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Conversations with Chris Maze

Today we’d like to introduce you to Chris Maze. 

Hi Chris, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstories with our readers.
Hi! My name is Chris Maze and I’m a designer and illustrator. My story began with The Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, my grandfather, and Batman. My earliest memories were of the original Transformers cartoon from the ’80s and its toys when I lived in Japan (my dad was in the Marines, so like most military kids, I moved around a lot). I remember watching the cartoon and Transformers: The Movie (1986) on repeat. These “Robots in Disguise” captured my imagination! When you toss in more 80’s cartoons like Thundercats, M.A.S.K., He-Man, SilverHawks, and more, my mind was primed for unique storytelling and art via animation. Soon after, I moved to San Diego. Around this time, the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show premiered in 1987. Like many kids my age during that time, I was hooked! I remember getting trading cards of the Turtles, and I started copying what was on them by drawing them out as best as I could. 

My grandfather was an artist also and extremely talented. My maternal grandparents lived with us, so I was surrounded by his art and calligraphy work. I remember just standing over his shoulder while he illustrated before dinner on the table. He would use anything he would find to draw; however, I recall him using ballpoint pens a lot. It was incredibly inspiring watching him create something out of nothing. I wanted to do that. So, I kept copying those Ninja Turtle trading cards over and over again. In addition to that, he worked at a print shop. I can vividly recall the smell of fresh ink on paper from graphic design work that he printed when we went to pick him up from the shop in National City. This helped jump-start my love of graphic arts. 

In addition to those, when I would go up north to visit my paternal grandparents with my dad, we would always drop by a gas station for snacks and other things needed for a road trip. One thing he always got for me were Batman comics. I do recall watching episodes of Batman ’66 with Adam West and Burt Ward when I was younger, but these comics were something else. They were a little bit darker and captivating for me with their storytelling and sequential artwork. These Batman comics would lead to more comics like the X-Men, the Guardians of the Galaxy (the 90s version), Spider-Man, and more. I couldn’t get enough! 

All of these were the ingredients for what made me who I am today: a person who loves pop culture and uses art to tell stories – whether it’s with graphic design and branding, art prints, or comics. I love being able to use my art to elicit emotion from people. Art is the ultimate form of expression. Art transcends language. It has a way of making people understand and feel things that sometimes cannot be done verbally. Finally, art encapsulates ideas and points of views both visually and easily. And the best thing is, that it can mean something different to everyone as well. 

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It definitely has not been a smooth road to get where I’m at today, but that’s okay! Everyone struggles along the way in their own personal journey, but that’s what allows us to learn and grow. My personal struggles were, and still are, fighting with imposter syndrome like many other creatives, figuring out my personal art style, fighting against the grain creatively in a corporate world, and constantly thinking if people will enjoy the art that I’m putting into the world. 

Illustrator Will Terry has stated that “Failure is part of the creative process” and it’s absolutely true! We need to keep failing and struggling along the way, in order for us to pivot and find new ways to help us achieve our goals. I have always said that mistakes are proof that we are trying. If we don’t make mistakes, then we’re not trying. And if we’re not trying, then we’re just allowing our thoughts, ideas, and dreams to pass us by. Create something! Anything! The world is a much richer place with new ideas and artwork being created on a regular basis. 

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I come from a graphic design background and I’ve been in this industry for almost 20 years. I have developed content for Levi’s, Zumiez, ASICS, Lincoln Property Company, Amplifier, Navy Federal Credit Union, Yosemite Conservancy, and more in my career thus far. With my day job, I’m a Creative Director for brand development. I help clients develop brands to help them win new business. Most importantly, I build trust with clients and colleagues alike to help brands be successful. In addition to that, I do freelance graphic design work for brand development as well. This allows me to have fun, work with clients one-on-one with my own process, and develop brands outside of my day job industry. Doing this helps keep me sharp within the design and brand space. 

Outside of my day job, I’m a maker of original and pop culture artwork which includes prints, stickers, stories, and more! With this, I create artwork to sell on my online store as well as at conventions, like our very own San Diego Comic-Con and DesignerCon in Anaheim for example. Being a maker allows me to work on my passion and first love: illustration. I love meeting people at the shows who appreciate and support the arts. This is what I truly enjoy doing and I’m at my most happiest when I’m creating and doing the convention circuit. The artwork that I create within this space is what I am most proud of because it is what I am absolutely passionate about. It fuels my creative soul! 

With the spare time I have left in the day, I focus on experimental and passion projects which include designing and illustrating for social causes that I hope will contribute to change, sketching in my sketchbooks, and writing many ideas down that will hopefully become a design or illustration in the future. I love to keep busy with the arts when I can. 

What matters most to you?
My family. I know it’s a very cliché answer, but it’s very true! I am married with two kids and they definitely keep me on my toes. I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without my wife. She constantly pushes me to be the very best person that I can be, whether it’s as a husband, a father, or a creative. On top of that, she supports my work and is with me at every show. She’s my biggest supporter and harshest critic, which allows me to push my work even further. She doesn’t let me settle and I’m extremely appreciative of it. As for our kids, we want to foster a creative environment for them. Since the arts are typically the first to get cut from schools, I’m happy that they’re constantly surrounded by it with our family. Their curiosity and wonder inspires me and it has taught me to just explore every now and then, and have fun with it. 

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