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Meet Marcel “SEL” Blanco of PunkRockZen

Today we’d like to introduce you to Marcel “SEL” Blanco.

Marcel, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I was born and raised in West Los Angeles by parents that immigrated to the U.S. from South America. My mother was a ballet dancer from Chile and stopped in L.A. to stay with her brother till she saved enough money to go on to Paris France to pursue dance.

My father a Colombian soccer player that came here at 18 years old with little money and no English skills looking to be a soccer star. They met here in Los Angeles got married, and shortly afterwards I was born. They both worked full time, so my grandmother would look after me during the day, and I would often spend hours drawing copying images out of comic books or encyclopedia just for fun.

As a teenager, I continued to draw, and in the ’80s I got into the punk rock scene and began designing logos, stickers, and t-shirts for local punk bands around Los Angeles. A few years later I discovered graffiti art, and I was immediately attracted to the bright colors and movement within the letters. I became part of the early L.A. Graffiti scene which leads me to join the WCA (West Coast Artists) crew, one of the seminal graffiti crews in Los Angeles.

Eventually, I got kicked out of high school because my graffiti escapades but this happened to be a big turning point in my life, I was sent to continuation schools where for the first time teachers saw me as an artist and started guiding me to use my creative mind. They would take me around to meet professionals artists from different fields, and backgrounds to learning all the many career opportunities there are for an artist.

After high school, I attended the OTIS/Parsons Art Institute where I received my first formal art training. Although it did help me develop my technical skills my painting teachers did not recognize graffiti as a valid art form, so my paintings were not well received. After two years I left and turned my attention to music playing in bands, recording and performing across the country.

During this time, I started working as a graphic designer and art director for the music and entertainment industry, from packaging design to full marketing campaigns for an indie as well as major labels. This period was one of the biggest learning processes in my art career since I developed a keen eye for composition that impacts my art to date.

For several years now, I’ve been working as a fine artist selling my paintings and being commissioned for murals and art pieces by private collectors and commercial brands. I also work with the non-profit organization Beautify Earth (beautifyearth.org) where we bring communities together and create art that brings meaning and pride to neighborhoods around the country, either through city walls or collaboration with schools kids.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
It was tough at first when I made the jump from graphic designer to fine artists because a lot of my work on walls was graffiti lettering and “Street Art” wasn’t as popular as it is now.

I worked on my portraiture and figurative skills to develop my own voice and an artist and did a lot of free murals in order to build my portfolio for people to see what I could do. Eventually it payed off and people started contacting me for murals and paintings and it has been steadily growing ever since.

We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I am an artist that provides complete artistic services, basically, I can create anything. My focus is on murals and fine art paintings, but I also create digital prints and graphics, installations and sculpture. My clients range from private collectors and commercial brands to Media and entertainment companies helping them facilitate their vision into reality.

My personal work is about self-reflection and breaking free beyond your comforts. I aim for my work to have a sense of emotion that connects with people beyond the aesthetics, so I am proudest when I hear how a piece has impacted someone to reminds them of a found memory, something they overcame, or to make a difficult choice in their life.

I feel honored to know people say that about some paint I threw around. Although I come from the graffiti tradition my work is not graffiti art anymore it has evolved into something else. I started blending drips, splatters and graffiti tags to construct my backgrounds and combine elements of nature against urban imagery to create my narrative.

Any shoutouts? Who else deserves credit in this story – who has played a meaningful role?
Absolutely… I have had the good fortune to have met great people that have helped me on my path. My parents, friends, and family have always been supportive showing up at my exhibits and giving unwavering love.

When I started graphic design I met James P. Scott, I was cold calling design studios asking if anyone needed an assistant/apprentice, he took me under his wing and taught me computer graphic design which gave me a foundation that helps build what I have today, we’ve been friends ever since.

Nathan Ota an amazing artist, friend, and teacher who taught and challenged my painting techniques and helped take my artwork to the next level. Ruben Rojas artist and co-founder of Beautify Earth has given me many insights on the business side of art. His input has been a great asset to help me grow in my business.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Jeffery Sklan, Richard Abagon

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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