Humberto Cruz, 37, is an artist and graphic designer who was born in California but grew up in Tijuana, Mexico. He lived his childhood at the border getting the best of both worlds: experiencing Mexican and U.S. cultures, which later on would come through his art. As a child, he was always strongly drawn to art, especially pop art and pop culture.
For him, happiness was synonymous with being gifted a notebook and colors to paint with. That was what kept him entertained while everyone else was playing outside in the streets.
He was always screaming color as a means to make his dreams come true.
And he knew he wanted to be an artist, but he was not aware of the difficulties and challenges that it would entail as an adult. His strong passion for art led him to study graphic design at the Art Institute of California San Diego.
“I didn’t like how many professors always wanted to teach you the techniques. Sometimes they want you to draw in a way you’re not comfortable,” Cruz said. “That intimidated me. What makes me [an artist] is breaking the rules. Doing it my way. And like all artists, we someday find our own style, even if it takes time.”
Finding his own style led him to the creation of his internet persona, I SCREAM COLOUR. Through colors, he’s been able to create his own cartoon world full of vibrant characters reminiscent of his childhood.
“Ten or eleven years ago I created the name. It was summer and I was playing with words. I then remembered the phrase that says: I scream for ice cream,” Cruz said. “And then, I said: I scream. I asked myself what follows and I said: color. Because I really like using many colors.”
Overcoming the Difficulties
Once his virtual identity was established and he’d graduated college, he encountered a problem he did not see coming. In 2008, he was a recent graduate in search of a full-time job, but with the recession in full swing, finding a job was very difficult.
At the time, he was working at a grocery store and did his art after he finished his shifts. Drawing his cute and colorful bunnies and lions was his homework once he got home. He then uploaded them on Instagram and started gaining more followers each time.
It was a slow process for him, but with unwavering motivation and support from others, he never gave up on his dream. He had a very clear idea of the dreams he wanted to accomplish and what type of artistic projects he wanted to achieve.
Cruz kept on experimenting with a limitless color palette and different media including digital art, acrylics, pastels, and spray paint. He created his own world by filling his art pieces with recurring characters, such as lions, bunnies, angels, mermaids, and cats. The characters are clumped together for a reason.
“[The characters] give more life to my work and I have more fun. It’s as if I’m in my own world with them,” Cruz said.
The characters bring life to the pieces, but they’re also representative of what life means to Cruz. It’s a fantasy world, but it’s not a perfect one. It’s life with its sweetness and evilness at the same time. It portrays the duality of happiness and sadness simultaneously.
Mental Health as Art
Cruz’s work is also permeated with phrases that express what he is feeling at the moment. That’s because mental health is another important aspect of his art. He draws his feelings and uses his artwork as a visual diary to convey positive messages in his signature pop style.
“I draw many words that help me and that I know will help other people who might be going through difficult times,” Cruz said. “I started to take more care of my mental health about five years ago because I had a panic attack for the first time. It had never happened before and I was quite scared."
That’s why most of his digital artworks convey positive messages that remind people to be gentle with themselves and that everything will be alright. It’s all communicated with happy and wholesome colorful hearts.
His art cannot be separated from pop culture. He integrates elements of pop culture, such as celebrities and fashion, in a digital collage style. This obsession with pop culture led him to collaborate with various high-profile brands including Chanel, Zara, and Target.
Cruz had the opportunity to design children's and women's clothing for Target's Pride Month collection. Sadly, with the recent controversy, the collection was pulled from stores. Not only did Cruz face not having the work he created put out into the world, but he also faced intense backlash for being a part of the collection. He was harassed on Instagram, receiving homophobic messages.
Yet, he used his art and platform to convey positive messages of love and acceptance because he’s always supported the LGBTIQ+ community. At some point, he thought of taking a break from Instagram, but then he realized that his art does not only exist to look aesthetically pleasing. It’s a meaningful reflection of social issues.
He kept screaming color, and despite the Target collaboration dilemma, that was only one of his big projects that came to fruition this year.
Living the Dream
Remember that he’s always screamed color to make his wildest dreams come true.
Well, that happened this year when the world found out he worked with Colombian singer Karol G to create the album cover for her latest album “Mañana Será Bonito” (Tomorrow Will Be Nice). They started working on the collaboration last year when she reached out to him via Instagram.
“We did a video call and I was so nervous that my neck started turning red,” Cruz said laughing. “This took a lot of months [to get done]. In the beginning, I thought I was only doing the album cover, but then it was all the look for the album.”
He remembers that working with her was very easy and fun. She told him he was a fan of his art and what she wanted the album cover to look like. She asked him to draw her as his staple mermaid.
“I really like drawing mermaids. She chose it and said she was a mermaid. I was going to draw her with her aqua hair, but she then dyed it red and now she has it pink,” Cruz said laughing.
When they were working together, they both did not know what was coming this year.
Karol G released the album on February 24 of this year. According to Billboard, she made history by being the second artist to debut at number one on the Billboard 200 with an album in Spanish. She became the first woman and Colombian to place an all-Spanish-language album at number one.
Cruz still does not comprehend the scale of the collaborative work he did with Karol G, unable to process that his art is around the world and that even Shakira saw it because she also collaborated with Karol G for one of the album’s songs called “TQG.”
“Working with her was the best experience ever. The wait for this dream [of an album cover] to come true was totally worth it and doing it with her was even better, especially because she’s a Latina. She’s from Colombia. I was very happy about that,” Cruz said.
And Latin American representation is also one of Cruz’s main sources of pride. Knowing that he was able to make history as a Latin American artist along with her makes him very happy.
“Due to everything that’s happening in the world, especially in the U.S. that’s really divided, it’s even more important. I know we’re more than what people think we are,” Cruz said. “They don’t know our history. They don’t know about the richness of Latin American culture. That just motivates me to continue doing art and represent all the people that have dreams like the ones I have.”
And that’s all because he made his dreams come true by screaming color in spite of the challenges and difficulties. If you want to follow him and take in his world of color, just look him up on Instagram at @iscreamcolour.
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