Mister Cartoon, tattoo artist to the stars, and Estevan Oriol, CEO of Joker Brand Clothing and renowned photographer, gave a lecture to students on Tuesday in the Oviatt Library.
The duo talked about growing up poor in Los Angeles and the struggles that came along with living in rough neighborhoods. Their lecture focused on encouraging students to maintain their dreams and visualize a positive future, whether it be in art or something else. They used their own stories to set an example of how persistence and hard work eventually do pay off.
“People always wish their life will get better, but they don’t show up,” said Mister Cartoon. “We’re here today to build on what others are working on, towards a common goal to improve our communities and our families.”
Far from his humble beginnings in the harbor area of Los Angeles, Mister Cartoon has distinguished himself by tattooing celebrities from Justin Timberlake and Eminem to Christina Aguilera. His client list spawns all musical genres and all countries from here to Japan. He is also a muralist whose work has been featured in lowrider cars all over the world. Mister Cartoon’s credits don’t end there, he has designed shoes for Nike and worked on various magazines just to name a few.
“I was infatuated with art from the time I was six years old,” said Mister Cartoon, explaining how the encouragement of his father contributed a great deal to his artistic development.
“He always told me I was good and as a result of me believing I was great I would do it all the time,” he said.
Mister Cartoon’s life took a turn when in his teens he joined a street gang.
“I was jumped into a neighborhood, another fine mess I got myself into,” he said.
After seeing his friends commit crimes, going to jail, and worse, dying, Mister Cartoon said he came to a realization.
“I was in this thing, but I had the soul of an artist, and I was involved in something sicker and violent,” he said.
All he wanted was respect, the ability to express art through graffiti, and to use his talent to get the girls to notice him.
With this he decided that through his art work he would keep himself “conveniently too busy” and away from the gang.
“When I met Estevan I met someone who had actually done something, not like my homeboys,” he said.
Estevan Oriol, was also raised in a poor area of West Los Angeles. Living in a single family home with a disabled parent he started to work at the age of 12.
“I didn’t want to live how we lived, it pushed me to always want to work the extra mile,” Oriol said.
It was this work ethic that has helped Oriol distinguish himself in the entertainment industry at first, being the tour manager for Cypress Hill in the early 90s, and becoming a renowned photographer and artist.
Oriol started taking pictures of the tours he went on with his artists. When he got back to L.A. he took pictures of the lowrider culture that was prominent in his life.
On one occasion, while developing the photos at a photo lab he was approached about doing an art show, he agreed and they ended up selling the most pictures they had ever sold.
“That kicked off my career,” Oriol said.
During the question and answer portion of the lecture some audience members addressed the concern of “selling out the culture.”
“Those are the people that aren’t living their dreams, we’re going to take this as far as we can,” Mister Cartoon said.
“(They have) passion for the culture and the people of Los Angeles,” said Dr. Denise Sandoval, professor at CSUN of Chicano/a studies. “It translates into their art not only containing traditions in Chicano/a culture but they can inspire (students) who are also artists.”
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