A Closer Look
Art Infusion 2021
Story and Interviews by Teresa Nguyen
Yeah, we’re just doing some murals, but it’s how people interact when you transform a building and transform an area, creating these walking galleries. This city gets it. There are a lot of cities that don’t get it or that have it and don’t appreciate it. ~ Nathan Brown
Chalk art design by artist Leigh Alfredson
A History of Art
Our community has been a hub for artists of all types since the 1800’s. The Janesville Art League began in 1891 by Mrs. Ella Hotelling Tanberg. It was known then as the "Sketchers Club". The group was officially established in 1893 and their first exhibit was held in 1895.
Throughout the decades, local artists from painters to jewelry makers, photographers and so many more, have grown up here or settled in our community. Many sell their creations and show their work through displays at various community galleries, such as the Janesville Performing Art Center and at Raven’s Wish Art Gallery in the heart of downtown or at craft shows on Festival Street and at other venues.
Artist Jeff Henriquez with Nigella Ryan
Photo by Kim Hoholek Photography
Black Hawk Mural by Jeff Henriquez
Photo by Kim Hoholek Photography
By 2011, the Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau had developed the first Art Infusion event with a fun Chalk Art Festival.
In 2019, renowned east coast muralist Jeff Henriquez was hired by Janesville’s Nigella Ryan to paint the Black Hawk mural, seen by all travelers and pedestrians on Main Street. The Janesville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau wanted to build on the success of the Black Hawk mural and combined the Chalk Art Festival with a Mural Festival. A new and bigger Art Infusion was born!
In 2020, a committee began a fundraising drive, with a $50,000 goal, to bring the Mural Festival to downtown Janesville. They worked with Wallpapered City, a Milwaukee company specializing in mural events. They then reached out to building owners who were interested in letting mural artists paint on an exterior wall and received submissions of designs from various artists.
Local philanthropist Nigella Ryan was, again, instrumental in leading the 2020 event and in bringing back Jeff Henriquez as the featured artist.
This time, he created the breathtaking Diversity and Women’s History mural next to the downtown parking ramp and The Looking Glass and across the street from the new Genisa Wine Bar.
Bright Futures Mural by Jim Richter on the Boys & Girls Club wall
In 2020, local muralist Jim Richter worked independently, and with his own funding, to add another uplifting and colorful downtown mural, titled "Keep Looking Up", in an alley near the Town Square.
This year, just prior to Art Infusion, Jim Richter was commissioned by generous donors to paint the exterior wall on the Boys & Girls Club along Festival Street at the Town Square. His “Bright Futures” mural depicts scenes of hopes and dreams for children, encouraging our youth to aim high toward their future goals.
By summer of 2021, art in downtown Janesville began to explode, bringing not only local people to see it and go on art tours with Roam Around Tours guided by Rich Fletcher, but also attracted out of town visitors to our "art community".
Many contributors helped Art Infusion come together. There were more than a dozen art related events, along with the addition of five, new downtown murals, plus the chalk art competition!
The event had nearly 100 generous sponsors and donors, especially the Janesville Foundation, Rock Renaissance Partnership, LLC., Wisconsin Department of Tourism, Janesville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Downtown Janesville Business Improvement District, Nigella Ryan and Nancy Kimball, among many others.
The business owners who partnered to have the murals placed on their walls, the City of Janesville and numerous community volunteers were incredibly instrumental in realizing the plan. Several talented, area photographers were hired to capture the buzzing creativity going up in our downtown.
Local Art Infusion photographers, Marsha Mood, Kim Hoholek and David Abb
Another new aspect of this year's Art Infusion were the many local events, from an Art League exhibit at JPAC to "Meet & Greet" events with the artists. Throughout the week, local musicians entertained the crowds, as the public were given opportunities to meet the artists and celebrate the new murals in our downtown.
So, who were these people behind the paint brushes and spray paint cans? Janesville Area Stories set out on a mission to creatively bring their personal stories to the community. Tess interviewed many of the 2021 muralists at their work sites, and finished up the interviews while on a special tour with the artists and photographer, Kim Hoholek, in Todd Kimball's Green Machine. Tess was happy to serve as co-tour guide of Janesville as they enjoyed seeing the sites and beautiful attractions around town. What a blast for those new to Janesville!
