works, Throttle Addiction, Biltwell, Sacred Steel, Love Cycles, Trophy Queen, Noise Cycles, Born Free Show, Heavy, Chop Machine, Small City Cycles, Factory 47, Joe King Speed Shop, JP Rodman, Blue Moon Paint, Wrench Magazine, Dice Magazine, and Street Chopper Magazine.
When do you feel that art become a part of your life? I've always been into art, I guess. I struggled to find myself as an artist until I finally decided to follow my passion for custom cars and bikes. That wasn't until I was around 33 or 34 years old. I was a very late bloomer! I started out mostly drawing cars, but quickly realized bikes were way more visually stimulating and, at the time, there really weren't any other guys dedicated to drawing bikes full-time. After Dave Mann died, there was a period of time where nobody was focusing exclusively on custom choppers or the new scene that was beginning to explode. Nowadays, with social media, blogs and tons of chopper websites, lots of artists have jumped into the scene and started drawing bikes. It's inspiring and keeps me on my toes to see so much bike art out there now.
Who were your influences growing up? My uncle had a bike and on my grandparents’ toilet tank was a stack of "Easyriders" magazine. I used to flip past the naked chicks and bike features to the Dave Mann centerfolds and just stare at them forever. This was around 1979-1983. Growing up in South Chicago, my dad or uncle would take me to McCormick Place, to the "World of Wheels" car show, each winter. It was there, back around 1979, that I was first exposed to Robert Williams through his posters that were for sale at the show. Years later, during my freshman year, I was in a comic shop in Venice and bought his first book, "The Lowbrow Art of Robert Williams." I studied and copied that book until the pages fell apart. I'm still a huge fan to this day. Ed Newton and his work for both Ed Roth and Roach Studios were also a huge influence. I was between 7 and 10 years old when those three artists profoundly impacted me. I've always been attracted to the seedy side of life and, to this day, prefer to create pieces that feel a little edgy or dark. Classic rock, heavy metal, drugs and alcohol, street gangs, graffiti, bikers, and things like that have always been appealing to me. I grew up around tough kids and experienced a lot growing up; it's all in my work if you read between the lines.
Who inspires you today and why? Man, there are so many people now it's hard to name them all. My wife, who is the hardest worker I've ever known. Coop has always been and will always be a huge inspiration for me. Everyone who creates automotive or cycle art inspires me more than they know. Guys like Weesner, Dirty Donny, Gorgeous George, EZ, Mitch Cotie, Adam Nickel, Adi Gilbert, Lee Bullock, Arik Roper, Mad Sculptures (Japan), Anthony Hicks, Burrito Breath, David Pul Seymour, Erik Brunetti, Mason Brown, Gen Love Ear Art, Sara Sadler, Nick Simich, Burney, Tanner Goldbeck, Tom Fugle, Harpoon, Jeff Decker, Bruce Gossett, Scott at Chemical Candy, Zac at Heavy, Josh Kurpius, Jeff Norwell, Alan Forbes, Zombie (Scott Stevens). Those are just the artists! Forget about me listing photographers and bike or car builders.
We all started somewhere, what were some of your first jobs within the industry? Dice Magazine, Dice Magazine and Dice Magazine. Everything after that was because of the opportunity they gave me. I'll always be grateful to Matt and Dean for that. Down the road, Loser Machine really has been my biggest client, friends, and supporters of my work. I can't tell them enough how much I appreciate everything they've done for me. Cary Brobeck at "Easyriders" and "Wrench" has really helped me a lot and gave me the opportunity to be a centerfold artist for the same company as Dave Mann, which was a lifelong dream. Most recently, Karen Davidson and the team at Harley-Davidson. Chopper Daves "Super Freak was the very first motorcycle I've ever drawn and was also my first stab at using Adobe Illustrator. After doing the whole series in Illustrator, I never used it again for bike art. Drawing bikes is tedious enough, but doing it one click at a time was just nuts. Another funny note, is that Scott Craig refused to cross his arms during the photoshoot, that's why his is the only one that doesn't have crossed arms.
When did you open JCRUZ Studios? 2012
What types of services does JCRUZ Studios provide? The majority of my work ends up on tee-shirts or event posters. I'm always open to whatever design needs my clients might have. I've done logos, graphic tees, event posters, album covers, editorial illustration, advertisements, fine art originals, and lately I've been sculpting.
