Victor Herrera hails from Los Angeles. His extended family was close, hanging out with one another on weekends and holidays. He looked up to his older cousins, in particular one cousin already well versed in the graffiti world. When Victor was 10 years old he decided that he was going to follow in this cousin’s footsteps. He started tagging and playing around with fonts. By the time he was 15 he had a definitive style and a street name. He tagged for 8 years. Luckily he was never arrested or caught by the authorities. But someone else close to him did notice – his mom; all the cans, markers and graffiti books he thought he hid in his room and the sneaking out at night didn’t get past her. Where Victor grew up -- on the tougher side of LA, Hispanic, surrounded by cousins living on the fringe of legal, you either follow them down that slippery slope or you have a mother that takes notice and catches you before you fall. When he was in middle school, she outed him to the school administration and the police. Harsh some may say. But looking at the situation through her eyes, she had to keep her family in check. Victor is the first generation in his family to be born in the US to a father who is a carpenter and a mother who is a housekeeper. As he reflects on it, he says his dad was concerned about his graffiti but his mother was really worried; she didn’t want him to go to jail like his cousins.
Victor is a big El Salvadorian dude, in his mid 20s, with broad shoulders, a purposeful walk and an intensely focused demeanor. He looks you straight in the eye when he talks to you. He knows exactly what he wants. The kind of guy you wouldn’t mess with. At the same time he is the damn sweetest man you will ever meet, with the biggest heart. When you compliment him on his work, he smiles really big and looks down at the ground in an oh shucks sort of way. He can’t believe that he is the one getting the compliment. He doesn’t realize his art is really good. He likes to paint cool trippy characters and has taught himself beautiful lettering. He doesn’t expect to make it or for it to be hanging in an upscale gallery. He just loves making his art and his merchandise.
Victor was discovered by an art collector when he was wearing one of his graphic t-shirts. As they were chatting she asked him how he got the graphics on the t-shirts; he told her that he painted the graphic and then gave it someone to upload in illustrator so that he could grab the graphic for the t-shirt. Wow, so old school she thought, especially for a guy in his 20s. She was really interested now. She asked to see his paintings. And there on his iphone he showed her. But you’re an artist; you’re fiercely talented. Why have I known you for 5 years and I never knew this about you? He shrugged his shoulders. He said that a few folks with money had seen his art, told him it was really good, bought it, hung it in their homes but he never thought much about that, he was just trying to make a living off his day gig and from selling his hats, t-shirts and hoodies. His mom and dad worked hard, so that’s what he did, that’s what he thought everyone did. People in his family did not become artists. He quickly added, almost as an apology, that he had no formal training; he had never taken an art class. I don’t know if my technique is right he said. What do you mean you don’t know if your technique is right? You’re a street artist. You’re technique is perfect, it’s exactly as it should be.
Victor paints trippy characters in acrylic on canvas and wood. Wolves with hollow eyes, rabbits that are comatose, very aware eyes running around in concentric circles, eyes just escaping from being decimated by razor blades and childlike characters with their innards coming out of them. It’s whimsical but at the same time slightly unnerving. He is adamant about being like no other. He isn’t. To this end, he makes an effort to not look at other artists’ work. He feels that their work, although it can inspire, can also inadvertently influence one’s style and one wouldn’t realize it until it’s too late. He also doesn’t want his art to be repetitive. As he puts it, to see basically the same piece done by someone over and over for him is like WTF. He feels there is a difference between having your own style and being repetitive. But mostly for Victor, he wants everyone to appreciate his art – from the little kid to the 15 year old hip teen to the 80 year old grandma. His work is much like that great vintage cartoon – children will love the cute images but the adult viewing will definitely enjoy it from an entirely different twisted and dark vantage point. He feels that’s what art should be – he makes the analogy to the Beatles -- creative work that can be appreciated across all ages. Victor really wants you to enjoy yourself when you look at his art, to walk away happy; no more no less.
He paints flat because he never could afford an easel and when he could it was too late to adapt to one. He views his art as a big piece of paper. He is influenced by music – all styles, vintage cartoon classics and 80s movies, the cheesier the better. He loves movies that are a juxtaposition of reality and fantasy such as Roger Rabbit. And a curious fact about Victor as an artist is that he suffers from a type of color blindness where he can’t distinguish as detailed on the spectrum greens and browns. He found this out when he was at tech trade school and failed some color blind test they had him take for electronics. But somehow this doesn’t affect his art at all as his color mixing and matching is beautifully executed. He is inspired by Disney and has bought an annual pass to Disneyland for years so he can go and just hang out -- a curious juxtaposition for a kid that grew up on the streets; very much like the art Victor makes which juxtaposes the playful and whimsy with the dark and twisted. Come down his rabbit hole and take a look.