The Color Box 2023 gift drive is well underway, so you may have noticed the colorful collage of hands splashed across our new donation boxes at businesses around the city such as Mo’ Better Brews, Elio Fine Art Gallery, and Houston Dynamo HQ.
The dope new design on the boxes and other Color Box promotional materials this year comes from Texan artist and CoolxDad Anthony Rose.
Rose, who hails from San Antonio, started out drawing comics and graffiti. Now he’s the Founder and Managing Director of United by Design, or UXD, an experiential art agency and studio that specializes in murals, sculptures, and digital art projects that “create impactful spaces and shareable experiences.”
When we caught up with Rose, he was just leaving a high school assembly, getting the kids hyped up about a mural project UXD is leading there. We talked to him about the inspiration for his Color Box design, working for Montana Colors, and the importance of Dragon Ball.
Please consider donating new toys, electronics, and clothing (all sizes) with a value of up to $75 at the businesses mentioned above, or Genara, OST Liquor Store, Sanman Studio, and Oaks Point Pediatric Dentistry between now and the end of the month. All gifts this year go to kids experiencing housing instability, in partnership with SEARCH Homeless Services.
So how did you find CoolxDad to begin with?
A friend of mine, another artist as well, Preston Gaines, had some interaction with CoolxDad. So I would see posts and I’m like ‘man, everybody’s pretty fly, everybody’s dressed well,’ and you know I’m a dad too.
I had started following CoolxDad over the next few years. In 2020 I moved back to San Antonio, where I’m from, and when we came back to Houston in December of 2021 I started trying to interact more and had actually been to an event at Mo’ Better Brews. Me and Kevin really hit it off and we’ve been talking about projects.
And you have one daughter. Tell us about her.
Penelope Rose, she just turned 4 years old. So she’s in that expressive mode and also the season of like, ‘I love Daddy I want to be near him all the time.’ So I'm soaking that up.
That’s such a nice time to be in. So getting into your art and career – you used to draw comics, is that right?
In elementary school, I was into this – I’m still into it – this old animation called Dragon Ball. And, I had watched everything. At the time, you had to go to the flea market and find these bootleg Japanese versions of the latest episodes. So I watched through all of those. I started to create my own comics as a continuation of the story and I'd share those with other kids that were in school that were into it.
As I got into middle school and high school, my older [step] brothers were starting to get into graffiti. So I started to see bombs and little graffiti pieces that they’d sketch in the sketchbooks and I wanted to be cool to them. Where they kind of left off and stopped drawing art, I kept going. It just became something that I built an early career off of. I ended up going to college for graphic design [and] focused on typography. Letter structure was really appealing to me.
And while I was going to school, I ended up working for this international paint supply brand called Montana, which is from Germany. So I dropped out of school and started [running their location in San Antonio]. We got artists from all around the world that would come out and paint here at the store.
It was a Montana official store?
Montana San Antonio. It was a flagship – one of three flagship stores in the United States. The other two were in LA and NY.
In my early days as a graffiti writer, the only ways to get artist-grade spray paint was to know someone that would import pallets of it. They would sell the paint out of their garage or pull up to the spots where artists were painting. The fact that I had become involved with the brand was by chance. In fact, my entire art career is, like, just by chance – me encountering art and encountering this brand.
I managed the shop, I would market the events, and work on the graphic design for the store. Because I was also painting pieces at the store too, from there I ended up getting hooked up with sponsors for a couple of projects and started going to different events: South by Southwest, Art Basel Miami, a big traveling graffiti show called Meeting of Styles. So I actually built my career and my network, in at that time, the graffiti and street art scene.
Do you have any specific memories of meeting graffiti or street artists that really stand out as influential to you?
My art collective mates Trevor Miranda and Justin French recognized my talent for graffiti and put me on and supported me every opportunity they had, and still do. My friend and colleague, Rose Lopez, who worked for the flagship recognized my talent and early knack for business. She ultimately cosigned on the decision to give me a chance to carry the keys to the shop – a place that became a local landmark for graffiti/street art, music, and culture
The owner of Montana San Antonio – and my friend – Scott Louie made the decision to let me explore, discover, and curate the many engagements and events at the shop. He believed in me at the time and became a conduit to my early propulsion and acumen in the art industry.
