Education

How 2 teenagers started taking digital art seriously

Aldo Gallegos and Cristal Trujillo share why they love digital art on the last day of school at Humanitas Academy of Art and Technology.
Aldo Gallegos and Cristal Trujillo share why they love digital art on the last day of school at Humanitas Academy of Art and Technology.
Priska Neely/KPCC

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As part of our series Age of Expression, teen artists from around Southern California share stories about the art they create and why they do it. Listen to the second installment in the series, on an unlikely rapper who gains confidence to pick up the mic. 

When Cristal Trujillo was growing up, she always loved to draw and color. She wondered if she'd be able to make a career out of her passion for art. But she got some messages that it couldn't be done. 

"I just kept hearing, 'Oh, art’s not gonna get you anywhere. That’s for people who don’t want to do anything or people who aren’t decided, who don’t have anything to do,' " said Trujillo, 17.

So in middle school, she pretty much gave up on the idea. But in high school, when her friend was going to the Humanitas Academy of Art and Technology, a pilot school on the campus of Esteban Torres High School, with a digital arts focus, she decided to go as well.

"That’s when I really started realizing – wow, there [are] careers in the arts field," said Trujillo, now going into her senior year. 

She and her classmate Aldo Gallegos, 18, who just graduated from Humanitas, have both developed a love for digital art – creating new fonts and designing T-shirts. 

Aldo started taking the field seriously when he started making backgrounds and icons for people on YouTube. 

"I started charging after a while," said Gallegos. "I was like – if people are going to want to pay, this has to be good."

They've already gotten some work experience -- Gallegos interned doing graphic design for a clothing company and Trujillo with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Gallegos, who is headed to Pasadena Community College, wants to pursue a career in video editing. And Trujillo wants to go into graphic design. They talked with KPCC's Priska Neely about getting into digital art. 

INTERVIEW HIGHLIGHTS

On getting hooked on Photoshop

Trujillo: I think my first experience with Photoshop – it’s funny because it wasn’t even Photoshop, it was like a knockoff – I think it was like in 4th grade because I remember I really like the game Sims and I would always play it and it was cool and I remember that you could edit and make your own skin and stuff. So I downloaded a free version of it. I think it was Gimp.

Gallegos: Exactly. Yeah, I started with Gimp and I was, like, in middle school and I was like, this digital stuff is cool. I would Photoshop myself into things and I just thought it was cool.

Trujillo: Or, like, change the color of my eyes.

Gallegos: My friend asked me to change the color of his rims. 

Listen to first story in the series, on a young poet who used her art to help her adjust to life in the United States. 

On sharing their work on social media

Trujillo: I’m pretty active on social media. I like Twitter a lot. And I feel like it’s a good way for me, not to promote myself or anything like that. But just post my art and people are like, “Oh hey, that’s cool. I saw that on Twitter. That’s really cool it’s yours.

This is one of Cristal Trujillo's favorite designs and she's started putting it on t-shirts. She says a lot of her illustrations have an '80s vibe.
This is one of Cristal Trujillo's favorite designs and she's started putting it on t-shirts. She says a lot of her illustrations have an '80s vibe.
Courtesy of Cristal Trujillo

Gallegos: I’m very shy to put my art. It’s all in my computer. I never put it out. It’s just I know I could do better on it. Or I could fix that. I know I gotta put some stuff out.

Trujillo: But you’re really good!

Gallegos: I don’t like putting stuff out. I just think it’s not good enough.

On their desire to learn more and advice to others

Trujillo: I feel like, I’m not good at sports, or I’m not good at things like that. So I guess it just makes me feel like I’m actually good, good at something. I mean, even though I’m not up there or anything – but it gives me hope that I could do even better. I have this drive like, "Oh, I want to learn that program or this program."

Gallegos: All the programs, you know?

Trujillo: Yeah.

Aldo: I’m looking forward to that though – it’s not a drag, it’s something I want to do. I want to learn that stuff. 

Trujillo: If you like art then you like it, that’s not going to change. You’re always going to like it. Might as well start now focusing on that and then it’s going to take you where you want it to take you. If you really, really like it, then it’s for you.

Gallegos: I should have told myself that in freshman year. That’s when I kind of laid off. But I would tell anyone that’s younger – even if they don’t got it, they can still learn. It just takes dedication. 

Check out Gallegos' portfolio and Trujillo's portfolio from the Humanitas Academy of Art and Technology.