Featured Artist: J Cruz
Hello Mr. Cruz. Let’s get this interview going by giving us a little back ground on where you’re from and what Jason Cruz is all about.
You’ve been in the game for a long time now. When did your passion for art become a means to support yourself?
Honestly, not until recently. Once I started freelancing for Loser Machine, everything started to flow in my favor a little better. It’s been a slow and steady process for the past few years. I’ve always struggled with all my past employers to create art that was in line with my passion for cars and bikes. I was always struggling with art directors to push my own personal interests and it almost never jived with what the brand identity was for any of them. Loser is and always has been more in tune with my own personal interests. I think that’s why we’ve had such a great relationship. Loser and Dark Seas both give me the freedom and opportunity to create art that I would normally only be able to create for myself.
What’s your favorite subject to illustrate these days?
Anything bike related or things that touch on the underbelly of life. I don’t like the status quo and this brand has been anything but. Most companies only produce graphics that they feel will appeal to what the buyers of stores dictate and that gets in the way of true creativeness. It’s easy to find the next trend and jump on it, but it’s unique to find a company that stands behind its original morals and continuously produces product that represents its original concepts.
What’s your ideal work setting?
Up until the past year I’ve struggled to find that perfect work environment. Now that I’m working from home with solid repeat clients, I can’t say I’d look forward to any other type of arrangement. I’ve had countless jobs working for some pretty noteworthy companies. Most of my previous employers had no interest in my personal achievements and I seemed to always be fighting a battle between paying the bills and living comfortably versus building my own career as an artist. I was burning the candle at both ends for years. Now, I’m able to create art I feel strongly about for a brand while building a strong artistic career with the same body of work. I have you guys to thank for that.
How long have you been in the Vandoleros? Give us a little background on what you guys are about?
I started the van club about four years ago with a few celebrity type guys in the cycle scene. It kind of started with local bikers who bought vans and used them to haul parts to the Long Beach Cycle swap. From the start, the club was more about the people involved rather than having a nice ride. For the first couple years, the club was too loosely organized and none of us really hung out. Things changed a couple years ago and we focused on becoming more of a brotherhood than a car club. We all consider each other family and we have become very tight knit. We have always maintained about thirteen members since the beginning, but now all of us are very involved in each other’s lives and it’s become very exclusive and unique. We’ve come to truly love each other and have built a bond not many clubs can say they have. We are also pretty notorious for having a good time and tend to get a little out of control from time to time.
Tell us about your collection of vehicles and bikes. Past or present.
Except while putting myself through school, I’ve always had an old car or bike. In high school, I had Volkswagons. In the 90’s I delivered pizzas in a 63 Lincoln Continental. After college, I bought my first bike from T-Bone (Noise Cycles) in 2003. It was actually his first build ever. A 72 Triumph that ironically looked a lot like my current bike that I also bought off T-Bone in 2013. I sold that first bike after a couple years of riding alone and getting bored to buy my first van in 2005. I’ve had vans since then and currently own a 74 Econoline and a 79 rigid frame Ironhead. I’ve always had a thing for seventies vans but I’m actually interested in getting a seventies style 67 or 68 street freak style Camaro. We’ll see how that goes. I’d have to sell the van and bike to make that dream come true and I’m not quite ready for that.
We know you’re a proud father of 1, Have you seen any early signs of your passion for art in her?
No, she’s too young at this point, but I’d love to be able to show her the shortcuts that took me twenty years to learn. I like to think she could be much more successful than me at a much earlier age. I’d be happy with anything she does without a pole.
How long ago did you do Adrian’s pro graphic for Mystery Skateboards? We’re stoked you’re doing stuff for Loser Machine and Dark Seas now.
How funny that we work together now again. It’s a small world for sure. I did that graphic in 2007 (I think). I think Loser should do a line of boards. Just don’t do the lame typical logo driven bullshit that all the other companies fall victim to. It would need to be graphic driven like it was back in the nineties! I hate logo boards!
If you had to choose a different job then what you do now, what would it be?
I’ve had over a hundred different jobs since age 14. I’ve worked as a golf course caddy and at Jack In The Box. I’ve built heart catheters in Temecula, and been a yardman at a paper mill. I put rubber bands on tee shirts to be tie-dyed under a bridge in SF. I was a cashier for art stores and a warehouse worker. I had my home life streamed live over the internet by the producers of Taxi Cab Confessions, I’ve even submitted myself to medical experiments that burned my skin while on morphine to make ends meet. I’ve also been an art director for Arnette sunglasses and Sanuk Sandals. I’ve run the gamut and done my time in shithole go nowhere jobs that I hated. I work from home now. I work how I want, when I want, and have the power to tell anyone I want to fuck off. There is no better place to work than that!
We just had our Born Free 6 poster meeting with you. Were pretty excited your doing it for us this year. George killed it last year. What’s your thought on taking on this task since Born Free has become a pretty big show?
I don’t know how to put into words just how grateful I am to be working with you guy’s not just on this project, but in general. It’s been amazing to see the transformation of this show from its humble beginnings, and to be able to be part of the visual aspect of the show is nothing short of amazing. It’s a real honor and I can’t thank you enough. I’m very humbled to be a part of it. I hope people dig the art.
Any shout outs or thank yous for the millions of people reading this?
I don’t know about millions… that’s on you guys. Just Adrian, Chris, and Paul for supporting my work on such a huge level. It really means a lot to me. I’d also like to thank my wife Janel for being so damn supportive especially since having our daughter. Thanks dad for taking me to car shows as a kid! Thanks as well to all my friends who have supported me over the years especially the Vandoleros, Mason Brown and Geoff Cox 1970-2010. I miss you man, all this shit’s for you!