Local creative and illustrator Veronica Cruz draws artistic references and inspiration from time spent outdoors during her childhood, a deep-rooted love for Guam’s beauty and her evolving journey of figuring out what it means to be CHamoru.
Cruz, 25, most recently illustrated “I Lalai i Bilembaotuyan,” a forthcoming children’s book from UOG Press written by Catherine and John Payne II. The book explores traditional CHamoru music and intergenerational storytelling and knowledge transmission.
The book launches on Sept. 17.
“Cathy (Payne) really kind of just gave me creative freedom to bring this book to life. If you look at the book itself, there’s a lot of nature aspects. I pulled a lot from just being here, being outside, and my childhood,” Cruz said.
While Cruz does most of her work in digital mediums, she also works with paint, ink and charcoal.
She’s recently undertaken a personal project to develop her artistic style and showcase her work.
“It’s a mix of both traditional and digital mediums and work. It’s under Sagradu Raya, which essentially just translates to sacred line. I’ve been doing pop-ups and things like that, so that’s been really fun.
“It’s kind of cool, because I’ve been getting a lot of comments like, ‘oh, wow, I’ve never seen this stuff before, I’ve never seen this kind of style before here.’ It’s cool to be able to bring a new perspective, a new style. I’m continuously exploring what that means for myself,” she said.
Cruz also pulls artistic insight from expressions of indigenous creativity and identity in other parts of the world. Her use of funky pattern-work and bold swaths of color pay homage to these inspirations.
“I’m also inspired by textile works from different cultures. I really love looking at pattern designs from China, the Middle East, Indigenous cultures of the Americas. I love that indigenous sort of, you know, ancient feel. I also reference CHamoru culture, because I am CHamoru and I’m learning what that means too.
“I’m continuously learning for myself what it means to be CHamoru. And so, for me, when I look for inspiration references, I look at it like a process. So you have the urge to create and then you look for inspiration. And I’ve found a lot of that in reading books on CHamoru history and doing research in that way,” Cruz said.
Cruz’s work can also be found in UOG Press and GDOE’s upcoming social studies textbook series, a fitting home for artwork that seeks to explore CHamoru identity while remaining firmly planted in a distinct sense of place.
Ultimately, Cruz’s work speaks to honoring Guam’s abundant and rich landscapes, serving as a reminder to appreciate the home that has shaped her.
“Sometimes we forget. Like when we’re driving home, we sometimes forget just how beautiful the sunset is. We just kind of take it, and go ‘oh, okay, I live here and I’m stuck in traffic.’ But if you really look around you, this island has so many references. I think that’s why when people ask me ‘what’s your inspiration?’ I’m like ‘dude, look around!’
“This island is beautiful. Go look at the sunset, look at the ocean, the way the light reflects. People ask me ‘what’s your color palette?’, and I’m like ‘the sky!’ I’m constantly pulling from what’s already around us. Artists have always been pulling from what they see. So I’m just doing the same thing,” Cruz said.