Recently I had the opportunity to meet with someone special, he is a Chicago native, cartoon, comic fanatic, Mix Media artist and Online Professor for Full Sail University, who I've nicknamed the Dick Tracy in Orlando's Urban Art scene, why the nickname? Interesting question and rightfully curious to know, see his real name is Chris Tobar Rodriguez, Tobar is what many of his friends call him, but the Dick Tracy name generated from a brief statement he made about how he conducts some of his work, see he's a bit of what we now call a "detective or stalker", I guess it depends on which side of the fence you're on, but metaphorically speaking he investigates other artists and is inspired by them, so when looking for inspiration and collaborating with other local artists, he'll also attend local art shows and search the web for leads to new ideas.
Tobar believes that working together and understanding the diversity in art and the uniqueness in techniques that it truly helps the art community relate and unite to create amazing events and shows together.
AL: What artists inspire you?
CT: Many artists give me inspiration, but I guess I would have to say my biggest influences are Shepard Fairy and Bansky because of their work ethics and their ability to transform their style into those ethics. Next would be Decoy and B-Side artist because each artist individually brings a unique approach to their craft in the way they design and think, and lastly Roy Lichtenstein.
AL: When did you become an artist?
CT: Painting at 11yr, art classes then after completing Full Sail University at 22yr, I decided to become a professional artist.
AL: What inspires or motivates you?
“People taking a liking to my work and being inspired with it!"
CT: Seeing people enjoy my work gives that push to continue creating. Do not settle, keep evolving, and creating series types or limited additions. The story about the man in the mask is my biggest challenge as well as my greatest achievement, since the meaning of it is still a mystery to some. Many people are still confused as to what the mask represents, that there is motivation, to generate the story for the people to relate to and have a clear understanding. I never want someone to be unclear about what I’m saying and what I mean.
AL: What advice can you give to beginning artists?
CT: Be passionate with your work, don't copy a gimmick or something you see on TV, be original, and share your inspiration. Copy what you truly enjoy and love, experiment with your tools and craft, have an open mind to other opportunities that your work could be a part of.
AL: Did your upbringing influence your work?
CT: My work is similar to all the stages in my life. What's going to happen, what's already happened, and what's happening.
AL: What has been your biggest project or most passionate?
CT: My biggest project would have to be with Crummy Gummy, we took about 15 local artist to other cities to showcase their work in bigger events for greater exposure than just the local community here in Orlando. Sharing their work with other people was the concept, which actually helped to inspire another project of mine which is MorethanSunshine.com, which is a showcase of street art and low brow genre that is exploding in Florida currently. Everything from stickers, paintings and murals that take place in the Sunshine State are featured here. We are still in the beginning stages of this project and so far it has really taken off to a great start in the art world We still have a lot to show and explore with the ideas and a lot of plans are in the works. We can't wait to share them with everybody.
In 2011 & 2012, MorethanSunshine.com collaborated with Art Whineo, to paint the open wall spaces around the Art Basel in Miami Beach. The event is known as the premier international art show, this event provides platforms for artists and gallerists from around the world.
AL: What do you love about life, and what do you hate?
CT: What I love is the fact that I can inspire people, I take a large amount of pride doing it too. Love the fact I can paint and express myself. I'm happy enough in my life that I'm okay with where my work has gone and is going. I know there is more to come but at the moment, I'm happy.
What I hate about life, well.. There really isn't much I can hate about it. I mean if you're hating on life you're probably not doing too well with it. At the moment, I'm making myself happy so that's all I'm really worried about.
AL: What are you working on now, and what are your plans for the future, let’s say for the next 5 years?
CT: Currently, I've been working on a Scavenger hunt of my art work throughout the Orlando area, which all the details are found on my website. Giving me the chance to meet and interact with new fans of my work around Orlando and in the social world. This project should last about a month, and then I have planned on opening up a secret pop-up shop somewhere in Orlando.
Another idea I am working on is creating a 50 gas mask series. Each mask resembling a character or subject that has inspired me. Like I said its still in the works nothing is set in stone.
My goals for the future are to take over the world again, haha, no, just kidding. I'd have to say travel the world with my art. I'd really like to have my work exhibited in Chicago on a permanent level, like possibly a mural in one of my neighborhoods from when I was growing up.
AL: When did you make your first masterpiece of art?
CT: My first masterpiece would probably be one that I won’t sell and it was done by hand. It's of a man who is in a city job sitting in front of thousands of filing cabinets and a computer, because he always has to organize and fix things, make sure everything matches and be the controller of everything, even though there are teams and hubs, everything always falls back on him. Then the imagine slowly transcends into nature from city, creating the illusion of the world being so consumed with technology that we still need to take the time to do things for ourselves.