Todd Kimball driving his Green Machine
Flower Garden mural address: Olde Towne Mall (back side), 37 S Water Street
CJ is a full-time artist. He enjoys a surrealistic-abstract style, combining shapes and flowers. He completed his graduate degree at Northern Illinois University and has created many public art projects in Chicago and throughout the United States.
Early Art and Encouragement
I started doodle drawing in second grade. I drew people and inside of them there were little guys carrying food to their stomachs and doing things inside the bodies. My mom kept a lot of those.
My parents encouraged me in my artistic pursuits and were very supportive. They weren’t out to tell me to give that up and become a lawyer. No one in my family was an artist, but they let me take art classes and such.
I’m originally from Pittsburgh. I have four degrees in art from various colleges and universities. My first degree was in music, I’m a percussionist, majored in tympani and jazz. It’s a fun instrument. Then, I went to another school for Graphic Design and, then, another school for Painting. But I had covered all my core classes, so I kept getting degrees. I ended up at Northern Illinois University, earning a Masters of Fine Art: Painting/Design degree. That’s where I met my wife.
Chicago is a really cool city. We were in line to be the next professors at NIU when, in 2008, the recession hit and we didn’t get the positions. So, we ended up becoming “real artists”. Perhaps it was meant to be, but I just wish we’d had more money and less suffering over that decade.
My wife has degrees in Art Education, Art History and Graphic Design. She’s on the board for a gallery, but she’s also the manager for one of our Barnes and Noble stores. She’s a real book worm, so she loves her job.
Inspirations & Role Models
Traditionally, I’m from Pittsburgh and was force fed Andy Warhol and all that, but mostly my inspiration comes from all the graffiti artists who are my buddies in Chicago. I was like, “How do I translate what I’m doing on canvas to the walls?” They were really helpful with that.
The bumps and grooves drive me nuts because my painting work is really sharp. But, from a distance it looks great. I’ve met all the other artists and they are the same way. David Zimmerman was getting obsessed with details, too, and I said to him, “Dave, you’re up 40 feet! No one’s going to see it!” But that’s what they taught me…it’s an illusion. You have to deal with these walls, what it is.
I do both brush and sprays and use a whole bunch of different mediums in my work.
My friend Cezar Conde and I are doing a collaborative project in Chicago. The show is already half sold out and we haven’t painted the whole thing yet!
First Commissioned Mural
My first big mural was in Chinatown. I was surprised that I got it, and surprised there were no Asian people in the running. But they liked my work and I spent a few months having meetings. The elders of the community wanted to have something that described the immigration to Chicago.
I depicted the process of immigration. They had these medallions that they brought with them from China and their stores were like their banks. They brought their suitcases, etc. So, I took these icons, handles, coins, lotus flowers and suitcases putting them into the mural to depict the process of their immigration.
CJ's Chinatown Library Mural in Chicago
Why the Flower Garden design?
In the last couple of years, I’ve been choosing indigenous flowers in my work, wherever I am. Public art is for entertainment, to be uplifting. Sometimes I do some psychedelic paintings but, with flowers, everyone can relate to it. It fits all holidays, they're something you give someone you love and it reaches all ages. I’m here to convert your space into something groovy and I want people to dig it! It reminds you of childhood with using these bright colors. You want something where people say, “Oh, I love that!” instead of “What the hell is that?”
CJ is a people person and loved hanging out with local Janesville folks, trying all sorts of eateries and quenching his thirst in downtown Janesville. He’s a big ‘sweets guy’ and also enjoyed Janesville’s sweet treats, chocolates and ice cream he found in the local shops!
Janesville is great! I live right outside Chicago in Geneva. I’ve eaten and had drinks at several different restaurants here in Janesville – Riley’s, O’Riley and Conway’s, I had the meatloaf sliders at Whiskey Ranch…oh wow, fantastic! I ate at Lark, drafthouse, I had the mussels there at a reasonable price! But it felt like my home town.
I’ve been talking to our mayor and tried convincing him that this is what we need in our downtown!
