Brushes with Greatness


By Tony Lovitt

Several outstanding artists with San Diego ties have applied their strokes of genius to help make PacificSD a portable gallery of homegrown masterpieces since the publication launched in 2007. Here’s a look at what’s been covered... and a glimpse into the current and future lives of eight artists whose work inked the deal for momentous magazine covers.

R. Black

Although he describes himself as a “mostly low-brow” artist, R. Black is perhaps best known locally for the posters he’s created for the high-brow San Diego Opera - a high-profile gig he says he owes to his work displayed on PacificSD’s August 2012 cover. The laidback Black is pragmatic as he enters the final phase of his three- season relationship with the opera.

“They do a change-up every three years, a different marketing campaign,” he says. “Next year, they’ll be going with somebody else.”

Black got his start by designing fliers for underground clubs and rock posters for various music venues around San Diego.

Heavy Metal magazine probably had a big influence, (and) lots of art nouveau,” he says, also citing comic books and renowned Belle Époque poster artist Jules Chéret as being among his influences.

Black has made posters and/or other artwork for Dark Horse Comics, the Berkeley-based Shotgun Players Theater Group and some New York productions, including Woody Harrelson’s Bullet for Adolf.

As for the future: “I just kind of take it day by day,” he says. “I’m stoked.”

Tim Cantor

Since having his work showcased on the October 2014 issue of PacificSD, classical/surrealist artist and writer Tim Cantor has been basking in the afterglow of a trip to Europe to exhibit the original artwork he created for Smoke + Mirrors, the latest album by Imagine Dragons.

“It’s just completely been crazy - I did work for every single song on the album, so they’re using fourteen of my paintings in total, one being the cover, and thirteen songs on the album,” says Cantor, who exhibited his album artwork at the House of Vans in London and the Hard Rock Cafe in Paris. “Every time you see one of those songs pop up on your iPod or something, you’ll see one of my paintings representing the song.”

So, what’s next?

“I’m always painting; that’s just what I focus on,” says Cantor from his gallery in the Gaslamp Quarter, which he opened 15 years ago. “I’m completely obsessed with creating my paintings, so I’m always painting... I’m always working towards my next show.”

Nicholas Ivins

Graphic illustrator Nicholas Ivins says he tries to keep himself in a “constant state of frenzied creativity.” Best known for his modern and compelling Day of the Dead style, he exhibits his work at street fairs throughout the year.

“I actually sold one large piece because some guy saw one of them in [PacificSD], so that was nice,” says San Diego-born Ivins, who now lives in Escondido. “I actually got a lot of attention from it.”

Recapping his career highlights since his work appeared on cover of the magazine’s April 2014 issue, Ivins says, “I landed a nice licensing deal with a merchandise distributor for some of my Day of the Dead artwork, expanded my gifts and collectibles into some out-of-state stores and took a couple of ribbons at the Orange County Fair art show.”

Looking ahead, he expresses a desire to create illustrations for commercial applications.

“It’s been some years, and I’ve been working on getting a decent portfolio together, as well as creating a kick-ass marketing package to entice clients,” he says.

“I’ve (also) got some comic stories that have been rolling around in my head for some time and I think it’s about time to actually put them down on paper.”

Sean Brannan

“After winning the ‘Most Modern’ art contest and (being) featured on the cover of Pacific San Diego magazine back in 2011, I’ve been pretty busy,” says San Diego-based artist Sean Brannan, who, according to his website, “explores the psychological effects of interacting color, geometry and perception” in his paintings.

Brannan completed a masters degree in psychology in 2012, and now has two careers, art and psychology, as passions. He credits his PacificSD cover with presenting some professional opportunities.

“One was a project in the Little Tokyo district of Los Angeles,” he says. “Kevin Barry Galleries had me produce approximately 40 images that were placed in two phases of a new building complex. That project was just wrapped up last December. Also, since then, I’ve been picked up by several galleries around the country.”

Brannan says he’s constantly participating in exhibitions and also produces a monthly artist showcase at BASIC Urban Kitchen + Bar in East Village.