Can you tell us about Eternal Trip Co.? Eternal Trip is a vintage-inspired collectables company I'm starting. It's inspired by a variety of things from the '60's through the early '80's like toys, '70's antiques, iron-ons, and car and bike culture. The name goes back to my childhood and my uncle. He passed away when I was ten and after he passed I was only given a few items to remember him by. One of them was a wooden mask he supposedly brought back from his tour in Vietnam. On the back of the mask is the inscription "DEATH IS THE ETERNAL TRIP". It had a profound impact on me as a kid and I still have the mask on my desk to this day.
I recently sculpted and cast my first piece based off of my "Easy Dyin" tee art. It's a framable 8x10 3D relief limited to probably 100 pieces. Half will be painted and half will be DIY versions for people to paint how they like. I'm currently sculpting the second collectable which is a statue version of my "Do Unto Others" art. I think the item I'm most excited about, though, is the vintage style tapestry. I've spent a huge amount of time researching and developing the piece so that it matches the old ones as much as possible. The artwork is a cheesy, but cool, biker scene reminiscent of the old Dave Mann tapestries. They will be five color, hand screened, 36"x54" tapestries on quality fabric and limited to either 50 or 100 pieces. It's really difficult and expensive to produce, but will be very high quality and true to the old ones. I plan to launch soon with limited edition resin pieces, a vintage tapestry, prints, tees and stickers. Something for every price point. All items will be available soon at www.eternaltripco.com but in the meantime you can follow us on Instagram.
What music do you listen to while you work? I love classical, jazz, or old country, but most of the time '70's stuff (Stray, Sabbath, Flower Travelin' Band, Mount Carmel, Terry Reid, Sandy Bull, Alexander "Skip" Spence, Jim Sullivan, and the Stones. Spotify has really opened up the door to so many obscure things I never knew existed. Music is a huge part of my day.
What is your favorite event(s) to attend and why? Designercon because it inspired me to sculpt and start Eternal Trip. Comicon because I'm a dork. Born Free because it's ...well the best event in the world for inspiration and making contacts in the bike scene.
What does it mean to you when you people ask you to help them with artwork for their apparel line? I'm always honored when asked to illustrate for a shop or brand. Everyone has been so kind and supportive of my work; it means a lot to me. I wouldn't have a career illustrating motorcycles if it weren't for my clients. I love being able to bring a smile to their face and present them with something that didn't exist before. Each job has its challenges and every one is different. I've been very fortunate to work with the people I have.
What was your most challenging design to date and why? Hands down, the Born Free 7 poster. It took me a solid month of illustrating details so small you can't even see them even when blown up to 24"x36". I wanted to create a massive piece that was inspired by Robert Williams’ "World of Wheels" show posters. I don't know if I'll ever do anything that detailed again. My wife hated me the whole time and it drove me a little crazy. I didn't touch the computer or a pencil for weeks after that one. The unfortunate thing about that piece is that, although it got some press, not many people seemed to notice the effort involved. I don't even think they sold out of the print.
The second toughest piece was my first Wrench Magazine centerfold. I titled the piece "Dave Lives," and wanted to use the same techniques Dave Mann did with his work. I had never used gouache (an opaque water color paint) or airbrush before that piece so it was a real struggle for me.
What is your best, have to go, can’t be missed, local establishment, and why? Any place that sells Vienna beef and Chicago Dogs. Portillos in Anaheim, and BT BBQ in Huntington Beach for the best damn pulled pork you've ever had. I could drink their sauces like water they're so good. Back in Chicago its Aurellios Pizza and Ricobenes breaded steak sandwiches. I eat like shit!
Proudest moment? The day my daughter was born. Nothing else even comes close. I love my girl, Quinn!
Do you have anything in the works that would interest our community? I'm working with Sacred Steel on illustrating their bikes for the new show "Sacred Steel Bikes" on The Discovery Channel. I might have an appearance on the show, if my goofy mug doesn't break the camera. I also just met with Meredith Devine about collaborating on some painted versions of her "Painted Ladies" series of photos. I also just concepted and helped redesign the "Black Label" apparel line for H-D due out in Spring Summer 2018.
Is there anyone you would like to thank? My wife, Janel, for being my best design critic and smoothie maker. The Vandoleros for all their love and support, and all the builders and friends who inspire my work. And, of course, Lisa and ChopCult!
Jason will be showing his latest artwork at the David Mann Chopperfest on Decemeber 11, 2016, in Ventura, Ca. Be sure to swing by his booth which will be located in the McBride Hall.
Follow Jason Cruz JCRUZ Studios on Facebook and Instagram.
Photos by Andrew Saavedra