See more of CJ's work online: cj-hungerman.squarespace.com
Find CJ Hungerman on Instagram @cjhungerman
River of Life Mural address: on the Kimball Education Building, 31 W Milwaukee St - Janesville
Ivan J. Roque is a visual artist/ street artist from Miami, Florida. Raised in the inner city of the infamous Carol City with a passion for the concepts of birth, death, renewal and social struggles.
He has a Bachelor's of Art in Visual Arts from the Florida International University. His travels have taken him far and wide for various exhibitions and murals including shows in New York City, Dubai, Seoul and mural festivals such as the Bushwick Collective Block Party and Pow Wow Worcester and now, Art Infusion in Janesville, WI! Ivan has had three gallery solo shows and one museum solo show at the Coral Springs Museum of Art.
I’m the oldest of two boys, first generation Americans. My younger brother is an engineer. My mother said she used to draw and do art, but I’m the only professional artist in the family.
My dad escaped Cuba on a raft on the ocean to flee military persecution. He doesn’t talk about it a lot. According to him, the plan was to get caught by the authorities so that he would serve time in regular prison so he could get out of the military. Military prison would have been so much worse. The military is all about indoctrination.
He knew about someone who was hiding out in the countryside, who was building a raft. He said, “Sure, I’ll go to America.”, but he was really planning to get caught. The raft was like three large semi tires tied together with some wood on it.
So, he got on the raft with a friend and his cousin, started rowing, and my dad thought they’d get caught at any moment, but they got farther and farther out. So, they had to be careful to get on the current that takes you north. If you cross that and get caught between Florida and the Bahamas, you can easily get lost at sea and die.
They were eventually intercepted by the U.S. Coast Guard and processed through immigration, which was easier back then. My mom came as a kid on a ‘freedom flight’.
My grandmother’s boyfriend came to America, after serving ten years as a political prisoner. He had sent a letter to my grandmother asking her to come to America. She was able to come here by the invitation. She flew to the U.S. and settled in Miami.
My dad and mom met through a mutual friend. I was born in ’91, here in the U.S. I keep in touch with both of them often.
Early Art and Encouragement
I’ve been drawing since I was a kid, but have improved with lots of practice. I was in a magnet school, then went to regular high school. But, I didn’t decide to become an artist until after I was 17 or 18. Coming from a blue collar family, they kind of expected something else. But, my mom said, “I really want you to do this, because I don’t want you waking up each morning regretting your decision.” So, she inspired me. And if I don’t do it for myself, I’ll at least do this for her. I keep in close touch.
I started doing murals when I graduated high school, since 2010. Being a first generation American I thought, "If my old man can jump on a raft and come to America and follow his dreams, so can I!"
Ivan's Life of Gold mural at the Tosa Yoga Center in Wauwatosa, WI
Guy Harvey was my first inspiration; my first taste of art. Harvey is a Jamaican marine wildlife artist and conservationist. He was always so prominent down in Florida, down in the keys and all that. Then I learned about the masters, like Van Gogh. Those who inspire my style now are artists like Caravaggio, Gianni Versace, Alexander McQueen and Marc Rothko.
I usually do a lot of animals and plants. The vines are kind of my signature motif. What’s most special about the vines is that they represent the energy and time that revolves all around and connects us, something we can’t see. And my favorite part about them is the thorns. The thorns represent the obstacles in life that we go through that make us who we are today. So, no matter how happy the piece is, there have to be thorns. There has to be truth behind the art.
I was allowed to choose my size of wall, so I decided to do the entire thing. And it’s across from Raven’s Wish Art Gallery. Alicia’s awesome.
Janesville’s been great! I love how hospitable and welcoming everybody has been. I’ve been given a lot of sweets, and it’s all delicious, but I’m afraid I’ve gained a few pounds up here!
I also love how people in the community have been so intrigued by the art. I’ve been honored to be here, and I’m very grateful.
Visit Ivan's Instagram @ivanjroque and his website at: ivanroque.com
Photo by Kim Hoholek Photography
My Pet Park is located at the corner of S. River Street and Dodge St.
