Cycle 1

Expressions of Culture in Art

Arthub, a prolific art studio in Saratoga, is unique in its own way: its owner, José Andrade, is one of the only Latin American studio owners in the Bay Area. Working alongside teachers who are also people of color, he has succeeded in spreading his creativity and passion for art. 

Andrade began drawing as a young child, enrolling into classic arts and eventually discovering his love for painting while transitioning from Mexico to Southern California as a first-generation immigrant. Starting in the gallery world, he eventually felt confined by its limits and expanded his teaching business instead. His philosophies about art are that it is a representation of who you become, whether that is cultural background or experience. José Andrade is confident, understands where he comes from, and knows what he wants to get out of art. As a result, his pieces are a mixture of social commentary and stylistic nuances that when combined, express stunning originality. 

“The Pastime” by José Andrade. Photo by José Andrade; Photo Courtesy of José Andrade.

Many of his pieces showcase poverty and its implications, centered around Mexico.

Andrade was born in Southern California, but his dad’s job had him stationed in Mexico City, where he was immersed in displays of art and culture around every corner.

Andrade’s primary influence in the art world was his mother, recollecting, “my mom’s an artist…she likes to do art, and she kind of does it recreationally, and out of my four siblings, three had nothing to do with the arts…but from childhood I had a lot of art inclination.” Andrade’s art career began the way many young people do, drawing characters from cartoons. “My inspiration, to be honest, was anime…it had a history so I started doing Sailor Moon and Goku drawings, and I would draw them outside of art school.” Andrade’s local theatre held a drawing competition, where they would showcase the best drawings pertaining to the movie being played. “I drew Godzilla, and I lost”, he said. Soon after, he started putting more effort into art.

After getting his start at such a young age, he started going to selective art classes, which helped develop his technique. “At the age of seven, seven and a half, I started going to classical art school, and it was by placement, so you either have talent and thrive or they won’t take you.” “Some kids like it and they just need guidance, but over [in Mexico] you either had it or just played soccer.” However, unlike the schools he went to growing up, Arthub has become a diverse studio, not restricting by age, ability or medium. “We were in Mexico city for four years, and I did classical school there, then we moved to another city…where I did strictly watercolor, which was super eye-opening for me. When I was eleven, we move backed to Northern Mexico…where I went to another classical school in Mexicali”. “I would go four days a week…and I got my start in oil painting”, which is Andrade’s main medium currently. Because he mastered so many different methods, it was easier when he was an adult to watch his art grow creatively. 

When Andrade was getting started, his art dealt with politics, poverty, and social issues, because it was ingrained into the environment he grew up in. “There was a lot of poverty. Even though I wasn’t living in it, I would see it around.” When he saw concept art, it would lead him to believe “art of things out of this world is [created] because people don’t have problems of this world. They’re free to let their mind go, and do art that is free of this world. I’ve alway felt that in my art, no matter how free I try to be, I see too many problems in this world that will always reflect in my artwork.”

“The Intellectual” by José Andrade. Photo by José Andrade; Photo Courtesy of José Andrade.

For about seven years, Andrade worked as a full time artist. “I wasn’t earning a lot of money, living an artistic, bohemic life…I was living in Oakland at the time, but was producing full time except for when I had little odd jobs. I would work in galleries, changing paintings for exhibition. Other than that, I would paint for hours and hours, six days of the week, until I started getting into gallery work.”

While Andrade explored the gallery world, he realized it restricted his creativity, forcing him and his artwork to stay static while he was growing as a person. “Even though I didn’t have to do a lot of work…the gallery did that for me, it was a very tough world. To them it was a business, which forces you to think of your work as a business too, when what you’re producing is more than that.” Four years into working in galleries, he started disliking it because he couldn’t change, encouraging him to teach people in Oakland and Cupertino on the side. 

“Once I opened the studio, highschool kids started to come and went to good colleges…they were getting high scores in art APs, so little by little those things built a reputation for the studio, and it took off.” 

Arthub is open to anyone, and he still employs different teaching methods depending on age and skill level so that everyone is able to learn. “I really want to get the students just encouraged, just encouraged to get into art.”

“I see many kids get discouraged at that age, because when I was that age we were doing still-lifes over and over again. That’s what I was doing, but on the side I was drawing…stuff that I liked to do at home. Art should always be fun for young kids, but there needs to be a foundation.” Whether students were more technical or creative, Andrade nurtured their talents so that they could excel. 

“The Bay Area, luckily, has a lot of variation in culture, even though a big chunk are non-POC in San Francisco, there’s still minorities in the LGBTQ community.” Like Mexico City, San Francisco is engulfed with murals, statues, and music. However, “people that are artists from there have parents that live there…so they’re kind of established.” Many artists in Cupertino are from Oakland, just like Andrade, and are Latino or Black so they lack initial foundation. 

“All the pieces I’ve made were important at the time that I made them, so even though sometimes I look back and go like ‘woah, I was too young’, because my head was super social…and the ideas were so far out, but at the time they were my ideas.”

Andrade’s cultural heritage could always be found in his art no matter his subject. “I think [my background] reflects who I am itself. Its very important…I think what you do with your art has to reflect your culture”. Andrade’s friend had told him once to “never hide what you do best, and never hide who you are”, because you’ll never be good at what you’re not. “A Mexican living in Mexico trying to do French art will never be as good as the French, because that’s their culture…and that’s what they do.”

When asked what he would say to the next generation of artists, his advice was to “pursue what you want to do, because it’s so much easier than doing something else.” Andrade learned architecture for a short amount of time before dropping it after realizing he didn’t want to do it, where his dad encouraged him to go after his dreams. “The worst thing that can happen in life is regret. And that’s what will happen when we soon become old”. 

 “The artists that are always the most successful…do their art for themselves. It’s a personal work, about where they’re from, where they were raised, or what they did as a kid. That’s what art is. An expression of an individual.” 

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