Artist Mrbbaby, aka Michelle Ruby, uses vibrant colors in her work and is heavily influenced by her heritage. She strives to put a smile on people's faces while working hard to make her imagination come to life. Read our interview with her below!
1. Tell us about the first mural you painted. When was it and what's the story behind it?
It’s hard to say what my “official” first mural was because when I started painting I took every chance to practice so would paint little spots with the anticipation that they would get painted over. I was lucky to have a community space “Writerz Blok” which is an open area in San Diego for people to paint.
My first official mural outside of that was in Barrio Logan, San Diego. It was in an alley way behind Bread and Salt and is actually still standing. It was a women painted in all blue tones representing the Virgin Mary. She’s been there so long there’s vines growing over it now.
2. What inspired the name “Mrbbaby”?
My name is Michelle Ruby hence the Mr. and the b baby stands for Brown Baby.
3. Do you have a favorite mural you've painted? Tell us about it.
Every time I paint a new mural it becomes my favorite, that’s the goal anyways, to just keep improving each time.
I recently took a trip to Puerto Rico and was able to paint there, which was very special because Im Puerto Rican and my family is from there, but also because of how people accepted me and my work. I felt like they had a different kind of appreciation for it, and that’s what makes it really special to me. Seeing people’s reactions to your work and seeing how it really does affect people’s day to day makes the mural painting world so special.
4. When you have artist's block is there anything you do to get back into your creative flow?
I think it’s natural to have an artist block, but the key thing I’ve learned is not to wait for inspiration. It’s important to keep creating and push your boundaries, sometimes you just need to let things out, especially in sad times when you don’t want to do anything but dwell on your feelings, it’s nice to put them on paper instead.
If I absolutely can’t come up with what to paint, it’s always nice to revert back to basics and paint portraits just to keep your skills sharp.
5. It’s noted that most of your artistic inspiration is influenced by your community and heritage. Is there a person that inspires you the most?
As cliche as this is, I’d say my mother. She was an artist growing up. My earliest memories are of her painting faces on all the trees in our backyard. Even when I had my moments of doubt, she would always push for me to be creative. She always believed in my even when I didn’t. Even when I had my moments of giving up being an artist and getting a “real job” she would always remind me not to ever give up on my dreams.
My mother was a single mother and worked so hard to provide for everyone and to me is a true example of what a strong role model is and a large reason as to why I do what I do these days.
Aside from that my community is an important part of why I paint, I want to inspire other young women to see that living their dreams is possible.
6. You draw a lot of fun and creative characters. Do you base certain characters off of people in your life, or where do they come from?
I paint a few characters regularly- one is a Maria doll, which is a traditional doll in Mexico, I also paint the common donkey piñata. The character I’m most recognized for is “Chucho” who’s this hairy little piñata guy inspired by an alebrije and a piñata twist.
I originally came up with him because my sister and I wanted to write children’s books. We wanted to start with popular Aesop fables but give them a Latin twist. We started with Red Riding hood and Chucho was originally supposed to be the wolf. Since then, he’s evolved and I’ve kept painting him for the symbolism I like in piñatas. They first originated from China to sow seeds in the garden and I thought it was interesting that through brokenness comes growth, I felt like I resonated with that.
7. Being primarily a painter, what inspired you to make dolls and pinatas?
I feel like part of my urge to paint is this very childlike quality in me that never died, so dolls naturally go along with that. I collect odd little dolls from places I travel. I feel like my need to play never died, which is why I like to use my hands to create my own little worlds, whether that’s painting, dolls, piñatas, or whatever it may be. It satisfies the child in me.
8. What advice can you give aspiring artists?
The best advice I can give is to keep painting, don’t paint for anyone else but you, be original, paint what is authentic to you.
There’s a lot of artists out there who can paint amazing landscapes or portraits, but if you want to stand out never forget to add elements of yourself in the piece, because that’s what makes it authentic and original. Don’t be afraid to be different and for those pursuing a career in art just know that rejection is part of the process and no matter what your work looks like there’s going to be people who don’t like it, don’t take it personally. It’s okay. You will need to hustle but if you want it bad enough and are willing to work for it, your time will come.
9. What's next for you?
It’s a funny question because I just want to continue to do what I’m doing. I’m in such a good place. I’m just painting and making money doing it! I’m living my dream. Just hope I don’t wake up anytime soon.