Designercon 2014!

YermanThis past weekend Pasadena was flooded with avid toy collectors as Designercon celebrated another year! I was lucky enough to exhibit for my first solo showing (last year I exhibited with The 80s Kids) and what a whirlwind weekend it was! If you’re not familiar with the show, it’s basically a tradeshow for unique, weird and random things of every variety. Most vendors bring vinyl toys, custom and pre-molded, but you can find so many different varieties of creative trinkets. Along with these oddities, you can also meet with some of the world’s biggest artists. During the first day of set up, I walked in to the bathroom with the legendary Frank Kozik which was surreal to say the least!

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Las Vegas artists came to the show in a very big way! With the exception of a few (Ninjabot was tucked away in a corner unfortunately) we made up a row which we affectionally called The Vegas Strip. In attendance was Juan Muniz, Mr Biggs, Lil Art Bodega, Das Frank, Snipt!, Dan45, Dillon Boy and Happy Panda Toys (all pictured above) with Jeanette Hall, Vision and Paco Alvarez attending to complete the Vegas domination. It was a blast hanging with friends and meeting new ones from the city of sin.

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During the con, Juan Muniz and I spoke on a panel at the main stage moderated by Las Vegas arts commissioner/Zappos.com Arts Curator Paco Alvarez. The panel was called “Depression in the Arts: A Character Study” and it was a discussion on how our work is influenced by depression and isolation. If you’d like to read a little about what I spoke about, you can read my last entry about Yerman that I wrote for Suicide Prevention Day (click here for that.)

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It felt really good to speak out about what influences my work while sharing the stage with two friends but what really inspired me the most was seeing Juan unload a weight that he’s been holding onto for a long time; he shared with the crowd exactly what influenced Felipe the Bunny and it was a bomb drop. There wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd after Juan shared his story and it was an amazing experience. Once the video goes live on Designercon’s website, I will share a link on my blog. Fellow Zappos muralist, Jeanette Hall, sketched this amazing piece while watching from the audience and I absolutely adore it. She has such a way of capturing moments.

Over the weekend I was visited by a few dudes that I haven’t seen in a long time. Blake from Workaholics stopped by the booth and took home a pink Depressed Monsters shirt. JJ Villard, creator of King Star King on adultswim. also stopped by and took home a black shirt along with a comic my brother and I wrote together.  I haven’t seen Blake since Comic Con last year where we hung at the Comedy Central party with Ders and Adam. It was good seeing him again especially after last year when he hung out with Steve at our booth. JJ made this year’s Comic Con a blast after Shahab, Jacob and I hung out with him and he took us around San Diego and adultswim parties. Hopefully they like the new shirts!

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Thanks for reading and more updates to come very soon! :)

 

 

 

August 9th – Downtown Drink n’ Draw!

August 9th is the next Drink n Draw, would love to see ya’ll there! If you’re not familiar with the event, well here, it’s dangerous to go alone so take this recap:

The Downtown Drink n Draw is a monthly event started by myself and Carina held at The Beat in Downtown Las Vegas, Nevada (DTLV.) What began as a weekly art night with one of curating a playlist and learning from each others’ styles quickly grew into a community event. We still continue to curate new playlists full of chillwave tracks, we are now joined by our First Friday sponsors who help us with supplies and drink specials, it’s a beautiful union.

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Juan Muniz: The Man, The Legend, The Bunny

Untitledphoto credit: Mykey Maneeraj

The Man, The Legend, The Bunny.

We’ve got Juan Muniz here. creator of Felipe the Bunny…The man, the legend, collaborator…Juan Muniz!

Hi.

(laughs)

I’m Ryan Brunty and I’m here with Vegas Seven and dtlv.com, we’re here to get a behind the scenes look at how artists work in Downtown Las Vegas. A real up close look at how they operate and a more in-depth view in to the inner workings that other interviewers won’t touch. Hell, let’s get some beef stirred in the process too. You cool with that?

Where’s the beef?