AL: What mediums do you work in and why?
CT: Mix media is what I usually use, I take all my own photos and sometimes I have models who pose for design ideas, but besides that I also use spray paint/aerosol, wall paste glue, and markers.
AL: Are there other members of your family who are artists?
CT: As for professionally, no, but my little sister can write a killer story for her age, I think she will go far with her writing and my little cousin is pretty artistic, kinda like myself, shes only 8yr but I can't wait to see how her abilities evolve as she grows.
AL: What obstacles do you face in making and exhibiting your work?
CT: People not understanding the gas mask and the message behind it. I mean some people understand it, like my friends, and people who understand art but it is those people who live outside of the art world who do not understand the message or meaning. People love art, they really do, I mean they go to Ikea to purchase art, it’s just the fact that some people don't care about the meaning in a painting but more what it looks like and if it will match the decor of their home. I think sometimes, people are just afraid to ask, Why?
AL: What is your average day like?
CT: I wish someone who would go on my day, haha, maybe do a day-in-the life of Chris Tobar; I would probably shock people with how much I do in a day's time. A lot of my day consists of going to work, waking up, and getting coffee, then getting distracted with Client work. Then get to my full time job as a professor at Full Sail University and engage with co-workers. Most of the time, I dash to my local print shop to get large format prints because I had that one great idea I would like to experiment with that day. After working, I like to write notes about ideas for future projects. When I have that moment where I need to browse for an idea, I sometimes just jump to the web or to my collection of art books. That usually keeps me up all night till I pass out and do it all over again.
AL: What do you like doing when you are not painting?
CT: Thinking. I like to meditate and do yoga, I'll sit outside and look for things to inspire me. Even if I go out to a BBQ with friends, I'll search for ideas and inspiration. I'm always trying to think of new ideas that would be really cool.
AL: What other forms of creativity do you like, other than Mix Media or painting?
CT: I love graphic design, Plano type, doing page layout, playing with colors. I like coming up with concepts. I'll read art books, magazines, watch documentaries or read up on some art blogs, but I'm not much of a long story book type of person, just yet.
AL: How did you learn to paint?
CT: I took a few classes at an Art Institute as a kid and then went to Full Sail to learn graphic design. From there I had the opportunity to meet Shepard Fairy and a few others, to learn their techniques.
AL: Why do you implement the Gas Mask and Cross bones in most of your work?
CT: Because it's my logo/brand. I originally started off with the city of Chicago, two spray cans upside down with a mask and paint dripping, but the concept didn't work as well as I was expecting. Then the idea, actually it was more of an inside joke between friends that when cross bones are added to something, its a bit funny how people automatically associate crossbones as being cool. So I decided to add the cross bones to the gas mask and the response from my fans has been successful.
AL: What would be the ideal art studio?
CT: My ideal studio would be a workspace but also my business, part of it would be like a design agency that's creative with lots of typography on the walls and inspiration throughout the halls. Then my workspace would have Dry erase or clear glass to write to my ideas on, with large worktables, cans in stock ready to paint with, large format printers stocked and loaded ready for prints, screen-printed press, dye cutting tools, and a 3D printer to print my newest designs. The space would be an open space but on a second level with lots of windows, I don't want people to watch, I want the space to be more of an area where we are inspired to create and have no pressure from the outside. The idea of having people watch through the windows kinda makes me feel like we are an animal show.
AL: What is your favorite experience as an artist?
CT: Probably getting to interview and meet new people, I've also interviewed for Orlando Weekly (Chris Tobar: Unmasked), different magazines, blogs, and a few other things here and there. I think, what I enjoy the most about the interviews is the fact that I get to talk about my inspirations behind the art and the behind the scenes creative process.
AL: What other types of jobs have you had?
CT: I've worked at a grocery store, sign shop, movie theater, I bought turn-tables, I feel each of these experiences has inspired me to go to Full Sail University and pursue this reality.
AL: What style of art would you classify your work?
CT: Urban Fine Art
AL: How did your work become popular?
CT: By putting in a lot of footwork, getting myself out there and exposing my art to the community and me just being me.
AL: Could you tell us some interesting facts about your life?
CT: My mom and my sister have been my biggest fans from the beginning. I met Ron English once in Miami for Art Basel while passing out small zines for Inprogress magazine, a small emag (digital) I co-founded a few years ago. I love both animation and visually stimulating movies, I also have an addiction to going to Targets in every city I travel to, and I love the smell from a freshly printed book.
You can find some of Tobar's work at www.Christobarart.com, On Instagram and all major social networking sites. Artwork for sale on both his website and society6.com.
Stay connected for Orlando's next Urban Art scene artist, until then share your thoughts and enjoy your local art community. Get out and get creative. Be inspired.