Samuel Rojas aka CRAOE interview with ULT
I can still picture the first moment I met Sam many years ago. He was a young guy with a lot of raw talent and tons of creative ambition. I admire that in people. He started doing murals at our studio and then got connected to more artists throughout LA, collaborating and developing his craft. When Sam got sick it was devastating. We are all so grateful for him to be here with us today, still creating, growing and adapting. I hope you enjoy reading his interview below:
Q. As an artist you have a diverse skillset from illustration, murals and tattoos. How did you get your start and what inspires your work these days?
My start was being a teenager and picking up "Lowrider Arte" magazines. Those featured the top artists and one thing I found in common with greats is that they are good at more than 1 thing. Artists like Mr. Cartoon, Fonzy or OG Abel. Having many art disciplines was very impressive to me and it looked like having super powers. I've always wanted to chase that image. They say, "A jack of all trades is a master of none." I believe anyone can get good or great at 1 thing, but to be great in many disciplines is another level of talent. My start was customizing hats, shirts and backpacks in high school which led to screen printing. That also led to graffiti which eventually I was asked for mural and signage work. The last ULT HQ was the biggest collection of my works in 1 place. Five different murals and one 4-sided shipping container with all it's sides painted differently. What inspires me these days is going back to my roots. I want to do more custom shoes this year and film every creative project I do. This year is going to be big! I have the chance to be productive in all my interests.
- You had an intense 2020 experience. What did you learn and how has that shaped you moving into 2021?
For those that don't know my 2020 in summary was a 2 month hospital battle with pneumonia, covid and a stroke. A lot of people have told me 2020 was bad but that I had it worse than anyone they knew. The lesson began fighting for my life. I got a stroke and that resulted in half my vision was left blurry and loss of nerve control for my right side. I had to eat through a tube because I couldn't swallow, I couldn't even drink water. That process of relearning to walk, talk, eat & drink, use my right hand again...that was the beginning of the lesson. Fighting through it and then to lose my mother after to covid during my recovery was the end of the lesson. I learned how resilient I am and it made me think of everything I've done wrong. From relationships, to bad habits and just not appreciating the right things. So this mindset has shaped my 2021, to make every dream come true because last year I didn't know If I'd have that chance again.
Q. We both live in LA. How has experiencing LA culture changed for you with all the lockdowns?
Even before the lockdown I wasn't out partying or having a big social life. So that still remains the same. The biggest hit to me personally was not knowing if I can do art again. Thankfully I have recovered a lot and am using my creative projects as physical therapy. What else has changed besides my abilities in recovery is that a lot of businesses don't want to invest in their stores because of the Pandemic. Murals are a luxury compared to everything else a business is facing right now. Seeing stores closed or not open has been a real post-apocalyptic sight.
Q. Any words of advice for those out there experiencing challenges in their lives?
Anything can be taken away at any moment. I always relied on my art and skills to carry me wherever but even that was not certain for me to continue. Realizing that potentially I'd have to start over and do something else as a handicap was a lot to overcome. It's so cheesy and over said but really go after all you want. We all have bad days or obstacles to overcome but that's what life is. Your story of tragedy and triumph. How you decide to look at those parts of your story matter to what comes next. Be focused on what you want, little by little you can make it anywhere. I'm not an artist with riches, fame or even a large body of work. Since my youngest days that shaped me, I've just been trying to be a superhero too. So I continue my journey, little by little. Find what burns a fire in you, and don't ever let that go out.
- Samuel Rojas aka CRAOE
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