(laughs)

Alright bud, so you and I have a personal relationship in the sense that we met through Chris LaPorte at Insert Coin(s) then started talking about art for a while, The 80s Kids were born and you were gracious enough to do a collaboration with us that ended up on every episode of The Ultimate Fighter, UFC’s reality show. I was hoping you could give the backstory on what happened before we met, how you got to where you’re at and grew into this huge downtown artist.

Ok, so basically I started doing First Friday Festivals on the sidewalks, then eventually moved to the tents doing little illustrations there. After a while, started getting into smaller galleries in Las Vegas leading to bigger galleries in Las Vegas. I started reaching out with my portfolio to galleries outside of Vegas, emailing as many as I could through Juxtapoz Mag and all these online, like, social media sites that help you find galleries for lowbrow pop art. Then I just started asking questions and trying to get in as many group shows and as many solo shows and anywhere I could I could get my art in, I was just trying find a place. Eventually, just hustling and struggling, started doing more group shows than solo shows, then LA, doing more shows outside of Vegas, New York, San Fran, even overseas and just kind of led to the fine art career almost like taking off, that was just a little part of it and what I wanted to do with my art and around that time, I started doing more street art, more murals and that’s when I got the job at Insert Coin(s) and started doing more restaurants that eventually led to casinos and Cosmo and around that time is when we met.

I think that mural downtown on the side of Artifice is the first time that people started recognizing how big you were getting. Before, you were this dude just selling$20 paintings at First Friday and now you’re a guy doing murals and Holstein’s branding. When was the first time you looked at it and thought, “I can do this, I can make a career out of this!”

It wasn’t until Holsteins came around that I started doing these murals and art projects for larger companies, it wasn’t my friends hiring me but now these amazing companies, like, this huge casino has approached me, they went out looking for me to create this specific image, this specific look for the restaurant.

And that’s huge.

Yeah, it’s no longer, “Ok, it’s your friend/your hangout spot” but it’s like, they’re investing a lot of money in you…it’s a multi million dollar company and now it just falls on your shoulders, you either put or shut up! You get to the point where you’re either going to do this for real or just keep being a poser.

(laughs)

So the Felipe the Bunny character, a lot of people find solace in it because it portrays such a notion of depression because there’s so much behind those eyes and blank expression. Have you ever had an experience where a person tells you a story and you find yourself speechless because you had no idea it could touch a person in that capacity?

When I started creating my art, it was my own personal journal. It was stuff I was dealing with, stuff that was stressing me out and it was bringing fear in my life. It was almost like putting myself in situations and creating these self-portraits that look nothing like me. I thought that people weren’t going to understand because it was too personal but it was a leap I had to take with my work and slowly, people started connecting with every piece I did, and not everyone connected with every piece, but each piece will eventually hit a nerve with somebody and they will approach me and they will tell me stories and at first, I was like, “I don’t know what to say.” Fast forward to years later and now, I’m getting emails and people are telling me what these specific images mean to them from all over the world…from China to Europe to South America and I’m getting emails all the time. Every time I post a pic of a new painting, people tell me the story of how it affects them and they tell me what they think it means and the beauty of it is, with my art, I don’t want to tell people what to think. I want them to take away what they see in it and sometimes their stories are more touching and more meaningful than what my original idea was and I’m like, “Damn, I really don’t know what to say nowadays.” It touches them in such a way I can’t even comprehend the struggles they’re going through but yet, they took so much from a simple image that I created because I was feeling that way at that moment. I can do something about feeling inadequate or depressed or stressed out because of bills, work or something can take that same image and relate it to drug addiction, death in the family, suicide and they tell me the stories and just the fact that I can help out in any little way just blows my mind.

That’s monumental. It’s almost like you’re taking such a vulnerable time of depression or feeling a certain way and you’re putting it on paper so you have to look at it forever and that’s where the character came from…your brother, right?