Emily's introduction on her website:
I’m an artist by day and night. (Who needs sleep?) I’m a mom to a sweet, creative daughter and wife to a loving, yogi husband. When I’m not drawing or hanging with the fam,
I love riding my bike, doing DIY house projects, boxing, perusing Instagram and chilling with my friends.
I’m a Wisconsin girl at heart and am proud to call Madison, USA my home. I’m forever an optimist and always have WAY too many things on my to-do list.
I love BLTs, creamy soup and pepperoni pizza. I could put pom-poms or polka dots on everything and I love color. Tomato red, Pepto Bismol pink, and sky blue are frequent players, though, when it comes to color, anything goes!
The Pet Park Idea
I was approached by someone who lives in Janesville to create a piece of art that could be for families and children. They had a big empty lot in downtown Janesville and were thinking it could be a series of mini-murals that could be installed directly into the grass there. Looking through my work they saw a lot of animals and thought children could identify with animals and pets.
In our own family, we’ve had many, many pets! We had a 16-year-old dog named Chloe, who we got just two days after we were married. Sadly, she recently passed away.
We have a cat named Rothko, named after an artist. When Stella was born, her first pet was a little fish she got at a carnival. We thought this fish would live a few days, you know, but she lived to the ripe old age of Six! Six years! It started out as a little orange gold fish, she turned all white because she didn’t get natural light, and her tail got really flowy. She was the most beautiful fish!
We’ve had a hamster and Stella had a walking stick that she kept from a second-grade science project. All the kids got a walking stick to take care of and Stella’s lived the longest! So, I feel like there must be some magical powers in our house that all of our pets have lived to be really, really old!
I love animals. I’ve done a couple of murals in the last couple of years for Doggy Day Care and have a fondness for dogs, particularly, so I like to put that into practice.
A new, whimsical children's book illustrated by Emily Balsley
Click on photo to find it on Amazon
My first mural was for a place in Madison in 2015, for a restaurant called Bowl of Heaven, they do smoothie bowls. It was kind of a branded mural with their logo and color scheme, but I got to put my own spin on it with natural elements, a farmscape and a Madison skyline. It is no longer there.
I know that public art isn’t forever and it’s easy to paint over. And I realize that going into it, but still enjoy doing it.
Early Art and Encouragement
My mom is an artist herself. When I was growing up, she was going to college as a non-traditional student in the art program. She was more focused on photography, but was still taking traditional art classes. I was surrounded by her beautiful, professional art supplies.
I’ve always loved art and created art. In high school, my art teacher, Mr. Christianson, he was a huge encourager, as well. I have a very, very special place in my heart for Mr. C. My hometown is very small, like 1500 people, so we didn’t have a lot of extracurriculars or AP classes, but we had a really great art program. He encouraged me to submit my work into art shows and such. I got a couple of scholarships, thanks to him.
One of them landed me going to China! It was such a different culture and I did a lot of journaling and documenting. I learn so much from traveling.
My first two years were at UW Marathon County up in Wausau and then I finished my art degree in Madison.
My daughter, Stella, is also a wonderful artist and has her own Instagram @stellapuppystar.
Oh my gosh, everyone here is so nice! To be honest, I hadn’t spent a lot of time here, other than getting off the interstate for a stop to eat. But the downtown is so lovely, has so much personality, and everyone is so accommodating. I’m not used to being doted on, and it just feels so special being here!
There are some great places to eat, too. I’ve eaten at the drafthouse and have had some Mexican food from one of the trucks at the Farmers Market. I had meals from them twice, it was so good!
Emily Balsley (right) visiting the Rotary Botanical Gardens with artists, Dave Zimmerman and Ivan Roque
Photo by Kim Hoholek Photography
I’m glad we did the Green Machine tour with Todd Kimball and went to the Rotary Botanical Gardens. That was on my list of things to see!
I’m excited to see what will become of Janesville in the future, as it sounds like there are a lot more plans for more revitalization.
Visit Emily’s website at: www.emilybalsley.com
See Emily's art on Instagram @emilybluestar
Formations on Jackson mural is located at 14 S. Jackson St.