Mark Paul Deren “Madsteez”

Although his crazy and colorful artwork might seem “off the wall,” street artist Madsteez (born Mark Paul Deren) often emblazons his murals on a wall. For the cover of PacificSD’s April 2012 issue, for example, he painted the whimsical “Weenzee Giddy Up’n on Top of Weenosaurus Rex” on the side of Wang’s Chinese restaurant in North Park.

“Since then, I’ve probably painted forty murals all around the world,” says Costa Mesa-based Madsteez. “I think it’s like eight countries and four different continents I’ve painted on since then.”

In Taiwan, he collaborated with an Asian artist named Insa to create a moving mural measuring eight stories tall and approximately 130 feet wide.

“The thing was gigantic,” says Madsteez. “So, to conceptualize one and to, like, actually physically be able to pull that off was incredible.”

More murals are on the immediate horizon for Madsteez, including a solo show in Los Angeles toward the end of this year.

“I like bright colors and I like things that make me laugh, especially when I’m painting in the street,” he says. “I’m influenced by what might brighten (a person’s) day or might put a smile on somebody’s face.”

Derrick Little

Returning to New York in 2011 after a brief sojourn in San Diego turned out well for renowned face and body artist Derrick Little, whose work was featured on the cover and inside PacificSD’s April 2010 issue.

“In the past five years, I came back and grew my face-and-body-art business, which is my primary source of income,” says Little, whose studio is in Brooklyn. “I also paint storefront windows.”

Little does face painting at kids’ birthday parties and corporate events, as well as body painting of models for advertisers at galas.

“I do Whoopi Goldberg’s holiday party every year, which is a fifty-fifty adult and kids party - a lot of celebrities will show up,” says Little, adding that he has also worked at several parties hosted by Madonna.

Not bad for a kid from rural North Carolina, whose fun with Halloween makeup spawned a full-time career.

“Me and my brother would plan our entire Halloween outfits around the pictures that were on those packages of cream makeup,” Little says. “Now, I am the Halloween makeup artist and designer for Easter Unlimited and for Party City and Amscan. All the theatrical makeup at Halloween is my work.”

Inocente Izucar

In 2013, as the subject of the Academy Award-winning documentary, Inocente, San Diego’s Inocente Izucar received worldwide acclaim. The humble, once-homeless young woman’s artwork graced the cover of PacificSD’s April 2013 issue.

“I live here and I was raised here, so it was a big deal for me to have more exposure here in San Diego,” says Inocente, who now paints in her one-bedroom apartment in Bankers Hill.”

Last year, Inocente had an exhibition in New York. This year, she’s hoping to travel to Spain and Sweden. Her compassion comes through in her paintings.

“Animals mean a lot to me,” she says. “As people know, elephants are being poached at just a crazy rate, so I painted an elephant and talked about how an elephant gets killed every fifteen minutes. So now I’m doing a lot of animals and trying to bring awareness (of ) poaching and all that stuff.”

Inocente says she’s currently partnering with a new organization called Art Without A Roof, which helps market the artwork of homeless youths.

“They want to help homeless youths,” she says, “which is exactly what I’m all about, exactly what I want to do. So I’m really excited.”

Court Jones

The features of his subjects are exaggerated, but Court Jones’ talent as a caricaturist is most definitely not.

Jones, whose work was featured on the covers and inside PacificSD’s December issues in 2011 and 2014, has traveled to Austria, Japan, Korea and India to lecture and conduct workshops on his distinctive art.

“This art job that I have has given me a bit of opportunity to travel,” says Jones from his studio in El Cajon, the birthplace of his caricatures and other artwork for magazines, newspapers and retail products.

Jones says one of the biggest jobs he’s had recently was creating a caricature of Gwyneth Paltrow for The Washington Post. While entertaining at various events or on movie sets in Hollywood, he’s also made caricatures of Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling and Julianne Moore, among others.

Currently, Jones is working on a series of caricature instruction videos he plans to post for free on YouTube.

“Then, I’ll try to continue plugging away at the portrait art and the oil painting, because that’s something I feel really passionate about.”