Yeah, it was just getting it out there, the main idea for the character. I stumbled upon it, but it was meant to be. I created the character to portray my problems and my stress and my emotions and feelings, but everyone kept asking me what the name of the character was but I didn’t know and I was actually asking people and holding contests online trying to figure the name of it. I settled for the name Felipe because that was the name of my little brother who died at birth. Now, when he died at birth, I thought he was, like when I looked at the North Star, that is my little brother looking after me so I told him my problems every night when I had a bad day. So eventually, he was the one I turned to with everything. When that manifested itself into the bunny
character, I realized that’s going to be the name so I gave it the name of my little brother because my North Star became Felipe and Felipe became the North Star. There was no better name that I could give it than Felipe.

How does your family feel about you doing that?

They hate me! (laughs) No, my family, they love me but they don’t understand the connection and the message behind it just because they see, I’m the youngest in the family, so they kind of still don’t realize that my work not only is a commercial success but in galleries as well and people pay so much money they’ll fly me all over the world to be able to create my work for them because they’re just, they’re very to themselves and they don’t want to step outside of the family life…the immediate family life. All they know is that now I can make a living doing what I love to do and they’re proud of that, but they don’t really understand my art because they haven’t really given it a chance.

It might be too personal for them.

Yeah, and a lot of times because I was quiet and to myself, they never understood these feelings and emotions and so sometimes, they believe that I’m feeling a certain way and this is the first time with this character that I’ve open up but to my family, I never actually real did…I was just the quiet, lonely kid in my room.

So you had mentioned a long time ago, I didn’t know if it was a joke but I wanted to clear it up here…you said that you were related to the guy that invented Invader Zim.

So Johnny the Homicidal Maniac and Invader Zim, Jhonen is like that guy where you’re related but you never really knew each other, you never spent time together. It wasn’t until I was reading one of his comic books that my mom is like, “what are you reading? That looks scary.” Oh, it’s this comic book artist that I really love and his name is Jhonen Vasquez and she goes, you have a cousin named Jhonen Vasquez.SO it turned out we were related and I was a fan of his before I even knew we were related. So I’ve gotten to talk to him a few times and he is a super nice guy, just a super talented guy and he’s a huge, huge inspiration to the work that I do. Rarely do we talk because he’s such a busy guy and I’m getting busier on a daily basis but it’s just cool that you have family members like that because besides that I didn’t think anyone in my family created art.

It’s like having that North Star, it’s pretty cool. So you’ve grown so much in the Downtown scene but you’ve always, I feel like the depiction is that you’ve never felt like Downtown owes you anything or that you owe Downtown anything which is a unique characteristic to have but it’s almost a badass way to think about it because you’ve spearheaded the Downtown art scene. So how do you feel about the way that it’s heading?

Downtown and Las Vegas in general is a love/hate relationship that I’ve always had. I am completely bless and thankful because I don’t think I could be where I am if I didn’t do what I did in Vegas. I couldn’t have had this career if I was raised in San Fran or LA just because there are so many people out there that you almost get intimidated by that stuff because there are so many amazing artists out there and it’s just scary. In Vegas, it was, it felt almost like, especially with the artist district and First Friday years and years ago when I first started there, it felt like a family, everyone knew each other. Of course we fought against each other but it was such a small community and everyone could get to know each other. As the city grew and started to get bigger and Vegas expanded into Downtown, it was more like ok, even though they’re trying to bridge the gap; it still feels very separate from one place to another. I was so focused with being part of the community when I first started, it was like being in a bad relationship because you’re trying so hard to make it work and so many things come along the way. People don’t want to work together, people talk about community all day long they still fight and bicker amongst themselves so you know what, I’m just going to do my own things. I’m going to worry about my art and I’m kind of tired of helping build this community because as soon as something starts to build up and there’s promise to do something great, it just deflates because of either the community or some other come in and start taking over First Friday financially to where I was like, you know what, I’m going to focus on myself. Then I see something brewing and something really cool happen and there can be something really great in this city but people can’t worry about the other BS. Just create for the sake of creating, don’t’ worry about “am I going to sell this week? Am I going to make money off this painting?” You don’t have to chase the money every single time! Just do what you do because you love to do it. Then I get excited, then it just fizzles out again because some people were worrying about money and the powers that be that are in charge of certain events and then there’s struggles and fighting with themselves and that just goes away which sucks because it was something good, something pure. Just like anything that’s good and pure, people start getting greedy, people start arguing and fighting because there’s so many people involved so after a while, I just started realizing now that I have family, now that I have kids, I want to start focusing on taking care of my kids and family with just my art. Even thought I became more successful for my work and I’m grateful for it and I get to travel I start doing stuff for bigger companies and going out of state, it was like, people still at me as I’m a Vegas artist. I’m like, ok great, I love being a Vegas artist but it just seems like a lot of the publications and people in charge of blogs and most vultures out there talking about the arts community in Las Vegas focus on a little, tiny group of people and the same people do the same shows in the same location month after month after month.

