From Graphic Design to Fashion to Paintings, Rodriguez is a True Artist
Written By: Carli Critchfield
Photographed By: Bianca Simonian Artist Max Rodriguez
Expert: Max Rodriguez
Credentials: Owner and Founder of Max Rodriguez Art
Double Take: Max has a twin brother, Felipe, who is also an artist.
Immigrating from Havana, Cuba at just seven years old, Max Rodriguez and his family not only faced a foreign place to live but also faced a major language barrier. These challenges did not stop Max from driving down his road to success, though. From Cuba to New Orleans to California and from fashion designer to artist, Max is an inspiration and proof that the only real obstacle that can stand in the way of your prosperity is yourself.
Q: Your bio on your website emphasizes a lot on your memories of your childhood in Cuba and how they have been a great influence for your artwork. What about Cuba or Havana specifically gives you the most inspiration for your artwork?
Max Rodriguez: Cuba has been an influence of a colorful culture, Spanish late 19th and early 20th century architectures, Afro-Cuban religion and folklore, midcentury post-modern style and design. And, to add to all that color, a complex historical palette of struggle, endurance and survival that allows me to draw my stories and those of my family into my art. It has inspired all my artwork. My first full series was abstract focusing on land and sea and about my immigration. I don’t want all my work to be obviously related to my background in Cuba, but each piece is a part of my story. Whether I’m painting figurative or abstract, my experiences are deep, and sometimes veiled into the storytelling of my heritage.
Q: You talk about you first finding your talent as an artist when you were five years old when your mother took you to an art class. Did you know then that this is what you wanted to do when you got older?
MR: As young as I can remember, my parents would buy us all kinds of drawing materials that my brother and I would make paper cutouts of villages for our toys, as well as drawing family characters and with coloring paper to make clothes to dress them. I didn’t realize that I would make that a career choice, but we were always painting or drawing on anything we could put our hands on. My brother is my twin brother and he is an artist as well and my first figurative show was actually a dual show with him in Los Angeles.
Q: When you were in school at San Francisco Academy of Art University studying graphic design, did you still pursue your artistic talents with a canvas and paint brush? And why SF?
MR: While studying in San Francisco, my focus was graphic design, which later evolved into fashion design. I painted very little then except for private works in my own home. I needed to work for a living and art was just a hobby then. I made the move to San Francisco because New Orleans was too small of a town and felt too slow pace, San Francisco was fantastic for me. My studies in graphic design helped me expand in fashion and was the core of the start of my career.
Q: How would you describe yourself as a fashion designer? And is that description the same as an artist?
MR: Great question! I feel my attraction to designing clothes with elegant lines, unexpected color and textural patterns—with couture traditions—is infused into my paintings today. Because of my graphic and fashion design background, I am inclined to design my paintings so that they feel elegant and decorative in a home, while masquerading veiled stories in every one of them.
Q: What caused you to shift careers from fashion designer to a full-time artist?
MR: The fashion industry at the time was facing a big turn-around and I thought it was time for a change. While I was designing clothes I was also working as a muralist and decorative artist, which allowed me to be self-employed and establish my own business, which I loved! I thought it was time to focus more on that and I could always go back to fashion.
Q: It seems like you really enjoy using different materials when it comes to your artwork. Which materials are your favorite to use?
MR: I truly enjoy the challenge of working with plaster on all my works. It allows me to sculpt and build texture in addition to metallic leaf to give my paintings more depth and hints of Art Deco and modern interpretations of midcentury.
Q: Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve done and what about it speaks to you?
MR: One of my favorite pieces is Siempre Esperando (Always Waiting), a figurative painting of a lone man standing or waiting to make the decision to move forward or stay behind—a position we all find ourselves at various points in our lives that will bring change, good or bad.
Q: What made you decide to move from Hollywood to Palm Springs?
MR: I needed to expand my thoughts and mind to expand my work, and Palm Springs had both the skies and peace I desired. I had lived in Los Angeles for 25 years and the economy was changing. My mom lived close to Palm Springs and the community was great; Los Angeles wasn’t profitable for my work anymore and Palm Springs had a lot of opportunities. It was a good transition for me.
Q: Any new and upcoming projects you are working on?
MR: I am currently working on a few art consulting commissions for restaurants and a Los Angeles condominium complex that will house my paintings on 12 floors.
Q: Your story and success as an artist are inspiring. What piece of advice do you have out there for people striving to become an artist?
MR: I would tell beginning artists to paint honestly from what they know, paint from their hearts and create a life around art. It’s a rewarding and humbling experience to share. I also want them to know that it’s very possible to have a successful career in art. There are so many different avenues of art and for them to continue to expand and learn.
For the Love of Art: Max went to Academy of Art University in San Francisco to study graphic design. This later turned into a passion for fashion design. “My studies in graphic design helped me expand in fashion and was the core of the start of my career,” he said.
Coming Up Next: Rodriguez says he is currently working on a few art consulting commissions for restaurants and a Los Angeles condominium complex that will house his paintings on 12 floors. We can’t wait to see how those turn out!