Q&A with Humberto Cruz – the digital doodler brightening our reality

Meet the goldfish-loving artist expressing himself with colours and turning Indonesian kids’ drawings into ‘T-shirts for good’

I am an artist because I can’t let go of my inner child.

Is there anything more joyous than a technicoloured Dolly Parton with a crown of stars? It’s good vibes all the way when it comes to Humberto Cruz, AKA I Scream Colour, the artist surrendering himself to quirky and unbridled positivity.

Influenced by pop culture, fashion and colour, the San Diego-based illustrator’s art is an evolution of the doodles he drew as a kid and his childhood fascination with celebrities. Chances are you will recognise his work via his studio name, I Scream Colour, as he’s worked with David Guetta, Chanel, Apple Music and MTV. With an audience of 150k Instagram followers, Humberto’s uplifting work combines digital media, smudged lines, crayon colours and spray paint to reflect the joyful spirit sometimes lacking in our reality. (Understatement!)

This interview is part of a TOPIA series in partnership with Face This. The Dutch charity brings together street artists with Indonesian school kids to turn children’s drawings into merch to support their education. Read all the interviews.

Now Cruz has joined forces on a collaboration with Face This to create tees, sweaters and tote bags from the drawings of Indonesian school children from the Duduk Atas school on Lombok. Two worlds come together in order to create a new one, to a point where both artists lift each other up. Proceeds from the sales will go towards building the school a playground and underneath it a big water tank, so they can collect rainwater and provide the village with clean water. By carrying the tote bag, you’re supporting this school, and the village where the school is located.

We spoke to Cruz to find out about the power of expressing yourself – and bringing colour to a school in Indonesia.

Q&A: Humberto Cruz

Hi Humberto? First things first, what is ‘I Scream Colour’ and why did you call it that? 

I Scream Colour is the way I express myself with my art. It’s colourful, fun and quirky. I came out with the name in 2010 because I needed an Instagram handle. I thought of the saying, “We all scream for ice cream”, and started playing with words. I had to include the word “colour” because my work has always been colourful.

Did you always like to draw? 

I was born in California and I grew up in Tijuana, Mexico. As a child I was influenced by traditional Mexican culture and American pop culture because of living in a border town. I started drawing before I started school and it just came naturally to me.  

Is there one drawing that you can recall from your childhood?

A purple butterfly with a witch hat and a broom. I was around five-years-old!

Are there specific moments in your life that made you decide to become an artist?

Since I was a kid, my parents supported my passion for drawing. They never forced me to be something I didn’t like. I knew I wanted to be an artist since I was in elementary school, I wanted to be an animator and make Disney movies. That was my dream job! When I was in high school, I became more interested in graphic design and illustration.

What has been the most surprising or unexpected outcome from your work? 

All the responses from my followers on Instagram. Their support is the most important thing because it’s what keeps me creating.  I appreciate it when they repost and share my work with others. It makes me feel good and I hope it means something to them as well.  

The Goldfish, Henri Matisse, 1912

If you had to look at one artwork only until the end of days, what would it be – and why?

The Goldfish by Henri Matisse because goldfish are very peaceful to look at.  

A lot of your art is influenced by positive mental health messages. Why is this important to you?

Art feels like therapy to me because I can express myself in a way I can’t in any other form. I believe that working with a lot of colours can change my mood too. It’s important to have fun drawing and show your emotions. But it’s also necessary to be open about my mental health and create art pieces that can help myself and others. 

In your art, you have messages like ‘You messed with the wrong generation’. Do you consider yourself an art-ivist’?

It’s very important to make a difference and speak up on what’s wrong and what’s happening in the world right now.  I wouldn’t consider myself an art-ivist but I do like to make my point and I can express myself too if I feel it’s necessary.  

What is one thing you do regularly, a simple ritual or hack that brings you joy or elicits a sense of self care? 

I’m always listening to music when I’m drawing. But I like complete silence sometimes to feel fresh and inspired again. 

You designed an artwork by using some of the Indonesian kids’ drawings by Face This. The proceeds will provide the kids you’ve collaborated with a playground. How important is playfulness for you as an artist? 

I remain an artist by producing and staying creative almost every day. I don’t see it as a job because I really enjoy working on new projects. I try to stay honest with myself, I like being like an open book when I’m drawing. I don’t care about making mistakes and I don’t worry about drawing perfectly. That’s how I stay inspired and happy. Something that I learned is to never compare yourself to other artists! If you have a passion for creating art, practice every day. It might take you days, months or many years to find your own style. And it’s okay to change that style at any time in your life. Just make sure it makes you happy.

What made you want to get involved with this “good” project?

It’s been a great experience working as a team with the kids. My artwork is all about colours and playfulness and I just want to make people smile when they see it. I am an artist because I can’t let go of my inner child and my life experiences. I didn’t think twice about joining this amazing project. I just wanted to help a little and make some kids’ dreams a reality.  

When you received the drawings, what was your first reaction?

They all put a smile on my face. I was really impressed by them, they looked perfect! I asked myself, who are these characters they drew?

Which drawings did you use to create your artwork with? And why did you pick these? 

I’m always drawing my own characters and I had the idea of putting them together with some of the drawings I received. I picked these drawings because the characters showed a lot of personality. 

Detail shot of the Humberto Cruz x Face This collaboration.

Is there something you would like to say to the kids who made the drawings you’ve worked with?

I just want to tell them that they are amazing artists and to follow their dreams. Do what makes you happy!  

Lastly, we are creating a playlist for TOPIA. What is the last song you’d want to hear during your time here on Earth?

Mystery of Love by Sufjan Stevens

Huberto Cruz’s World of Good

Three outrageously good people to follow

1. @jasecannon dances to ensure LGBTQ+ homeless youth have access to meals
2. @rydeas is a maker of things
3. @laurencephilomene is a non-binary trans photographer who toys with gender

What’s so good about this?

Creativity has a transformative power for children of all cultures. The Face This Foundation works to empower Indonesian schoolchildren to “design their own future”. Humberto Cruz’s artwork is available on tees, sweaters and tote bags. All pieces are available to buy online. Check out more of Humberto’s work on his Instagram account and website.

Meet the writer

Born in Indonesia and raised in the Netherlands, Jos van der Hoek is trying to give back his country of origin by telling an unexpected and inspirational story about equality and creativity. No matter where you live, children have something many adults are longing for: creativity. With his Face This Foundation, he unearths and gives a platform to the creativity of kids living in marginalised areas of Indonesia. They take ownership of their own future by designing streetwear in collaboration with street artists from around the world. Proceeds support their education – so the kids literally design their own future.

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