Famous pop culture moments and 80s cartoons collide in Humberto Cruz’ eclectic illustrations

Meet Bambi, Kate Moss, ET, Britney and Geri like you've never seen them before in the San Diego-based illustrator’s work.

30 July 2020

Humberto Cruz doesn’t like to plan an artwork. Whatever he thinks or feels in the moment goes into his busy illustrations. Peppered with haphazard characters and symbols, Humberto etches into white paper with smudged pencil lines, smooth felt tips or crayons to create his distinctive works. Attacking every inch of empty white space with a visual element, Humberto’s works are a treasure map of delights. He references star signs, pop culture, the fashion industry, 50s cartoon icons and countless fuzzy bear-like creations (just to name a few) in his colourful assemblages. The list could go on, but we’ll let you discover your own interpretation of Humberto’s work for yourself.

Growing up between San Diego and Tijuana, Mexico, the illustrator and graphic designer watched 80s and 90s cartoons. It’s a bubbly style that’s made its way into Humberto’s practice to date; but taken out of its cartoony backdrop and collaged against other quirky characters in a charmingly DIY style. Bambi, Kate Moss, unicorns, ET, Britney in her Hit Me Baby One More Time phase, Geri in that iconic Union Jack outfit and many other cultural icons get the Humberto Cruz treatment as they are transformed into a slightly cuter version of themselves through the illustrator’s hand. It’s an interpretation that I imagine any of his fans would love to see ourselves in.

Working across the digital as well as mixed media and acrylic paints, each composition is a reflection of Humberto’s mood at the time. “It’s a combination of everything,” he tells us of the busy canvases, “my mood, my personality, whatever I’m feeling at the moment.” As one of his recent artworks states, amidst smiling doe-eyed strawberries, cherries and love hearts: “GOOD VIBES ALWAYS”. Other works posit “You’re Doing Great” or “Isn’t it strange how we all get a little bit weird sometimes.”

We see another side to Humberto in other works however. “Dealing with anxiety” and “Je suis très fatigue” crop up elsewhere, offering a little glimpse into the illustrator’s thoughts in that moment. His instagram acts as a visual diary of sorts, a safe place to express himself and freely document his daily thoughts. By scrolling through the days we’re granted access into his headspace that day. We can see what influences or emotions occupied him at the time, not to mention which motives recur over and over again.

He tells us of a recent collage in particular, focused on Marsha P. Johnson. “She’s an inspiration for many,” says Humberto, “especially in the LGBTQIA+ community. She fought for gay rights and she’s a great example to follow.” Appropriating a photograph of the activist taken by Andy Warhol, Humberto decorates Johnson’s portrait with the slogan “Power to the People” cut out of magazine lettering. It’s one of the illustrator’s more pared-back pieces, centring Johnson at the heart of the work while adorning her hair and clothing with bright flowers. It’s a testament to the versatility of Humberto’s style and the nuanced way he can convey a host of emotions through a style that may seem “cartoony” on the surface. And with that being said, as for the future, Humberto is going to “keep drawing full time”, embark on new collaborations, and we can’t wait to see what he does next.

GalleryHumberto Cruz

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About the Author

Jyni Ong

Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor.

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