It’s a big circle jerk.

It is! You can’t learn if they’re teaching you the same things over and over again. You can’t expand your mind as an artist if you’re being force fed the same images over and over and over again. It’s not the fault of these kids who are trying to come up and create art, they just need to be receptive with more work. There’s more to art than First Friday or Downtown Las Vegas, but they pigeon hole it to these tiny areas and I’m like, you know what, I have to break out of this! I broke and I started showing LA, I started selling in LA and it wasn’t until I went out to LA and New York and San Fran and LA Weekly and all these other publications were interviewing me because of my work and what it stands for and quality of work I’m doing but yet in Vegas, for the last five years, I’ve been interviewed as an up and coming artist. I’ve already been out of this city! I’m one of the only artists in the city who’s made a career off of my work and I’m very financially successful with that and I’m lucky and blessed. So I’m being interviewed as a new artist but I’m like, “I’ve been doing this for ten years in this city!” Other huge markets have noticed me but my own city that I live in are like, “Oh hey, hi, oh you exist, we like your work.”

It’s strange to be a stranger in your own city.

It is! I went to high school with the lead singer of The Killers and I remember him playing The Huntridge and playing shows around the city and they didn’t really get support and even though they were hard workers, nobody really cared. As soon as they made it successful, people jumped on the bandwagon! I remember Season 2 winners of America’s Best Dance Crew, supercrew with Jabbawockeez. Those guys would come to First Friday years ago and then they go on television and win a thing and all of a sudden everybody wants them and was like, “Oh we love you and supported you since day one!” NO! “Where were you when we were struggling?! We’re doing the same thing but now we’ve been on TV!” There are so many bougie gallery owners and people with money. Collectors are like, “Oh I’ve been following your work since day one!” And I’m like, “You wouldn’t spit on me if I were on fire in like 99 or 2000!”

Then why didn’t you pay a $20 painting?

Yeah! And now you’re calling my reps asking for a discount on a $20,000 painting because back then you were like, “Oh it’s just a little cartoon character. Oh, I like it but…” This guy actually said this once in a gallery, he didn’t know I was the artist and he was like, “Well I like the painting, I like the art and I like the message, but I won’t buy it.” And the girl that was with him, “Why?” And he said, “Well you buy art because of the name and I’ve never heard of him. I don’t know if he’s gonna go anywhere.” Then like four or five years later, contacting my rep and saying, “I remember seeing his work and I’ve been a fan since his first show.”


Unfortunately, that’s art man. People feel like they have more of a right to it than the actual artist and since it’s on a wall they can say whatever they want and it’s so, so degrading.

