Teddy Kelly grew up in Mazatlan, Mexico fully immersed in the subcultures of skateboard and surf. Some of his earliest influences were the Disney characters he’d grown up seeing in the United States as well as artist Camille Rose Garcia (a Mexican-American artist whose work you can find at the Los Angeles County Museum). I joined Teddy at the Parlor where he’s currently painting a custom mural in celebration of Cinco De Mayo and his latest collaboration with Five Four.
Cinco de Mayo has become an iconic holiday for the Latinx community in the United States. What began as a celebration in Puebla, Mexico commemorating the Mexican victory over the French in 1862 has evolved into a holiday that celebrates Mexican-American heritage and culture in the United States. Teddy shared that the mural and collaborating go beyond just the date, but is inspired by the culture of Los Angeles and its intertwined history with Mexico.
What was Teddy’s inspiration for the collaboration with Five Four? Where Mexican and American culture intersect in Los Angeles. “I wanted to capture not just the barrios. I wanted to capture the everyday life of Downtown Los Angeles’ (DTLA) flower district—the everyday lifestyle of Mexican people and the diversity of the energy [you encounter].” says Teddy. He wanted this Cinco de Mayo collaboration to be more than just the holiday, but instead focus the attention on celebrating all the cultures that come together and contribute to the celebration of the holiday.
Stylistically what informed the design of the shirt? “My work itself is clean and crisp and tight—almost tense. [But] doing a collaboration, you have to adapt and adjust and break outside [of your comfort zone]. I wanted it to have that organic feel and the rawness of the environment.” Teddy mentioned that in these markets you see a lot of handmade goods and he played with the concept of handmade in developing the graphic. This particular design was done by hand with a brush to give it a more organic and energetic feeling. And though this piece may look different in execution to the mural he’s currently painting on the Parlor Wall, Teddy states, “the intention is the same and the direction is the same.” And ultimately, you can see the interplay between both.
There are several cans of Montana Gold spray paint near us as we continue to talk. I ask Teddy about the process and his approach to the wall. He replies with, “Every wall has its own texture and every wall reacts differently. Like their own personality. [You] can’t always tell what the result will be.” However, despite the challenges each wall has, Teddy goes on to say that you have to find a way to overcome those challenges. He asks me if I played sports, I nod. “Do you remember when you were younger and you’d get butterflies, nerves, anxiety but then it goes away when you start?” I nod again. We continue to discuss how that anxiety can be used to push beyond and express yourself. Embracing the process leads to flow, and you can tell from the way he approaches this mural he was fully balanced and centered in creating it.
Life Advice for Future Artists
“It’s a journey and nothing in life you want to do is easy. You need to work every day. You need to master your craft and [finding] self-motivation is the hardest thing,” says Teddy. At almost thirty-nine, Teddy remembers a time when access to the internet was difficult. He credits growing up in that area with giving him the ability to get laser focused when it comes to his craft. “I had a lot of good examples of overcoming personal challenges in life and from them, I learned how to keep going […] Whatever you put in is what you’re going to get. If you prepare and focus you’ll eventually get there.” No matter what level you reach, you start from the bottom and must go about proving yourself every time. That’s why you need to focus on the journey and embrace that there is no destination.