Gemeniano Cruz

Gemeniano Cruz
Sagres Surf Culture: Field Notes III — In our last dispatch from Sagres Surf Culture festival, artist Gemeniano Cruz shares his ocean inspired illustrations.

For as long as he can remember, Gemeniano Cruz has lived among the sea and the arts. Born in Sesimbra, on Portugal’s south-western coast, the 31 year-old artist immersed himself in surfing culture form a young age and began designing posters for local stores and the surfing club in his village.

After a period of working in a dark, twisted and realistic style to convey powerful messages, the illustrator and street artist has now embraced a new phase of ‘sketching from his inner ego’, drawing on influences of the sea and surfing culture. He has dropped the digital graphics tablet and returned to his roots to produce artworks on wooden boards with pencils and spray cans.

At Sagres Surf Culture, Gemeniano told Huck about his stippled creations and his evolution as a freelance independent artist living at the edge of Europe.

What have you brought to Sagres Surf Culture?
I’ve brought some wooden illustrations as I’m experimenting with a new style. I’m using another form of expression through dash-dot shades and all of the work revolves around the sea.

How would you describe your work?
I’m an illustrator, but I pretty much do a bit of everything. I work a lot in design, illustration, paintings, mural painting, street art, a bit of everything.

How and when did you start?
I started around 1998. At that time I practiced competitive skimming and I began making posters for the stores and surfing club in my home town. I’ve always had the arts and surfing culture in my life since I was a child. Afterwards I began doing art on skimming and surfboards and later I was invited to be an illustrator for Zap Skimboards.

What motivated you?
This isn’t about motivation, it’s a gift. It’s something to do in life that you are born with. I can do anything, but maybe not with the same joy. I’ve always been summoned by the arts and teachers always encouraged me to follow that path. It took me some time to make my parents understand that I wanted to be an illustrator. They just didn’t accept it, but now they support me and hope I don’t give up.

What impact do you look for with your works?
In the beginning I wanted to shock people. I used to do pretty aggressive stuff, like dissected animals and things related to death and blood. It was more of a realistic style. Now I’m following a figurative path, more illustrated, more cartoon-ish. Now I just illustrate for the sheer pleasure of it, to relax. I’m older now and I’m not making any plans, I’m not looking to impress. I just transmit what I feel within a moment.

How do you define your style?
It’s figurative, but leaning on to realism. I walked away from digital drawing and came back to handmade sketching. I’m now using thin tipped pens, like the ones architects use, with a different thickness for the shades and dots.

What are your influences?
My homeland, the sea, my friends, conversations, nature. I enjoy sketching in coffee shops a lot, I always have a sketchbook with me and I just do it anywhere. Anything can influence me. I dig a lot of neo-traditional art and tattoo arts. I also like vintage stuff and to blend in bits of everything, even stuff I watch on television. Everything influences me.

When and how did you start surfing?
I started bodyboarding when I was really young because all my friends did it, so I wanted to follow them. Then I crossed to skimming and I’ve reached a point were I thought that I was in between stand up and laid down surfing, so I went for surfing when I was nineteen-years-old. I’ve always been connected to the sea because my father was a fisherman.

How does surfing come through in your work?
It’s pretty visible in my work that I love the sea. I sketch animals and sea algaes. I can’t live without the sea. I once visited London and I just thought I couldn’t live there. I’m always connected to the ocean and I’m currently studying to get a fisherman’s license so I can work at sea.

What has been your experience of working as a freelance illustrator in Portugal?
It’s not about talent, it’s about getting on people’s good sides. If you know the right people, then you’ll get regular work. Otherwise you just won’t find anything, regardless of how much talent you have. What makes me sad about Portugal is that no one respects what it means to be an artist. People come to you and request artwork but they don’t want to pay for it because they just see you as someone with a gift for sketching. People come and see us drawing and for them it’s an easy thing to do. People don’t usually understand that artists walked a path, studied and learned their craft.

What other projects are you involved in?
I and a friend have this Cool Kids Live Forever project where we do street art and live painting. We also have a fanzine called “Fanzine”, which we issue now and then. It’s all handmade and released in fifteen or twenty copies. Sometimes I still illustrate for Zap Skimboards. Then I just have other random projects with people that are motivated to do stuff. Just sort of personal, homie projects.

What does the future hold for you?
I have no idea to be honest. I’ve just started working on a construction site to provide for me and my girlfriend, but I hope to get some requests for artwork. Otherwise, I’ll just keep on sketching for myself. I’m actually very protective of my pieces, I do them in order to keep them.

Find out more about Gemeniano Cruz.

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