Right. And when you’re an artist, you put yourself out there and I don’t’ like hearing it but back in the day, I’d love sitting back at shows and listening to comments. Most the comments were super positive and most the negative comments I’d take as constructive criticism or people didn’t understand or allow themselves to open up to it because it wasn’t cool in art magazines or art weekly or whatever the hell it is. You’re supposed to like art for the sake of just loving the image and love the art. I understand it now that I’m in galleries that buying art as an investment because you never know what artist is going to make it big. There are so many different phases of art. Whether it’s “do I want someone to have my art because they love it?” Yes. “Do I want a high end collector to have it because I’m a good investment, that I’m going to reach greatness?” Yeah. “Do I want the guy driving the Range Rover that doesn’t care but he heard from his friend that I’m going to be successful one day?” Not really, but you what, if he has the money to pay for it, that’s fine. I’m here first of all to take care of my family with my work. I get to spread my message with my work and if people want to take the time and spend the $20 for a print or $10,000 for a painting, I have so much respect for either one of them because there’s a lot of times where I can’t afford my own art and there’s artists out there that I’d love to own a piece from but I can’t own an original but I’ll buy a print. In the art world it’s just, you have to allow yourself to be open to everybody. You can be that artist that doesn’t ever want to show in a high traffic area of a gallery because I don’t want to sell out. Then there’s that artist that’s only going to sell $50,000 paintings, but you’re kind of alienating everyone at the end of the day because you’re keeping it away from the people that could love and enjoy and would love to put it in their house but this guy only wants to sell to the elite. I kind of fall in the middle, if the kid can’t afford a painting, this little kid, he can buy a t-shirt or a sticker. If this company wants to hang on their walls because it presents what they’re trying to say with their company, then that’s perfect as well. I don’t have the mentality of your typical artist, I see art as a business and as much as people hate it to be called that, it is.

Art is a commodity.

It’s perfectly find if you want to be that artist that paints his entire life and doesn’t sell any piece because you just need to get it out of you and that’s perfectly fine. Don’t complain that you make no money whatsoever or you complain that people don’t know art or people don’t want to buy art or people don’t care about art in this city. You’re not the one that is putting the work out there, you’re not making it accessible to people. I can’t close myself off because I believe every artist has a gift and you have to share that gift with as many people as you can. You can’t be greedy about it. That’s my main goal, I want to give my art to as many outlets and as many different mediums as possible; from the $5 sticker to the $10,000 painting to the $20-30,000 mural. The mentality of Sangrio or Hello Kitty, and I use this a lot when I talk to people, is that Sangrio/Hello Kitty, you can find a ten cent eraser with Hello Kitty on it, but at the same time if one of those artists creates a painting of Hello Kitty, they can hang it at the MoMA and sell it for $50,000 and they hit every marketing in between. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that because at the end of that they’re creating what they want to create.

And that extends to street artists as well, especially Shepard Fairey who started OBEY. You see him at every high school on every t-shirt and you also see him at the MoMA and his pieces are going for $100,000. In order to fully reach everybody and make sure your art is being seen. You have to reappropriate yourself to everyone.

Right and there’s artists that just want to create to create and that’s perfectly fine but then there’s artists to create just to sell right off the back. Then with me, there’s a mixture of both. I love what I do, but I have to love it and have to agree with it and I would not do anything or put my artwork with anything I don’t support.

I was approached to do some artwork for the adult porn convention that comes to Vegas. I told them, sorry I can’t. I have fans that are little kids.

Can you imagine Felipe with a strap-on?

I mean that’s the thing, I have…but that’s a whole different story.

(laughs)

It’s not that I’m against nudity, especially female nudity but it’s more that I have nothing to say in that world. Every job I take on it’s always a question if my kids are going to see this. I mean, I did a piece for the Playboy Bunny anniversary show in California. It was for the Playboy Bunny and it was a group show, but a lot of big name artists that I was really lucky to be in it. I remember I did the bunny character and instead of the mask with the holes it was actually a pair of boobs and the nipples were the boobs and just a stack of Playboys around him basically just staring at boobs all day and that’s that he sees.

Right, you are what you eat.

(laughs)

