Ronald Del Cid is a skilled mural artist with roots in the San Gabriel Valley who was recently selected to work on ActiveSGV’s climate mural to draw attention to the need for climate solutions in the Bassett, Avocado Heights and La Puente area for the BAAEC project. Ron masters using spray paint, airbrush and lettering to showcase murals that tell stories of everyday people.
1. What are some of your earliest memories in creating art?
I think everyone has the experience of when they were a kid in kindergarten doing paintings and drawings and I have those memories, too. I also remember through elementary around 3rd grade I drew and wrote a Pirates of the Caribbean story. When I got a little older right there in La Puente was a comic book shop, currently it’s Jennifer's Party Supplies. We used to go there all the time and hang out, play arcade games. One time I remember going and an artist was painting the windows with all the X-Men characters. It was a moment that felt really inspiring seeing that. I had never seen that before in my life, someone painting live, someone painting or drawing outside of a book. That stuck with my mind ever since.
Without knowing it at the time, this would inspire Ron’s own artistry with spray paint and airbrush as he would soon become influenced by the mural artists of Downtown and East Los Angeles.
2. For many first generation families, art is kinda looked at as a hobby, but rarely something to be taken seriously or pursued professionally. Did you find this to be true for you as you started creating? Was there someone influential that allowed those judgements to fade?
I feel this is very much true. Art has always been looked at as a hobby, especially as I started to create this type of art. When I began to do the type of art that influenced me the most, which is graffiti art, I feel like you get sucked into this numbers game because there was no value to it other than I painted here and wrote my name over here which added more to the hobbiness. Almost like living a Batman life is what I always say. There is no validity of this is who I am and go see my artwork because it was almost hidden which sucked because now looking back it should have been embraced and open instead of hiding it. I started graffiti young, maybe at around 11 years old.
By age 15, with the support of his brother, Ron purchased an airbrush to design flags for his brother's platoon changing the way he would think about his art.
He would send me back pictures of all of them with the flag right there. It was pretty cool to see that. It was something different. He kinda helped influence that whole recognition and showed me a tool that could be utilized in a different way.
I also had close friends whose family would host Halloween parties and there was a time when they were like Ron here's a spray can or what colors do you need. They later would start to hire me for jobs and pay me. I feel those were the people that were supportive and helped influence me for those judgements to fade away. It changed my life. I was scared but I guess they had the confidence in me even though I wasn’t confident back then. It was just a good feeling.
3. You’ve grown up in and around the SGV, how do the cities, people and culture influence the stories you tell in the art you create?
Being from the SGV, I’ve definitely grown to own being “not from LA.” Even though we are like up the street, I feel like it's totally different. A lot of the culture and influence did trickle down from LA. Growing up we would go to East LA and see all the different murals and then coming back to La Puente you didn’t see that. Maybe in El Monte you’ll see a little bit of it, but it wasn't the same as going towards East LA or Downtown. Over the years that influence really caught my attention because when I became old enough I tried to recreate some of those same things I’d seen down Valley Blvd. I remember wanting to paint Valley Blvd and then going to ask the candy shops if I could paint, asking all the Liquor stores and yeah we were starting to paint Valley Blvd.
Now I feel like a lot of stuff I paint has to do with just everyday people. During COVID, I had some time to realize and focus on what I wanted to paint and a lot of the images I look back to are my own culture of people I grew up with. I did a couple of murals where there was someone selling flowers and that was something I’ve seen in every corner or gardeners something I see everyday. There's been other murals I’ve done of someone jumping on the bus with his lunch pail and it clicked “oh” I’ve been trying to tell this story the whole time of just everyday people and everyday occurrences.
Ron has embraced the perspectives offered through art to see things not as they always are.
4. What has been a discovery for you about yourself as you continue to create art?
I feel like I am a very shy person, very to myself but through art it led me to become very social and collaborative putting me in positions I never thought I would be doing. Even when I did graffiti, I felt like I was one of the leaders from the crew and I never thought this shy person would be in that position. It opened doors for me and not just opportunities but also just the way of thinking outside the box.
When I was kid, maybe like 4th or 5th grade we were doing a test for math and some of the multiplications I just started to draw them as blocks instead of writing them out. I drew a pyramid and each block represents a number and that's how I figured out how to do the multiplication table. When the school saw it they thought I was a genius. To me, I was just drawing. I was just trying to make sense of something that I couldn’t understand one way and drawing it out helped me understand it a whole different way. In life, it’s shown me there's maybe not only one way to do things.
As for advice for young artists, Ron reminds us that it's normal to wander, learn as you go, and make discoveries with art.
5. Do you have anything to share for any young artists as they navigate leaning into their art?
So much I wanna say. For me looking back, at some point I had to learn. The reference I wanna make is if someone asks you to draw a boat —there has to be a moment of figuring it out, so ask questions and look for help. Even someone like my dad who doesn’t do art can show me certain things like the differences of painting on metal vs aluminum. Navigating learning your art is just asking questions. Don't be afraid to ask questions. You’re always going to be trying to learn and that's a good thing. Some things require other tools and necessities and it's okay to ask around – even for our mural project we had to find someone to print the mural out – so just working together and asking questions is one of the biggest things.
Art is more than art — It allows you to open your mind and think differently. I had my nephew help me paint this backdrop of a solar system. And I brought him outside to have him help me. I told him we were going to create a solar system and I just let him dip in the colors and splatter everything– and the whole time he's full of paint and he was talking to himself and you can just hear his imagination outloud. Art can be used as a platform to grow. I just hope art continues to progress not just for me but for others.