Nathan is originally from Los Angeles, but moved to Nashville at age 11. He embraced the transition between cities through skateboarding, painting graffiti and exploring new territories through travel. Today, Nathan primarily paints large scale public art on the streets, as well as indoor private commissions and is currently based in Chattanooga, TN.
Nathan has produced over 70 large scale commissioned murals for brands such as Red Bull, Wrangler, Patagonia, Top Golf, WeWork, Google, Spotify and more. His goal has always been the same since day one; “to bring people, places and communities together through public visual art, transforming and creating new spaces where there were none before.”
Early Art and Encouragement
My mom encouraged me. My brother and I grew up with a single mother, and she always encouraged us to pursue our interests. She was always saying, “Do it!” She supported everything we did. We didn’t grow up with a lot of money, so I got into doing graffiti and that. It’s expensive to do art.
I had to figure things out. Had to get a job when I was 14. If I wanted a car, I had to pay for it. I turned to skateboarding and made a living with it for a while as a semi-pro. There were a lot of things I was interested in, I just had to figure out how to pay for them.
My mom would take me to the skate parks and did everything she could when she wasn’t working. Beyond my mom, it was my friends who encouraged me along the way.
Where I went to high school, I didn’t have an interest in taking art classes, and the classes were pretty basic.
I did attend the Art Institute of Atlanta, but stayed for only one semester. There were a lot of substitute teachers that first semester and felt like I didn’t learn anything, so I didn’t go back. In that same time frame, I had started a street marketing company and helped promote concerts for local venues in Atlanta.
I learned how to circumnavigate the big city, code of the streets, so to speak.
In the past few years, I’ve been learning more about old world art. But, for current artists, there’s an artist named Okuda San Miguel from Spain and another Felipe Pantone, an Argentinian-Spanish artist, who I look up to. They do geometric gradient type work. Also, I admire the work of JR, a well-known French photographer and street artist, who does these massive street art installations with large black-and-white photographic images of people all over the world using wheat paste. He installs them in public locations. It's mind-blowing work! A buddy of mine, Guido van Helten, is an Australian artist, known for his sepia toned photorealistic murals on entire sides of silos all over the world. I got to help him out on a project a few years ago.
We Fest mural by Nathan Brown and Casey Kawaguchi - Sand City, CA
I’m inspired by photographers, street artists, chalk artists, big mural artists and fine artists! Just to see the process of these different types of artists really inspires me.
My first non-commissioned murals were when I was a teen – I had murals all over the place, on drains, doing graffiti illegally under overpasses. I was trying to figure out how to take that to the next level, to get permission and do a proper mural.
In my graffiti days I was hired by a few smoke shops and record stores to do some psychedelic murals.
Then, when I was running the marketing company, I met another guy who was doing record label work. We formed a company together around 2001. From that point on, it blew up. That form of marketing became really big and we worked with all the big record companies around the world. It was a really fun career and we were our own bosses.
I tried to go back to school, to Georgia State, but the business just took off! Through that, I got to meet so many artists and bands coming into Atlanta. Then I got to do marketing for some major brands like Red Bull, Google, car companies and some really big names.
Enjoying a meal at Janesville's drafthouse with Tess & photographer Kim Hoholek - Photo by Kim Hoholek
That took over my life for about 10 years. As I got burnt out from doing that kind of work, I was taken away from art, running a business 24/7. Art was my refuge, my therapy and a way to calm down.
So, I started to try to figure out how to do something with my art. I messed around with shapes and colors, lettering and fonts and then transformed that into geometric gradient work. Then, over the course of a few years, I started doing that more, did small canvases and then decided I was ready to do a mural again!
Around age 32, I had a little more time on my hands and that allowed me to start creating again. It was SO refreshing! People started taking notice. I got into gallery shows again. But I love painting huge, taking over buildings, doing murals and public art.
Janesville has been so nice – hospitality through the roof! I feel so welcomed! It’s as if I went to an aunt & uncle’s house. People have been so great; I’ve met so many cool people! It’s really good to see people get excited about the work that we’re doing here.
Yeah, we’re just doing some murals, but it’s how people interact when you transform a building and transform an area, creating these walking galleries. This city gets it. There are a lot of cities that don’t get it or have it and don’t appreciate it. But there are some smaller cities that understand the importance of art, interacting with art, to visit and drive by, to talk about.