The thing about that is it was such a funny piece; it was a satiric, tongue in cheek kind of thing. That’s perfectly fine, but the porn industry, I really have no clue what to say. It’s the same thing if I was approached by UNLVino that just happened, I hear that it’s a great event but I have never actually been to it and I have artist friends who say it’s a fun time, a great time. I honestly wouldn’t know what to do there because I don’t drink wine; I’ve never drunk wine. I wouldn’t even know what to do, but it’s just the choices that I make as an artist because you really have to know your audience. When you reach a bunch of people there will be some people that like it and some people that don’t. When you start looking at it from a business aspect, you start thinking about who is your core audience, who are you selling to? When I do these conventions, I don’t’ bring originals anymore. If you want an original, you get a commission or you go to a gallery show and I like that being in its own world. Then there’s the prints and stickers and t-shirts, that has a certain core audience that ranges from 8 year olds to 50 years olds. It doesn’t matter, but the UNLV wine thing, it probably wouldn’t be my market even though a lot of different people go to it and just want to pick up a quick sticker but San Diego Comic Con, New York Comic Con, Designer Con, those are kind of like where I felt at home when it comes to my little toys and personal stuff. The gallery itself, that’s more of where I can get a little bit darker and deeper with my kind of work. Everything that I’ve done have originated from the actual paintings and the pieces I’ve put out as stickers and toys, those are pieces that have had a huge reaction from a majority of people so people now love that painting but they would love to carry a sticker of it on their laptop.

Whenever I do a painting, most of them sell right away, I’ve never really had any paintings in my house but the reaction I get for certain pieces, depending on the reaction, then I start producing to a mass audience and that’s when it jumps from a gallery to the merchandise stuff. I think that’s one of the things that separates me from most artists in Las Vegas because I’m more than willing and extremely happy to reach every single market that I can. I didn’t just stick to galleries, I didn’t just stick to street art or merchandising, I did everything. I didn’t limit myself to one thing. I think that’s why a lot of people see my work and they’re like, “I see you everywhere!” I don’t’ ever want to only be seen in galleries or murals or on t-shirts or merchandise and that’s one of the biggest things that separated me from everyone else and that’s what I love to do. There’s nothing wrong with just wanting to do galleries or just merch or just graphic design/illustrations. I just want to be able to do as much as I can because my work lends itself perfectly in any single one of those realms. I think that’s why so many people are attracted to it because it’s not just one thing.

With you creating your own character and really merchandising the heck out of it, how do you feel about other mediums? I know we’ve talked about this before but how do you feel about stencil art especially here in downtown?

So I’m going to piss off a lot of people but I don’t care because they need to hear it. So a lot of people will think of me as a one trick pony, they’ve said, “he only does the bunny!” The thing about the bunny, every single piece I do there’s a different message, there’s different messages behind the art or what I’m trying to say. Very genuine, it’s very true to myself. I’m not saying by any means that I’m the most talented, technical artist especially in this city because there’s some amazing artists and the work that they do is beautiful but it doesn’t say anything to me. Personally to me, a beautiful painting of a tree, oil on canvas, it’s a beautiful painting of a tree. It doesn’t really say anything else to me but that could be worth $10-20K. I could walk to a kid with a sketchbook he’s trying to sell for 10-20 dollars but he tells me what it’s about and the message behind it, I’ll buy that from him…

Because there’s an emotional connection.

Yeah, because you need something that’s nice to look at, something that completely changed your world and flips it upside down on its head. Going back to the whole aspect of, there’s not enough exposure to this city outside of Las Vegas that trends come and they go. There’s so many amazing artists, there’s stencil artists, a lot of people mention Banksy or Shepard Fairey but those guys, the way they do it and I keep telling people, a lot of people hate Banksy, he’s so simple or this and that, it’s just a ruse. What I think Banksy does and personally, I don’t think the art is the actual stencil or the actual piece on the wall…it’s the reaction that it creates from people. The artwork that he creates is the involvement that people have with the art. He thinks of an image and he does something that sparks a reaction. It can be something extremely simple, like that piece he did in New York of the Twin Towers and the beautiful flower that looked like fire. It’s a simple piece but it’s beautiful and you allow yourself to see it for what it is, it’s a beautifully simple piece. The other stuff that he does is quick and that’s how I see my art, I’m not trying to tell you what to think, I’m not trying to force feed you this huge history lesson of art. It’s just a simple image that’s so simple that you get straight to the message past the glitter and glamour and the technique and you see it for what it is. Then hopefully because it’s so simple, it has a deeper connection, but because of the success of Banksy and Shepard Fairey or Mr. Brainwash and that’s a whole other story.

And he’s totally Banksy and Shepard Fairey pranking everyone….

