The field of digital artist is at an all time high with everyone starting brands, and their talents are vital for their success. The artist that will always stick out the most spend countless hours making sure every little detail is perfect on every piece. Meet CRIMEWAVE, the California creative whose art creates controversy but more importantly, a conversation.
So in your own words who exactly is CRIMEWAVE?
Crimewave is just a regular kid. Im just like most others. Social media really alters perspectives on individuals because of their follower count and we live in an age where numbers are so important for validity. When people start getting attention they forget who they were at the start. I don’t consider myself any better or worse than who I was before because I make designs and have followers that enjoy seeing what I do. The whole hype behind social media and follower counts is so stupid to me. I make designs because I enjoy it. I’m not mysterious. I’m not a dark person.
Sure, I have dark ideas and like to showcase that through my work, shedding light on political and societal issues in a way that’s original. I don’t want people to ever mistake me for someone I’m not. The reason people are afraid to chase their creative endeavors is because they think that they’re regular people and don’t believe that they can create something great. They are stuck in a world where they are the consumer and can’t see themselves as one of the creators; once you stop idolizing people that are famous and start idolizing yourself is when your perspective will change and walls will break down.
I remember looking up to all these tattoo artists and I just started emulating their work; why can they do it and I can’t? Mixed with hard work, anyone can go far. I just wanted to clear this up. I’m just like everyone else. I’m just a kid that worked hard to make a name for himself. Shit, I don’t even like calling myself an artist. It’s so pretentious. I just make things that people like to look at. Simple as that.
When did you start creating digital art?
It’s kinda crazy but I’ve been making “digital art” for only about a year now. Before that, everything that I did was hand drawn on a piece of paper. The reason I had to switch was because I needed to make it easier for my clients to be able to put my designs on their clothing and this means switching to digital.
Rather than having to scan a piece of paper I can give them a complete, ready-to-print file. It’s a lot more convenient and it’s an industry standard so everything I make has to be vectorized on Illustrator. Looking back on it it’s kinda crazy that I was sending people scans of a drawing, haha. In a sense my work is still hand drawn because I’m drawing it line for line on a tablet in my own style, as opposed to grabbing images and mashing them together.
How would you describe your style of art?
When you’re working toward creating something that is unique to you as a person, it’s hard to describe it in a specific way. I’ve grabbed a few different styles as I’ve progressed. At first I was drawing a lot of old 1500-1600’s etching style graphics, which shifted to a style that involves a lot of black silhouettes and minimal detail. Making designs is all about finding the right style to showcase your concepts in the right way. For me, I feel like I’m finally dialing down that style that I was shooting for.
I can’t really explain it but it has a lot more to do with the concepts rather than the execution. I just want to be able to give a message that is hard to understand for some people but easy for others. I want you to think about it and have a conversation with someone else. I could draw a rose over and over again in different styles but it won’t make you think. At most, you’ll just appreciate the work that went into the rose but at the end of the day, it’s just a rose. What’s the point? Sure, it’s beautiful, but does it make something go off in your brain? I want you to think. That’s all I could ever ask for.
Who would you say are some influencers to the way you create your art?
It’s very important, before anything else, to have a style that you like and are good at. For me, the first few years of my career involved a lot of failures. Trying different things and borrowing styles from different people in order to finally get something that I thought would work for me. Originally my influence came from those old etchings that I spoke about earlier, some Russian tattoo artists, and then from there a tattoo artist named Johnny Gloom’s style really intrigued me so she paved the way for me to start those black and white silhouettes.
The most important thing when being influenced by others is to make sure that your concepts don’t start shifting to what the other person is doing. Keep your core beliefs and what you expect from your concepts, because that’s all you have. The execution is not something you should be worried about, because as long as you’re providing original concepts you will always come out on top. People get too caught up in who is copying who and I got a lot of hate for taking other people’s styles but when you stick through the rough patches and keep working on creating something unique, it’s bound to happen. You should want to progress every single day.
Do you plan on releasing new merch? If so would you consider releasing a full blown clothing brand?
Yes, I’m starting to release clothing. I don’t really want it to be considered merch, I want it to be it’s own entity and yes, the plan is a full blown clothing brand! I have made an account separate from my page with my designs that will be centered around the clothing that I will be making. The Instagram page is @crimewavedesign.
Out of all the pieces you’ve created which has been the most meaningful to you?
For me, the pieces that cause the most controversy are the ones that are most meaningful to me. Jesus Accepts Paypal, I Survived A School Shooting, Dummies Book, False Flag, Jenga. These are all my favorites because they spark conversation and I love when people engage with what I’ve created. Going back to what I said earlier, it’s great to create simple graphics like a flower, but those doesn’t really make me feel anything.
Are there any artist out there that you wish to collaborate with, or do you plan on creating strictly for you and your audience?
Even though people consider me as someone that is a “professional” or that I’ve “made it” in this industry, I still feel like I have a lot to learn and work on before I can consider working with others. It has to feel right. I’ve done a few collaborations but they’re really few and far between. Working on a collaboration with my brother Castillo was a great experience because I got to see the progress of creating a piece of clothing unfold before my eyes, something I’ve never really been exposed to. I’ve seen people wearing clothing with my name on it, not just my art. It’s a special feeling, which is mainly the reason why I want to start making clothing. I can’t stress it enough that it truly needs to feel right though, I still have so much to learn.
How do you feel about the current state of digital artist? Seems like a lot of upcoming artist are biting the style of others just to get a little name.
I have a lot to say about this, actually. I apologize in advance for the honesty, I know some people don’t want to read this but I think it’s important and I’ve always made it a point to be honest about things like this. There is a lack of self-awareness in every industry, which is a direct effect of social media, followers, and likes. People see what I’m doing and think, “okay, I’m a graphic designer, I can sell my work the same way Crimewave does!” but people don’t see the ten thousand hours of work behind what I’m doing. If you aren’t self-aware that your work isn’t professional grade yet and deserving of a price tag, not only are you going to fail, but the brand that you’re selling that design to will also fail. This is because neither of you are self-aware. I tell people to copy my work to start understanding why I did something a certain way. I want people to succeed. If I can inspire you to kickstart your career in a creative endeavor it means a lot more to me than cashing a check.
The issue is that I can’t teach people to be self-aware. If you don’t understand why your work isn’t good enough, you’ll never have the hunger to want to be the best at what you do. I didn’t really have any support making this a career. I actually got more hate than love; including my own family and friends. The truth is that I’m a problem. I’ll always be honest. Others want to stifle people’s creativity so there is less competition. They tell someone that their work is great when it’s actually garbage. I’ll tell you your work is garbage and you need to work on it before trying to sell it. Being honest with yourself and others is so important. Nothing pisses me off more than seeing kids acting like they’re gods at creating when it’s so painfully obvious that they’re delusional and their friends hype them up because their friends don’t actually give a shit. Opinions from friends are the worst, because it’s hard for them to be honest with you. They’ll be the first to tell you they’ll buy your shirt and when you release them they’re nowhere to be found. I’ve experienced that, but back then I also deserved to experience that. Making mistakes is a beautiful thing, it’s up to you to be ignorant to the mistakes or learn from them and grow.
Has anyone ever gotten some some of your work tattooed on them?
Yes! Someone actually also has the same CRIMEWAVE tattoo as me. It’s a crazy feeling. I never really expected any of this so it’s amazing to see people resonating with my work and wanting to get my pieces tattooed on them.
What’s the next big thing for CRIMEWAVE?
Nothing, just consistency. The next big thing will come naturally by being consistent.