I’ve had a great time here!
Follow Nathan online at: bookastreetartist.com/nathan-brown
Find him on Instagram @nathanbrown77
David Mark Zimmerman
a.k.a. Bigshot Robot
The Adventurer Mural - located at 200 S. River St.
Multifaceted Milwaukee artist and designer David Mark Zimmerman, known for his vibrant paintings, imaginative live art, pique-worthy patterns, and mesmerizing murals; Bigshot Robot's creations are a collection of curiosity, vibrancy, humor and energy.
This is David’s second year with Art Infusion, returning to our downtown, this time with the Ace Hardware building as his “canvas”!
Early Art and Encouragement
I grew up in Milwaukee. In third grade I made a t-shirt which was my version of a Van Gough painting. It was an iron-on and my interpretation of impressionism. That was neat.
My mom was the one who encouraged me in art. She was a quilter, pretty crafty and played instruments in high school. Early on, I played a lot of music and that helped me. My mom and I relate in those areas.
I attended UW Milwaukee with a degree in Graphic Design and Mixed Media.
Art Inspiration and Murals
There are definitely a couple of people in the art world that stand out to me. One is a guy, who goes by the name of Ornamental Conifer, who is a mix between a sign painter and graphic artist. He does a lot of really intricate lettering and painting. I like his stuff.
I also follow a lot of graphic designers. There are these two guys, Dan and Dan, who go by the name, The Jerks. They do a lot of branding and lettering. I’m really inspired by graphic work. I like the styles of the 70s, too.
The first big outdoor mural I did was in 2017. That was in the Black Cat Alley, in Milwaukee. I did that with Wallpapered City. I feel like I’m getting into a bit of a stride.
Last year, I worked on a project up at Bayshore Mall in Milwaukee. My friend Emma Daisy curated it. It was with a new color pallet I don’t normally use, so it was a cool boundary push.
Another cool mural came on the heels of The Milwaukee Bucks NBA Finals win, when I was commissioned to create a fierce looking Bango the deer, a “Fear the Deer” mural in the Walker's Point neighborhood in Milwaukee. I called him “Biggie”. It’s 2,000 sq. ft., and took roughly 88 hours to sketch and paint it. The mural is the tallest I had ever made!
I’m gearing up for some cool commissions over the winter and studio work, too. I tend to use acrylic in the studio because it’s easy to control, dries quick and works with my style well.
Bigshot Robot's Fear the Deer Mural in honor of the Milwaukee Bucks' NBA Finals win
I'm hoping to do more private commissions and stuff like that.
This Year’s Art Infusion
I chose to do an adventurer to symbolize the adventuring spirit of the indigenous people, who had lived her, also because this is the City of Parks, and people are coming downtown on their own adventures. Also, this wall is right here next to the river, next to the bus station, and it represents people getting out and getting lost on purpose.
I brought my bike to Janesville last year to go on my own adventure on the Ice Age trail. There are so many nice things to see out here. It’s like the perfect thing to do when you wake up. I almost brought my kayak, too!
Hanging Out with the Artists
I’ve been able to stop and visit with Nate (Nathan Brown) and to see my old mural (Midnight Snack AKA Blue Barry Mural). Ivan (Roque) is kickin’ butt over there by the Charter School. We had some drinks and have been hanging out.
Todd Kimball gave a Janesville tour in The Green Machine for some of the artists, those of us who weren’t still working on our pieces, and who had a little time, along with local photographer, Kim Hoholek. We got to see the Monterey Rock, the Rotary Botanical Gardens, the Farmer’s Market and other well-known sites. We shared dinner and more drinks together. It’s been fun to get to know the artists more.
It’s been amazing, better than you could imagine! Everybody is so nice. Everyone is so welcoming; I feel like I’m a part of the family now. Everybody I met last year has come out this year already. It’s been awesome to see all these people and hang out.
David Mark Zimmerman on top of the Green Machine at his mural
Photo by Kim Hoholek Photography
I’ve been to drafthouse, been to The Bodacious Shops, Whiskey Ranch, went to Citrus Café the other day, and hope to visit the new Sandwich Bar to see Jeff Henriquez’s mural in there. I’m just hoping to hit all of them!