(laughs)

It’s a money grab.

It’s a creation, like I said, him and the art and the movie was not what they were trying to make, the reaction that they got from everyone else and the fact that it was nominated for an Oscar was the beauty of it. Let’s put this in the mix and see how people react and the thing is there’s nothing wrong, technically, nothing wrong with stencil art. It’s just like everything else, you have to create something, and the artwork has to be your own. Going on Google and printing up an image, or playing on Photoshop just really quick with filtering and high contrast of a picture of an athlete by printing it out, creating a quick stencil and selling it 20-30 bucks is like, where’s the art in that? Are you doing it to send a message of dog fighting in the NFL of a certain player or are you just printing it because you can make thirty bucks real quick?

The crazy thing is that a lot of these artists, and I use the term artist very loosely.

Yeah…

Are taking these images and selling them for upwards of $200 and people are eating it up because we are going through such a time of pop culture recognition that people want to feel some kind of connection to these characters on TV that you put a picture of Daryl Dixon from Walking Dead on a canvas and you have a sell right there. There’s no mashup behind it, there’s no thought process behind it, it’s literally just a picture from Google image search that you cut out.

That’s the thing, it goes into educating the public as well but that takes a long time. It’s something that’s hard, damn near impossible to educate people with what art is but then you get into the discussion of what is good art, what is art and everything is art and Kumbaya. If you want to create that image of Daryl, make your own rendition of it! There’s nothing wrong with that but make your own rendition and put the effort into it because creating these things where you’re just printing it out and playing with Photoshop real quick and you just kind of get it done…well, those paintings will sell and people will buy them the same way that people buy iPhones this month and another one next month. They see it, it’s cool and they have the money right then and there but at the end of the day, I don’t make art to be tossed to the side if someone is moving from their house and they’re packing all their stuff and they’re like, “do we really want to take that picture of Daryl? I mean, yeah, I paid ten bucks for it…eh toss it or I’ll give it away.” If you connect to a painting with my art, I want people to want to pack it real well because I have a connection to this… I love this piece of art and it makes me feel good looking at it instead of “eh, you know what, there’s no difference between that and a poster you can buy at Spencer’s or Hot Topic.”

Only difference is someone cut out a template and made 30 paintings with it.

Yeah, you took thirty minutes cutting it out and if that’s the kind of quote unquote artist you want to be, then fine go ahead but you’ll never break past that mold. You’re never going to be anything else but that dude that sells a picture of a football player or Daryl or Scarface or whatever is cool this week…or a vampire.

Or various Star Wars character.

Yeah, insert Star Wars character here. (laughs) You’re always going to be that guy, you’re never going to break out or reach higher levels with galleries or be successful as an artist because it’s almost like you’re building a skyscraper but the foundation is just sticks. It’s never going anywhere and if it does, it’ll crumble very quickly because you never had a solid foundation, you never had something to call yours and be proud of. It’s more of “hey I got here because I kind of did this crap along the way. I really didn’t put any effort into it.” or if you get a huge client or huge collector in front of you and they want a custom piece, well now you’re like “crap! You sure you don’t want Daryl?”

And it’s crazy because a lot of stencil artists have bitter attitudes to other artists in town where they want to differentiate themselves and say things like, “oh I’m sorry I cant make this on a computer and just print it out!” even though there’s so much work in it, scanning the sketch into illustrator, redrawing it and finishing it digitally.

