I know that it has been a bit of time since we had our last artist interview, but we are back and (somewhat) better than ever. For the month of August, I interviewed artist and good friend, Oscar Joyo.
Oscar is a phenomenal artist with a unique style that draws heavily from art forms such as anime, cartoons, and various musical artists. Within the past few years, his work had been featured in numerous shows around Chicago including well-known venues such as Vault Gallerie and Line Dot Editions. Despite his quickly growing profile, Oscar’s humility, kindness and genuine nature is always present. I am so thankful that he was able to clear some time to speak with me.
So Oscar, what is your origin story as an artist? How did you get your start?
As a kid, my mom and auntie used to draw these teddy bears that were made out of 6s and 9s so I started copying them. But then I drew stuff from TV and then it only got more sophisticated when I came to the US and discovered anime. However, high school is where I really started taking art seriously and then I wanted to move Chicago after high school to expand on what I should do artisically. Through American Academy of Art and being a part of the Chicago art scene, I've been able to get my grip on things.
What other artists or mediums inspire and influence your work?
Akira Toriyama, Keith Haring, James Gene, Vincent Van Gogh, Gustav Klimp; Disney movies like Tarzan and Treasure Planet; anime like Dragon Ball Z, Evangelion and Samurai Champloo. I especially like Samurai Champloo because I really like shows or any art form that involves mixing things that don’t belong (hip hop and samurai). I love Genndy Tartakovsky (creator of Dextor’s Lab). Directors like Ava DuVerney, Stanley Kubrick and Edgar Wright are also pretty influential to my art.
Who is an artist that you would like to collaborate with in the future?
James Jean because his art blends East Asian and African cultures very well. I would like to collaborate with any black Chicago artists because we all have our different artistic styles and experiences and I’d like to see what would happen if some of those came together. I would really want to collaborate with Kanye West because I really enjoy how he incorporates visuals with his music and we are both stern with our art. I’d like to see how his music would blend with my visuals. I would want to collaborate with Childish Gambino because he’s open with his heritage and I also feel like my art would blend with his music. Flying Lotus, Bjork, and Keith Haring are the three artist I want to work with the most.
Are there any brands of products that you prefer to use within your art?
I’d say I prefer using Golden and Liquitex; I don’t really care as long as I can find a way to use it.
What are some of your hobbies outside of creating art and sleep deprivation? What are your favorite things to do in Chicago?
I love listening to music, working out to shape my body physically, I love walking and exploring new things.
Being a fellow music fan, what type of music/ artists do you typically listen to as you work on your pieces? Also, do you have a favorite concert that you’ve been to?
I usually listen to Extremely experimental and minimalistic music but I really enjoy artists like JPEGMAFIA, Childish Gambino, Nujabees, J Dilla, Sophie, Vince Staples, Mick Jenkins, Noname, Saba, Tierra Whack, Vic Mensa, Rico Nasty and Freddie Gibbs. I also enjoy lesser known artists like Angry Black Men. So, I listen to a wide range of music.
Two: JPEG Mafia’s show at Beat Kitchen in April 2018; it was a really aggressive show, but the atmosphere and the community of everyone at the show kind of felt like a Baptist church. I also really enjoyed the Flying Lotus 3D show at the Riviera in November 2017.
As also a fellow comic nerd, are there any characters from comics, manga or fiction that you personally identify with and why?
Good question, I suppose Goku (from Dragon Ball Z) because he’s always trying to be better than he was the day before. I try to live my life the same way by giving my all and seeking out opportunities to constantly get better. I also identify with Naruto (from Naruto) because he wants to be a better person to help other people. As an artist I’d want to continue to grow and improve so that my art can impact a wider range of people.
What is your most memorable story as an artist?
I have many, like the first COMPLEX (not the magazine) show, winning a scholarship with my homeboy Kevin Fagaragan, but I think my best moments is when I'm creating with friends. One moment that will never forget was when Fanni (JustFanni) and I worked on a mural for Audiotree. It was such a fun and enjoyable experience to work with someone that I can identify with. She helped me come out of my shell a bit and that moment made me connect with others around me. Since we were doing it in my backyard, my neighbors started to watch us paint which helped me get to know them and be more comfortable with them. It made my house a lot more of a home after that.
What are you most proud of accomplishing so far in your art career?
Staying with it to be honest. I can be proud of the work I’ve sold and painted so far but the most important thing to me is that I stuck with it. I’m used to having real bad luck and things going off the rails and failing, but I decided to keep going with art. I seriously don’t know how I keep going, but it has been worth it.
Is there a particular piece that you’ve done or have in the works that is your favorite and why?
I think so far I wouldn’t particularly know' if I had to choose I’m really proud of the Vince Staples one from a few years ago. He had announced the release of The Big Fish Theory and had not created a cover yet. I decided to take a chance and create one and I sent to him. I tried to visualize how I thought the album would be based off his previous songs and the track listing. I wanted the piece to show the idea of underwater being endless while also highlighting the Afrofuturism elements in his music. This piece was particularly important because it really shifted my artistic identity and skill. The painting I do now is heavily influenced by and almost like an offshoot of that piece.
There was also a piece I did for the ‘Complex’ show in Cece’s Art Garage in Pilsen. I think that took me three four weeks which was the longest it’s ever taken me to do a project. I wanted to show my core artistic interest of rap and art, exhibit African patterns and make a high art/ hip hop piece that merged art and music.
What is something non-art related that you wish more people knew about you?
I really love cooking and think its incredible! I watch a lot of cooking channels for inspiration. Cooking is really an underrated art form and is easy to do yet difficult to master. I want to be a good cook to know I can get there eventually. My mom and auntie did a lot of cooking when I was growing and it inspired me to want to do it.
They’d cook lots of African dishes like mandashi, samusas, lots of foods you need your fingers to eat. I want to keep that part of myself alive and continue to cook and eat those foods.
What big projects, shows and partnerships do you have on the horizon that you can talk about right now?
I can’t disclose most of them at the moment, but I do have a few upcoming shows, I’m especially excited about one in November that I’m curating that will be fun for everyone involved. There is one in January I’m really excited about but I can’t share any more details about it just yet.
Oscar is also curating an upcoming show with a good friend.
Check out more of Oscar’s work on his Instagram page, @oscar_joyo!