Rituals: Joe Cruz

We met graphic artist and new Whistles menswear collaborator Joe Cruz at the V&A Museum to discuss his ritual of visiting libraries. In pursuit of inspiration, Cruz will explore a London library every week, taking out two to five books at a time. The libraries allow Cruz to research older and out of print books as well as a hushed and serene space to think.

Working within the fields of illustration, photography, textile design and mixed media, Cruz has created a niche for himself, juxtaposing mediums to create his signature work. His love of illustration was something that grew from pop culture he indulged in as a child. He then became interested in artists who combined illustration with photography, such as German painter for Gerhard Ritcher and American artist John Baldessari.  

Whistles have collaborated with Cruz on two unique prints for menswear. Cruz draws over commissioned black and white photographs of the Barbican, mark making in textural aquatic hues.

Shop Whistles x Joe Cruz

What does the library offer that a good bookshop doesn’t?

Usually there are more books, which are wider ranging and differ in age. There is something warm about being in the library, if you go to a bookshop you are likely going with the intention to buy, while at a library, the mood is slightly different - you can sit down and lose yourself.

How did you get into the habit of visiting libraries?

While I was studying at Norwich (University of Arts), the library there was fantastic so if I wasn't in the studio, I was there.

We read that you have a background in karate, do you practice it?

I have practiced it since I was 8 years old, I’m a second dan. I regularly compete, but recently got injured during a competition and tore my knee ligaments, so it’s looking like I may need an operation, which is really unsettling but I want to fight again soon. Karate has been a strong guide in my life and proved very useful in my artistic practice, as you need good discipline and a commitment to succeed.

Talk us through your research process in the library.

I usually give myself some time and pick out two or three books, which will influence my mark making and just try to absorb them, then this dictates how I pursue my next set of experiments. When sourcing photographic imagery, I really enjoy just looking through photos, it’s a great history lesson and leads to further research. 

Do you have a favourite library?

I mainly use the library at the art school I work at, which is fantastic for me and the librarians know me well. Otherwise, I like to come to the V&A library, taking a break to walk around the ceramics room on the top floor - there is hardly anyone there and the views are incredible. 

What are the rarest books you have come across?

The other week I found a really beautiful book from the 1960's, it was a volume of graphic works by Picasso. I decided I’d have to buy it, but after searching everywhere on the internet, I still can’t find the book, so I’m guessing it was quite rare. 

What are your plans for the future?

As well as continuing to experiment and explore in my practice, I am planning to create larger works, as big as I can and apply them to different natural and urban environments. Also, I may be collaborating with an animator in the new year to bring some of my artworks to life.