Rifle artist leaves a mark on Garfield County’s ‘canvases’
Not everyone can see art in ordinary everyday life, but where some might see a plain brick or cinder block wall, muralist Jeremy Velasquez envisions a canvas of opportunities.
“I’ve been doing art my whole life,” Velasquez said.
When Velasquez first approached Tony Cozza, owner of 625 Water in Rifle, with his vision and sketches for the exterior of the downtown Rifle building, Cozza was really impressed.
“We really like the idea he had,” Cozza said.
“I was amazed at the kind of detail he could do with spray cans. Jeremy is very talented.”
The vivid blue walls mimicking the ocean can be seen from blocks away as one drives into town on Railroad Avenue.
“I really enjoy watching him paint. He amazes me with the things he can do,” Tina Sandoval, Jeremy’s grandmother, said.
With exquisite detail, nearly life-size whales look to be swimming across the west and south sides of the building.
Cozza said the mural has drawn a lot of attention and positive feedback since Velasquez completed in it July.
A resident of Rifle, Velasquez has never been formally trained in the arts, only learning through trial and error and from friends and other artists along the way.
“I always wanted to go to school for it, but it wasn’t on my quest,” he said.
ART AND IMAGINATION
As an only child splitting time between his parents’ homes, his mom in Colorado and his dad in New Mexico, Velasquez used his imagination to find things to do.
“I was pretty creative. I would spend long days in my room drawing,” Velasquez added.
“He’s been sketching and coming up with things since he was five,” Sandoval said.
Velasquez remembers always being known as the kid who could draw growing up, receiving art supplies and books for birthday and Christmas presents.
“Ever since I could use a pencil, I’ve been drawing,” he said.
Thanks to his uncle who was into the ’80s hip-hop scene, Velasquez was introduced to movies like “Breakin’” and “Beat Street” that gave him a glimpse into the urban street art and graffiti scene.
“As a kid, me and my cousin would watch those movies constantly,” he said.
“We had a plethora of videos to watch, but we always watched these break-dancing movies all the time.”
At the age of 10, Velasquez began doing graffiti using spray paint, but didn’t become serious about it until he was a teenager when he started doing street art, both legally and illegally
“I had a lot of support. My grandma was one of my biggest supporters,” Velasquez said. “She thought I was really good at it, so she would let me go to town on her sheds.”
Added Sandoval, “He was around 12 when he started painting around the house, some his work is still on the drywall in my shed.”
Velasquez honed his craft around his grandmother’s place, painting on the shed and anything he could get his hands on, including old satellite dishes laying around the property.
“I’m so proud of him. We backed him up on anything he did,” Sandoval said.
LIFE GETS IN THE WAY
After receiving his General Education Diploma from Colorado Mountain College, Velasquez decided to stop painting, setting down his paint cans and drawing pencils for work.
“Life kind of got in the way. I started working and I was just living life for a time,” he said.
For three and half years, Velasquez worked as a cable technician, working 90-100 hours in a pay period.
Velasquez began to drink alcohol for an escape, like many young adults.
“I felt like I was living someone else’s dream,” he added.
Battling with his alcohol issues, Velasquez decided to change his life around.
“All I would do is work and drink, honestly I decided not to do that anymore,” he said.
FINDING HIS PATH
“I noticed when I quit drinking I had a lot of free time, so I decided to use my time to focus on positive things,” Velasquez said.
He started painting again in his free time, and on his days off he would find projects to do for people he knew.
Earlier this year, Velasquez decided to start doing street art again — painting murals for whomever needed his talents.
As Velasquez began shopping his talents around the Western Slope, he found himself working seven days a week between his job at the cable company and his side projects.
“I had plateaued at [the] cable company, and wasn’t moving up,” he said. “I got to a point where I was letting mural jobs go because of my other job,”
Jeremy realized he was missing out on lucrative art jobs, and decide he needed to do something.
“They say that an entrepreneur is someone that jumps off a cliff and builds a plane on the way down,” Velasquez said. “That’s kind of what I did.”
Velasquez laid the foundation for his business, starting an LLC and quitting his job with the cable company.
“Honestly, it has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,” he added.
For last year Velazquez has been traveling up and down the valley leaving his mark on exteriors and interiors of businesses.
He has done murals in Glenwood Springs, Silt, Rifle and Grand Junction, and even traveled as far as Washington state to work.
“I make my own hours now, and I get to make people happy with my art,” Velasquez said.
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A Garfield County commissioner angrily denounced Pitkin County and state transportation officials Friday as “disrespectful, arrogant, gutless and selfish” for closing Independence Pass earlier this week.