Check out Bigshot Robot at: bigshot-robot.com
Find him on Instagram @bigshotrobot
Dancing on the Stars mural is located at the Janesville Performing Arts Center at 408 S. Main Street
Ruben is a Chicago based painter who is expanding on the roots of style writing with a non-narrative approach to mural painting. His interest lies in drawing attention to underutilized infrastructure as a potential substrate. He has produced a number of murals in the Chicago area, across the U.S., and abroad. Aguirre's work is an intersection of abstract graffiti, formalism, and mural painting. With forms inspired by typography, geographical terrain, and the human body. He has exhibited at the Chicago Cultural Center, the Hyde Park Art Center, and has a forthcoming solo exhibit at The National Museum of Mexican Art.
He has worked with clients and partnerships such as Linked In, Adidas Originals, Columbia College Chicago, Red Bull, Lincoln Motor Company, Pepsi and many more.
Ruben has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Columbia College Chicago.
Early Art and Encouragement
My dad would come home from work and start drawing at the dinner table. And I would copy him. He wasn’t a professional, but was a locomotive mechanic and retired from that. My parents really didn’t think too deeply about it, but they were encouraging and allowed me to do whatever.
There is no one person I look up to in the art world, because art is really subjective. There is no one, right way to do it. I still feel very connected to the graffiti artists, but that was another world for me. Learning about those who are good at art, but can’t afford it, it makes me appreciate things.
In high school, that was the first time I learned that one could become an artist, as a profession. My art teacher was really great, took the time and taught me a lot. High school was a very formative time for me all around.
I found graffiti around that time. It was accessible to me and exciting. I didn’t know how to be an artist. But, the idea of going to college was a bit uncertain for me. But then I found out you could go to school for art, so decided to do that. Even then, I wasn’t sure what I would do with that.
Schooling focused on fundamentals and how to do things. But it didn’t focus on how to be self-employed, the business side of it.
Ruben's Mural on a parking ramp in Chicago, IL
So, I kept doing graffiti. I was working regular jobs for quite a while. I took my graffiti very seriously, then started to be more experimental, a little less graffiti and more artsy.
I did a mural that was just abstract colors, an experiment I hadn’t done before. I did it on a building on the back side of an alley, where people would hardly see it. But I was proud of it, and I took pictures of it and felt pretty good about it. I showed that. Then, I got two commissioned jobs from that abstract mural. I thought, “Wow, I never got paid anything for my art before!” So, I started to explore that style more.
Ruben’s Design at JPAC
On the left side of the mural is my interpretation of the Squiggly Tree from the City of Janesville flag. It has four stars, which are the suns on my mural, plus the river and native plant life and dancers, because it’s the Performing Arts Center. It is titled “Dancing on the Stars”.
I like bright colors. That goes back to my graffiti, choosing bright colors that will catch your eye when you go down the street.
I’ve seen some of the other murals around town and have been enjoying all the art. This spot here along the river is really sweet. And I really enjoy meeting new people in my travels.
Visit Ruben’s website at: http: theshiftchange.com
Find him on Instagram @likes_1
1st Place Winner (18 + Age Group) for her “Bees” chalk art piece on Wall Street in front of BMO Bank.
Early Art and Encouragement
I’ve been doing art my whole life, but chalk art for about three years now. When I was a child, I painted a lot of pictures of food. My mom saved a lot of them and put them in my baby book. She encouraged and supported me as an artist.
Recently, I graduated from nail (beauty) school in Madison, I’m a nail tech. For now, I’m planning to stay around Janesville and we'll see what happens.
Chalk Art Design
This year’s theme was “Life is Sweet Because…” and I kind of let my imagination take over and it immediately went to bees!
I’m using a lot of oranges and yellows. It gets under my nails, though! There have been a lot of people walking through and looking at the art.
If it rains, we usually put a tarp and bricks over it and it’ll hold up pretty well. Hairspray works well, too.
Last year, I won second place with the lady with a butterfly on her shoulder. I’m excited to see all of the chalk art and hope it fills up the whole sidewalk!