We care most deeply about the things we have been surrounded by and art is an interesting window into the surroundings and details that are important to somebody. Juan Marante, better known as Tocayo, hails from Cuba and Miami and makes paintings rich with stories. Using his paintbrush to explore influential musicians and leaders, Cuban and Mexican culture, the Pacific Ocean, and everything else that makes him who he is. A hard-working, generous, and all-around nice guy, Tocayo reminds us why we love art.
What does your art-making process look like?
At first, there are pieces of wood and canvas laying all around the floor just looking up at me. Saying "What's up?" Then I feel like I have to wait til they're not looking at me anymore and that's when I attack. Planning has never been my forte, deadlines have always been the driving force behind my art. Unless its just sketching, I do that all the time. The process is pretty darn consistent, I am king of the procrastinators it seems. Although I know there are many out there that would step up to that challenge.
How does your family heritage influence your work?
Well, living in California and being hispanic, I'd say alot of my art as of late has been inspired by the mexican culture around me. But when I have a say in what goes on for personal stuff, I bring back my cuban culture and fuse it into my art. I have been wanting to incorporate some of my dad's illustrations into my art. He draws fast sketches of 1950's cars and they are amazing. It's like muscle memory for him. He barely looks at the paper. I believe all folks have to be proud of their own heritage, it's what makes us unique.
Between personal work, client illustrations, and show commissions, you spend a lot of your time on art. What do you like about it and why is it a priority in your schedule?
Art is my life! It only took 20 some odd years to figure that out. I've been an umpire at little league fields, a manager at retail stores in the malls, worked at surf shops making scraps but being happy and at the same time I was lost. I never utilized my talents. I always doodled and all but it took the push of a great friend (thanks Ferny!) to make me realize that not everyone can draw. He actually owns my very first painting ever. Anyways, I started focusing on art and one thing led to another and before you know it, it became my outlet and my means for survival.
What do you need to be able to work well as an artist? How do you set things up to be able to make it happen?
I need happiness all around me, and I pretty much have it right now. My parents love me, my friends are amazing and my girlfriend is all I could ever ask for. Once that void of emptiness gets filled with all those amazing things then all one has left is work, to survive. And if you love what you do for work then that's one more for the books.
How long did you do freelance design and what were the positives and negatives of it?
I have been doing freelance (professionally) since 2003. Started off doing surfboard art for Rip Curl stores nationwide, then I learned how to use design applications on my computer and that opened up a whole new world. And to this day I am still doing it. It's fun, cause you get work from cool companies, musicians, restaurants, friends, etc, the list is endless. It never gets boring. The downside....waiting around for money to come in. It's been tough even though business has been good.
What would you like to see happen for the San Diego art community?
I would love for San Diego to become the next LA and San Fran. We have just as many good artist living amongst us as those cities do. We just need to exploit them. Just because we don't come out in Juxtapoz every month doesn't mean we are not good. I have seen so many artists' work so often in those mags that it seems like the publications don't go out and try to find new content. No disrespect to the famous guys that come out all the time, they are all inspirations to me, but come on, how many people are there in the world.
What's up for 2009?
Just want to keep doing what I've been doing and incorporate other artist friends into my shows. I want to expose everyone that wants to be exposed. Open to be involved in any kind of event, especially if its for a good cause.
I would like to thank the Field Trip crew, Sanctuary 143, Sezio/Spray Graphics/Discover SD for all your exposure, Fowlers for just being amazing, the El Camino restaurant posse, Sean at Amigo, and of course Jake for making me amazing frames for my art and canvases to paint on. Looking forward to doing more collaborative stuff with you guys. I would like to thank all my friends and family for your ongoing support. God Bless!
Tocayo will provide artwork for the walls and some hand-printed T-shirts at HACER this Thursday at Luce Loft, and will have work at the upcoming Understood event and a spring show at Fowler's in Solana Beach.
Check out www.myspace.com/tocayodesign for art updates, questions, and the groups and sites mentioned above.