In the Artist's Studio: Jorge de Rojas of HoHoHalloween
Meeting one of your favorite Halloween artists is like being a little star struck. Each time I reach out to one of them, I get nervous and excited. I love talking with them, learning about how they came into creating some of my favorite pieces and just really learning about their journey. To be able to see one in person though is just a flat out blessing. To be able to get an original work of art is to die for! This is what happened with Jorge de Rojas. I was able to meet Jorge at the Bewitching Peddlers of Halloween show in Marshall, Michigan this past year. I walked by his super packed booth several times and eventually was able to catch a moment of his attention, introduce myself (and score a fantastic one of a kind!). In that introduction, I had asked Jorge if he would be willing to chat with me so that others can learn a bit about him and was pleased when we were finally able to make that happen!
At the Bewitching Peddler show:
When you finally get to see him:
We always want to know how artists came to “be” an artist, so as we get past initial introductions, I ask how Jorge got into creating art:
Jorge’s start into the world of Halloween creations was a bit of an accident. Literally. He had an accident followed by multiple surgeries, leaving him in a wheelchair for long periods of time as he recovered. With limited mobility he let his hands do the walking, so to speak.
As a long-time collector of vintage Halloween art, he decided he would try and make his own version. This ended up being a good focus of his time while healing. When he started making the Papier Mache vintage type Halloween items, he was hooked. He not only continued to make them for himself, but he also started making them for friends.
Once the addiction took hold, it obviously started to morph. Jorge started attending Halloween shows including a trunk show at Jeannie Taylor Folk Art Gallery. It was around this time that he started getting noticed and gaining popularity, so he started blogging and attending even larger shows: All Hallow’s Art Fest in Petaluma (formally called Halloween & Vine) and Bewitching Peddlers of Halloween. As he quickly developed a die hard following, he was approached by ESC & Co to start also including reproductions to his list (and thank goodness!). Now, as collectors, we can add to our collection each year through the reproductions instead of having to chase Jorge all over the country!
Now that we talked a little about his transition into art, I had to know….what was his favorite holiday:
Jorge loved Christmas a kid. Who doesn’t? All the decorations, the festivities and of course…the presents! It was after his move from Cuba to California that he started to really experience the true energy of Halloween. He noticed how the entire neighborhood transformed into kid’s world of dress up and wonder; and who doesn’t love the candy?! The anticipation of getting home from school and dressing up into Frankenstein or a skeleton really made an impression on him. It was during this time of his life that he truly started to love Halloween the best.
A lot of Jorge’s artwork is based on his love of Halloween vintage art. He gravitated towards lanterns due to the nature of being interactive. By that, what we mean, is they can be magical and fun. As you place your flickering candles inside, the characters come to life and they create magic. Evening displays with lanterns gives you a completely different vibe.
NOTE: I learned about remote controlled battery votives! What a great way to manage your lanterns without having to touch them! I went here to buy me a set.
Do you ever wonder how an artist creates the art that we have come to love? I do!
Jorge starts a lot of his characters from sketches. When he mentioned this, I told him I envision him lounging at night with a large sketch pad on his lap and just creating all sorts of characters. I’m pretty sure I’m not far off! While the real character may start from a drawing, it may not exactly end up the same. Characters morph. Think about a novelist that is writing a book. He may have a thought about who his (or her) character may be, but they become real as those thoughts transition on paper. The same is true for Jorge’s art. As his hands get dirty, so to speak, the character comes alive in his head, and he may end up taking an entirely different direction during the creation process.
I asked Jorge, during this creation process, what is he thinking:
A lot of time, during the Papier Mache process (or what he calls the grunt work), Jorge puts on a movie for some background noise. This part of the process can be a bit tedious and it’s nice to have Harry Potter to keep him company. When he paints though, he is more of an audio book person. Thankfully, he always has his trusty companion with him to keep him company.
Mogli keeps an eye on him:
The entire process from sketch to the end I imagine is tedious, yet fun. Each of these characters come to life and transition from a vision on paper to a 3-D being. It takes time, but it’s worth it in the end when it makes a collector smile!
Now that we know all the work involved, I asked Jorge what he likes to do for fun when he isn’t working:
Believe it or not, the first thing out of his mouth was ‘baking’. Don’t get me wrong, I love to bake as well, but I was surprised to hear it from an artist. The next few words were a bit more what I was thinking: collect vintage Halloween art, collect skeletons, collect Jack-O-Lanterns, and ephemera (the old Halloween die cuts). He loves the old Halloween illustrations, old cartoons and anything that captures a moment or an era.
While he has his own personal collections, he loves being able to help us (his collectors), also create our own personal collection. I’m especially excited for the Groom Frankie and Bridezilla by ESC & Company (his reproductions). He told me about how they are a part of his monster collection that he is working on. This year will be a great start, but my impatience wants to see what’s next (Wolfman? Mummy? Creature from the Black Lagoon?) YES!!!! Personally, I want them all!
Some of Jorge's past work with goblins:
We got past my excitement on the Monster Collection and I wanted to know, when did Jorge feel most satisfied with his art?
“When someone smiles while looking at my art work and finds a connection”. Let me tell you, I personally saw a LOT of smiles at the art show last year. It took hours for the crowd to die down so I could get to Jorge. Seeing people flock to him wasn’t a surprise at all. I’ve been drawn to Jorge’s work for some time and as he continues to provide us an avenue to work on our Halloween collections, I’ll be right there with the crowd.
Just know, Jorge isn’t just all about Halloween. He has some great Christmas and Easter! Be sure to check out this years Mrs. Claus and Bunny Boy and Bunny Gal. His work extends past Halloween and gives each holiday their own characters and fun!
To wrap up our conversation, I wanted to know where he sees his journey go from here:
One of the things that Jorge would like to do is go back to the beginning. He’d like to revisit his old sketches, his old artwork and think about how he can add more detail, make things more intricate. He may make less items, but they will be better. He will always incorporate lanterns into his collectibles but wants to also add in some gremlins and goblins. My mind tends to go to the cute little gremlin from the movie, so I did a little research and saw some of the true gremlins and goblins so definitely can’t wait to see those come to fruition!
Take a look at some of the final pieces:
As collectors, we always enjoy getting to know our favorite artists a bit more and this was no exception. I’m excited for Jorge and the ability to build on my own personal collection. I also know that artists like hearing from us – so don’t hesitate to let us know what you think! You can follow Jorge @hohohalloweenbyjorgederojas
Holiday Pizzazz will continue to carry Jorge’s work, so check back and if you can’t find what you are looking for, let us know. We’d love to be able to help you!