Yeah and anybody that is bitter in the art world, or sees somebody else as competition, is a sure sign of somebody that knows they are not talented. If you’re that scared by what other people do that means you’re not holding strong ground of what you do. If you have the fear of helping out others or people see how you create your work, then what are you trying to hide? Nobody can get in to your head but you, the process of how you do it is really not that much. From a sculpture, to a painting, to a digital illustration, to a stencil on canvas, yes there is that process but anybody can learn a process, it’s that talent and passion and love behind it that’s important. I do a lot of my paintings and originals as illustrations but it’s a lot of work and the process of doing it isn’t the art, it’s the image and message behind it. Usually these prints will come up from an original idea that I have, that I sketch out on paper and the reason I do the illustration is so that I can do it at a less expensive price point that I can create mass amounts of so people get a hold of it. Now one painting that one person is going to buy that I won’t recreate but other people want the image, well you can’t have the original because someone else already bought it, but you can have the message behind it as a sticker/print. You can still look at it and enjoy it, you can make prints off of these things but it’s more to share it because I don’t make my prints/stickers to make money, that’s not the stuff that I do to make a bunch of money. It’s for the kid that can’t afford a painting or person that can’t afford the wall space in their house. People have prints of mine from 2001 and that surprises me, but it means so much to them that they have the print. You don’t have to do anything that anyone else is doing to share your art with people; you can do whatever you want to do. You can do the same things 50 times and it sells or draw it once and make prints of it, you can go ahead and do stencils all day long if you want but the problem is, create something from you; otherwise you’re just basically pressing print on someone else’s work. The copy machine can’t say that he’s the artist! Just because you printed it doesn’t mean that you’re the artist, just because you’re the one that filled in the colors and colored by numbers. You’re just the tool that created it.

So we’re coming up on an hour here so I wanted to ask you a quick question. Top 3 favorite artists in Vegas and quick description. Go.

Visual artist?

Any kind of artist.

Number one would be Danny Roberts. Amazing, amazing artist that was huge when I first started and he was just the most amazing artist that I ever met. He’s kind of been working on his own stuff and video game animations and apps, but he’s starting to get back into the art and he’s the reason I do what I do. He’s the main reason why Felipe was born. Another artist that I love and totally respect and is one of my best friends and that’s Gear Boxxx; he’s an animal, he’s insane. Any medium you give him, whether it’s aerosol, oils, acrylic, just anything, his vision and the image that he gets from his head I am like “dude, you must have been on an acid trip to get those colors and shapes and proportions.” He’s just such an amazing artist and full of life that being around him just motivates you and gives you that kick in the ass. And another artist that is just one of the most amazing artists that I’ve met and is a great friend is Dale Mathis, amazing architecture/structural work. He basically took the spirit of old watchmakers and started creating pieces of furniture and desks, just pieces of art that Salvador Dali meets steampunk even though he hates that word steampunk. It’s amazing work.

You made a piece for LaPorte and framed it with one his frames.

Yeah he gave me a frame and said, “here have fun with it” and I couldn’t see anything else with it besides what I did and that was an awesome Street Fighter piece and I kept the initials on the frame since it was a custom built frame… it was a collaboration. One of the artists that most Vegas people need to learn about, you better learn her damn name, she is probably the most amazing artist that ever came out of Las Vegas and her name is Amy Sol. She started out of First Friday, went out to LA, killed it in California and is one of the most sought after artists for Juxtapoz Mag and galleries love her and the fact that she was raised in Vegas, works in Vegas, got married in Vegas, still lives in Vegas but yet damn near nobody in the so-called Arts District knows her name unless you’re over the age of 30-something. She’s probably the most amazing artists with the most unique technique that I’ve ever seen.

So this is going to be a busy year for you, anything you want to plug before we finish up?

I’m excited to be working with a new management group who will be managing pretty much every aspect of my career from my website to online store and original works and conventions and commercial work. It’s Faculty Management and they’re a company owned by LiveNation Entertainment. Comic-Con in San Diego is where I’m releasing my vinyl toy then DesignerCon in Pasadena and especially excited for painting live at EDC.

So did the LiveNation partnership come from your Golden State Warriors work?

No, doing work for the NBA and Warriors was just something that landed on its own and the thing with LiveNation is something where I got an email where someone saw my work in LA and contacted me. So we’re working on some stuff right now with some hip hop and pop stars so keep an eye out for that stuff!

Sweet, well I doubt anyone is reading at this point so let’s wrap it up!

Can I put my shirt back on?

Yes, put your shirt back on, I’m getting uncomfortably turned on. If you want to find Juan, you can find him at www.juanmunizart.com or @juanmunizart on twitter. Thanks buddy.