Sculpting with sugar, Rob-O creates intricate, beautiful sugar art in the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) tradition. When he lost his mother in 2007, Rob-O turned his grief into a celebration of her memory through art and expression. He launched his business, Sugar Skull Art, and pursues the art to this day.
He shares: “During one of my exhibitions with the San Francisco Symphony, I had a chance to share my art and my story with a gentleman that experienced a similar loss. His quote to me, [which] will remain with me forever, was: ‘From tragedy comes greatness.’ We don’t understand why things happen the way [they] do but when I heard those words, I felt validated with the cycle of events that have come to touch my life.”
Growing up, drawing, painting, and sculpting were family activities for Rob-O and he experimented with many different mediums, such as canvas, chalk and paper, functional art, and clay sculpture. With sugar art, however, he has found his true calling. He says, “The art of sugar skulls has become a passion for me. This passion has now opened the opportunity to preserve the Mexican culture as well as to enrich and educate our community about the beauty of sugar skulls and its role in celebrating and memorializing loved ones that have passed.”
Getting into the craft
While sugar skulls can be purchased pre-made and ready to decorate, Rob-O decided to experiment with making them himself. After a lot of trial and error, he finally landed on the right concoction and now creates his skulls, and the “royal icing” used to decorate them, from scratch.
Watch a sugar skull be created in this clip from Fox 40:
<center><iframe width="420" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/zx1Hf9A0sBo" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe></center>
Taking inspiration from all aspects of the art he encounters and the world that surrounds him, Rob-O draws particular inspiration from the work of tattoo artists. He says, “Tattoo artists are so diverse with their specialties that I often find myself exploring their work and am…inspired by their stories as well.”
About the creativity he puts into his unique sugar skull designs, he says: “I’m not sure exactly how it comes to me, but the best way I can explain it is that I believe in my art and the lives we touch. I love what I do and I believe my work shows my passion. I’m not going to lie and say it’s easy. There’s been so much work put into the business and into developing the art. I hope that I can also be an inspiration to our youth and our community.”
Artwork and community
See Rob-O’s traditional sugar skulls displayed throughout February at Little Relics Boutique and Galleria in the Rob-O Sugar Skull Art Exhibit. Stop by on Preview Thursday or 2nd Saturday to meet Rob-O in person, or come in during regular open hours just to check out his work. He’ll also be conducting a Sugar Skull Workshop on 2nd Saturday, where adults and kids alike can make their own sugar skull.
If you find yourself in Stockton on Saturday, February 9, stop by the Haggin Museum, 1pm-3pm, and take part in a free Sugar Heart Maker’s Art class with Sugar Skull Art.
Rob-O and Sugar Skull Art are also a part of the inaugural class of the Arts & Business Council of Sacramento’s Flywheel Arts Incubator program. Celebrate Valentine’s Day with him, along with other artists in the program, at Crocker Art Museum’s Art Mix: Local Love event on Thursday, February 14.
The Flywheel Incubator is also set to launch an artist workspace and store front in Sacramento Downtown Plaza near the end of February or beginning of March (exact launch date TBD). The space will serve as a gallery, studio, and store and showcase the work of those in the Flywheel Incubator.
Working with students and children is one of the most fulfilling aspects of Rob-O’s career as a sugar skull artist. He works frequently with autistic children, adults with disabilities, underprivileged children, and art students, leading them in decorating their own sugar skulls. He says, “It’s these opportunities that really make me feel like I’m supposed to be doing exactly what I’m doing. There’s a bigger sense of purpose and I can’t even explain how rewarding it is to be a part of their experience in life.”
Rob-O’s goal for 2013 is to expand Sugar Skull Art’s philanthropic work by offering sugar skull making year-round and not just around the time of the Dia de los Muertos holiday. Stay tuned via the links below to keep up with Rob-O’s myriad activities.