Hey there Dela, thanks for talking with me today. Is that your real name, Dela?
Yes, it’s short for De la Cruz.
Oh, ok, I was curious about that. So, you just got back from Gratifly a little while ago, how was Gratifly?
Gratifly was a lot of fun, that was kind of my first East Coast festival from last year and I was really happy to go back. The weather was a bit different this time, it was a little bit hotter and humid so it was kind of difficult to paint what I was trying to paint, but it was nice to see family and all of Vision Lab. They are good friends of mine.
Oh, you know, I never thought of the humidity affecting the paint, but I guess that would make it difficult!
Yeah, and the painting I did there last year turned out to be one of my most recognizable paintings ever, and the techniques that I was using a year ago are different from how I’m painting now. What I’m doing now it didn’t work with that humidity. I need a hair dryer basically, so I can paint, then use the hair dyer to dry that layer. The paint was not drying and wasn’t wet it was kind of chalky. It was crazy, I couldn’t figure it out! But all of my friends were there, from Denver and people from the Bay area, we all got flown out there, so it was nice to create with my friends. That’s a goal, we have to travel as artists and get out there. There were a lot of good people out there at Gratifly.
I know that you’re living in California, are you active on the San Francisco art scene?
Not so much, just because I’m traveling so much. I do the festivals over and over. In the wintertime it’s nice to get back into the gallery scene, but right now I’m supporting my art friends by going to their openings and such.
When did you start painting at music festivals, what was your first festival that you went to?
I started painting in a club in San Francisco, that’s where I started live painting. My first festival, though, I can’t really think of it right now.
Ok, no problem (laughter), I’ll ask you this, then: what was your favorite festival that you went to paint?
I’d say it’s a close tie…Gratifly last year was a favorite because I got so much love from the people who knew my artwork, and all I had done was expose my artwork to social media. I knew it was getting out there, but I didn’t know how strongly people on the East Coast were connecting with it. I will always remember that festival because I felt like professional artist, on another level, for the first time. Other festivals…I painted at Burning Man last year for Fractal Planet. That was incredible, because you would paint for 5 minutes then you would turn around, and there was a whole new group of 300 people behind you. It was a whole week and all week long it was like that. It was an endless array of conversation and people and promoting yourself. It was pretty epic, that’s Burning Man.
Yeah, that’s like, the epitome!
Yeah, for American festivals. I wouldn’t even call it a festival, it’s like another country. It has its own rules, own music.
Do you go to Burning Man every year?
Burning Man was my first year last year. I’m working on getting my ticket for this year right now.
Let me back track real quick, why did you decide to move to San Francisco? Because I know that you lived in Florida before that.
I was in Florida and just kind of working dead-end jobs while painting on the side, thinking that someone was going to find me and then give me a big shot at a gallery somewhere. And then I realized that’s never gonna happen. You’re the one that has to make it happen, you’re in control. So I was making some money from art, and I had a part-time serving job, and they wanted to write me up for getting an order wrong or something and I said “You know what, I’m done.” Right there I decided to pursue art full time. A little bit after that, me and my girlfriend that I was with at the time said that we need to get out of here. Florida is great but we were just sitting on the beach all the time. So we figured it would either be New York City that we went to, or San Francisco, and luckily we picked San Francisco! New York, I just can’t deal with the cold harsh winters. I always wanted to use public transportation which is one reason we picked San Francisco, but I wasn’t aware of what I was getting into. When I arrived, and I started getting into the festivals and the live painting, it was full on. That was two years ago, and now the city is a little bit different. It changed with all the new money and new technology, but I still love it. It’s a pretty epic city.
I know that you said you were painting in clubs, what kind of music were you painting to and seeking out?
When I first started it was mostly dubstep here in San Francisco. They had a local Wednesday night thing that would go on every week and that was my first time interacting with the underground DJ scene, which I wasn’t aware was such a big thing here. In Florida there was a lot more of live-derived music, and then when I moved here it took me like two years to know and differentiate between the DJs. It’s a huge thing here!
Is that the kind of music that gets you going creatively?
No, not necessarily. I think whatever mood you’re in is how you change your soundtrack, so I play everything. I was born in Mexico and raised in Puerto Rico so I have this catalog of Latin music, Caribbean music. I couldn’t tell you what I was listening to last week, but it definitely ranges from African to Latin…to anything really!
What is your creative process like? Are you spontaneous, or is everything planned out?
Usually I start thinking of an idea, or I see something in my daily life, so I get my notebook out and put my twist on it. If I’m trying to convey a specific message I’ll choose different subjects, like I’ll use the female for humanity, and the background will be black and white. I’ll go on like that and the idea starts to sprout. I do a lot of drawing to start out. Sometimes the idea will require a model and I will hire a model to do a photo shoot at my studio. It’s pretty straightforward, I basically just need a little drawing to test the waters first.
Are there certain reasons for painting the subjects that you do?
Yeah, I don’t like to paint men right now. I’ve seen too much art in way too many museums with paintings of men as our egos. So even to paint something representing myself I may use a woman, but women also represent humanity in my art. Our neighbors and our brothers are the animal world, and a lot of subjects I’ve been using right now like the elephant, their numbers are depleting. Most of the animals that I pick are in danger of extinction, or there’s a negative story behind the animal. I just did a dolphin with a power plant behind it, and a rhino with paint around it’s tusk, because rhinos are being eliminated from people thinking they can make money from their tusk. I think the nebulas are kind of like heaven for me. I was raised religious, though I’m not so much now, but I remember everyone talking about heaven, and asking “What does heaven look like?” Now with our technology and telescopes, we are kind of able to see these amazing bodies of gas and stars. To me that’s heaven, that’s where we are going, but we are also from it. We are very connected to these nebulas and space. The cool thing about nebulas is you can abstract it, you don’t have to look at photographs. Once you figure it out you can just paint them from your imagination.
I read in the biography on your website that as a teenager you were very inspired by dreams, do dreams still inspire your artwork?
Honestly, dreams used to be a bigger part in the artwork, but there’s definitely different levels to dreaming. When you first fall asleep your mind is still going from that day and you start to get visuals. I’ve honestly had a dream where I made an artwork and I painted it and created the whole thing. It hasn’t happened too much lately, though. I don’t know what happened to that (laughter). Lately I’ve been pushing more from my imagination during the day more than the nighttime.
What kind of emotions do you hope to invoke when people view your artwork?
I hope that they see what I am trying to say. I definitely want to invoke feelings for more caring for the world, and for the environment. Even though the paintings portray beautiful things, there’s still that side of negativity and things that we’re doing to destroy this planet. I’m hoping that it’s not just that they like the artwork and take it home and put it away, I hope that they share it and it inspires action.
What’s next for you, do you have any cool projects coming up?
I have about four more festivals. There’s Arise Festival, and I’m going to Florida for Earth Dance. I’m talking about going to Australia right now for Strawberry Fields. I will be going Burning Man, and probably Costa Rica for the winter.
What kind of advice would you give to other people who would like to be artists?
I would say, be as humble as you can, always, to everybody. Really pursue it if you’re really in love with it. Set realistic goals, and kind of have no expectations. Push to be the best painter you can be, non-stop. Always change and follow your intuition. Have your own voice and your own language and style.