So you said your entire art career is really just by chance. But really, going back again to your childhood, what kind of impact do you think it had on you to be passing out those comics and seeing the reaction of your peers? You must have gotten validation from that; it must have spurred you on to keep going.
Totally. As an only child growing up in a household raised by my mother, I spent a lot of time by myself. (I had stepbrothers, but we spent weekends together so it wasn't all the time.) So really, I was kind of a quiet and timid kid, especially in school, I really didn’t talk to many people; I had a small group of friends to nerd out with. Art really gave me a platform to express myself and that connected me with other people who I didn't think I would have had a connection with.
For me, those relationships were everything that I wanted. I had new groups of friends; I had something to share with people that I was really inspired by.
Also an only child raised by a single mother! So how was your mom supportive of what you were doing, or was she?
She was really supportive. She wasn't, in the beginning, too hot about the idea of graffiti. So the the first time I actually had done a piece, my mom was like, ‘Yeah, okay, you know what, I'll give you a space to do it.’ She had no idea how bad spray paint smelled. She was like, ‘Oh, my God, I don't want you around that stuff.’
But for her, it was bittersweet… she identified as a creative herself. She didn't call herself an artist. But when it came to my birthday, she would, you know, being a scrappy mom, she would decorate my birthdays. If I wanted a certain theme, she would draw out these poster boards and create the characters and cut them out. So she was totally an artist. So she saw herself in me in that regard. And she wanted to give me a place to kind of explore that.
So now that you're a parent, did you learn lessons from her? How do you see yourself embodying that type of parenting now?
I just try and be as supportive as I can. My daughter is only four years old… but I noticed she had a big thing for dancing early on, so we put her in dance class. She's had opportunities to come to a bunch of different sites that my company does, and, and she's met so many artists because I work with so many different artists, and she gets to see all this art that’s created and she loves being around it. So I just continue to try and give her those spaces to learn how to express herself.
For me, that’s one of the best things about CoolxDad and about these interviews, is seeing how dads today are integrating their children into their work and their passions. There used to be this separation for men and fathers between work and their family. That line has now blurred in a way that I think is really cool.
Hearing you say that your daughter comes to the sites you know, we have other cool dads we've talked to who are musicians who say ‘my kid is on my lap while I'm making beats.’ It's breaking down that boundary – that idea that to be a father you have to go to work, come home and completely separate your lives.
I’ve thought about this a lot, too, especially, you know, not being a part of that era, but understanding and learning about the industrial age and how that really impacted fatherhood, and separated father from the family. I'm just, I'm so appreciative that we’re in an era where we really can do those things – we can continue to explore, I can build a career that involves
my wife, she makes sure that things are paid, and, you know, she helps with accounts payable, and all that stuff that she's interested in. And my daughter gets to be a part of it. She's always seeing things that we're creating. And I think that has opened up a special, a special place for our relationship.
Right, exactly. So let’s talk about the inspiration for the hand collage for Color Box. Where did that idea come from?
You know, my life has always been something that I have an opportunity to enjoy because of my interaction with others. So community and collaboration are very, very important experiences in my life. The opportunities to have those relationships have really kind of given me something to look forward to and enjoy. A lot of my work, in fact, in some regard, everything that I do within my career, there is an opportunity to collaborate with others – even the naming of my business was meant to embody collaboration. We can oftentimes have an opportunity to do things [together] exponentially greater than we can as individuals.
I really wanted to represent a group of people of different diversities, from age to culture. So it started with the hands. In my early concepts, hands were coming around a tree stump that had grain on top of the tree stump, or the map of Houston, as a way to kind of communicate people coming together and putting your hands on to represent the special community that we have here. And then it evolved because of the constraints of the actual box.
I've been influenced a lot by artists recently, like Robert Hodge and a few others to explore collage work. So this was actually one of the first pieces that I've done that has collage work involved with it. This was a pretty quick project that I had to turn around, so I've been exploring ways to go through concepting with generative AI and AI image-generating models. That was really the basis of what I've edited and modified to become the artwork. But to me, the hands in the collage work really represent the diversity – not only in age and culture but also in things that make up our heritage.
Speaking of collage artists, you must know Tay Butler.
Yes. He’s another inspiration of mine. Incredible artist! We’re always trying to find time to get together but we can never do it [laughing].
Well, you’ll be at the Color Box gift-wrapping event, I assume?