A mural he painted in 2015 for an Adobe event leans against a brick wall, with saturated pink, blue and yellow circle, square and triangle shapes stacked to look like a castle. A 2013 poster he digitally designed for a Missouri music festival—hanging above a vintage typewriter his mom gave him—features DayGlo insects and animals playing instruments. Even the coffee mug he grips is decorated with upbeat blue and orange mushroom characters he created. Formerly freelance, Hruby has worked full-time for company Kid Made Modern—founded by designer Todd Oldham—since 2016, designing graphics for toys, home goods and a soon-to-be-launched kids clothing line.
“What I do is playful, colorful and whimsical,” says Hruby, bright-eyed (and heavily caffeinated), and wearing a pin he made of his late cat Margo, also wide-eyed. “I do a lot of things that have to do with sustainability and optimism. There are people whose passion is to shine a light on darker issues. I’m one of the cheerleaders saying, ‘Keep going! The world still has some hope and joy in it.’”
Housed in a corner building in L.A.’s Eagle Rock neighborhood, Hruby’s art studio is part of a larger space called Yosemite Studio with a long, loyal ArtCenter history, and ArtCenter occupants.
There's a history here. We're part of the ArtCenter culture. We're a little community, and I love it.lllustration alum Patrick Hruby
Hruby and four other ArtCenter alums—Michelle Constantine (BFA 2008 Illustration), Ranee Henderson (BFA 2015 Illustration), Shane Rivera (BFA 2014 Fine Art) and Illustration Department Associate Chair and instructor Aaron Smith (BFA 1988 Illustration)—all currently have art studios in the space, with moveable walls separating their areas. Hruby’s space is in the back, with Constantine’s next to his, then Henderson’s, Rivera’s and Smith’s—the latter filled with masks from Papua New Guinea, and his lush paintings of bearded men—in the front.
Alum Steve Huston (BFA 1983 Illustration) originally owned the building, and used it starting in the ‘80s as a studio, and then rented spaces to alumni. Noted Illustration alumni who have had art studios at Yosemite include Esther Pearl Watson (BFA 1995), her husband Mark Todd (BFA 1993), Martha Rich (BFA 2000), Souther Salazar (BFA 2003), Saelee Oh (BFA 2003) and Calef Brown (BFA 1988).
Eric Skotnes, who once studied at ArtCenter, painted the mural—featuring psychedelic swoops of green and orange—on the building’s exterior. Even the grandfather of Constantine’s husband Derek Hibbs (BS 2005 Environmental Design) coincidentally owned part of the building from 1934 to 1948. It was a pharmacy then.
“I’ve had a studio at Yosemite since 2013, and there’s a real history here,” says Hruby. “We’re all part of the ArtCenter culture. We’re a little community, and I love it.”
Growing up in L.A., and then moving with his family to Idaho as a teenager, Hruby was creative from a young age. His mom Kristin was an artist, and had attended ArtCenter in the ‘80s.
“When I was in fifth grade, my class built a mock civilization, and I chose to be an artist in it,” says Hruby, who liked to draw Star Wars and Gremlins characters. “But I couldn’t get anyone in the class to buy my paintings. I thought, ‘How does anyone make a living doing this??’”
Following high school, Hruby went to a California-based junior college for math and physics, eventually dropped out, and then found himself waiting tables. All the while he made watercolor paintings and “fully craved a creative job,” he says. He applied to ArtCenter when he was about 25, and was awarded the need- and merit-based Helena Balfour Edwards scholarship in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and the Phil Hays Endowed Scholarship in 2009 and 2010.
His life as an artist and designer changed after he took master printer Tony Zepeda’s Intro to Printmaking class during his third term, in 2008. He continued to take printmaking every term. Constantine was a teacher’s assistant, and she and Hruby became friends.
“Tony is a really lovely instructor, and printmaking—the flat colors and shapes—was a game changer for me.” says Hruby. “Silk screening inspired my love of color. The first few silk screens I did were very muted, and then the color just became brighter and brighter, and I got into patterns."
By the time Hruby graduated, his work had morphed into a style he calls “flat, graphic, colorful, geometric and kaleidoscopic.” There are eyeball shapes—which he says are “mystic,” and open to interpretation—in almost every print he’s done since ArtCenter.
“I made my best friends—friends I’ve had a decade now—at ArtCenter,” says Hruby. “When a group of people are all going through something intense at the same time, there’s a bond that’s formed that you don’t really form otherwise.”
Hruby has regularly taught Illustration class Advanced Surface Design Digital Print since 2014. He’s gone from freelance advertising, motion graphics and editorial work to Kid Made Modern, as well as using two sewing machines, a small dye sublimation printer and a discontinued silk screen printer in his art studio to create his own home products.
Ninety percent of his designs he creates digitally, Hruby says. He sits at a giant library table to sketch, and then uses his laptop.
“I came from doing printmaking at school, which was hands-on, to doing client work. The pace of that digital work also makes me crave doing things by hand,” says Hruby. “I love working with products. I’ve always wanted to make beautiful things that live in people’s homes, and have a life outside of just being an image.”
The recent Land of Enchantment exhibition, organized by Illustration Chair Ann Field, at ArtCenter’s South Campus Hutto-Patterson Exhibition Hall through August 19, 2017 features Hruby’s luminous art and designs, including home décor such as wrapping paper, along with work by fellow new Modernists and Illustration alumni Loris Lora (BFA 2014), Ellen Surrey (BFA 2014) and Alexander Vidal (BFA 2015).
As for making Yosemite his art studio home, Hruby joined the space after Constantine—who is on the commercial lease—invited him. In the studio space since 2009, Constantine transitioned from printmaking and mixed media to starting Paper Quarry—a handmade marbled gift wrapping paper company—in 2016. She also teaches ArtCenter classes. Aaron Smith joined Yosemite in 2010. He was once Henderson, Constantine and Rivera’s instructor at ArtCenter. Hruby, Constantine and Smith all bring their students to the space.
“Eagle Rock has changed. It was a little rough when we were first here, and now it feels safer,” says Smith, who has taught at ArtCenter for about 20 years. “This is a creative space where we’re all doing our thing, and it’s organic. It’s close to ArtCenter, to Pasadena. People here are former students of mine, but we have a colleague relationship.”
At one point, in a show of affection and camaraderie, Hruby and Constantine hosted weekly “pretzel parties” at Yosemite, filling up on baked goods from a local bakery.
“There’s a warm sensibility because we’re not doing crits here for a grade for a class,” says Constantine. “When I walk over to look at what Patrick’s working on, it’s his professional work. It’s like, ‘Do you like this color better, or that color better?’ Talking to Aaron about what we’re doing, too, is great. We’re all friends.”