Artist Feature — RODNEY DURAN

Artist Feature — RODNEY DURAN
Photo courtesy Rodney Duran

I discovered artist Rodney Duran (aka Hot Rod) at the Clifton Street Art Gallery in Uptown. I became hooked on his art because it’s eye-catching, imaginative, and colorful. I applaud Rodney for using various subjects and mediums to create his thought-provoking art.

My mural findings

The first mural I laid eyes on is “Bison.” Would you look at that face! I love this abstract animal with its human characteristics. 

The next mural I photographed is “Street Queen.” The title of this one is truly fitting, as she is one beautiful and fierce badass.

“King of the Streets” debuted in 2019; however, I recently found it by accident. I favor the lion’s piercing blue eyes and the burst of color surrounding him. 

So many questions have popped into my head while following Rodney, and I’m grateful he made the time for an interview. I find his caged ballerina series intriguing, and I was curious to know how this series came about. Don’t tell him, but I also wanted to know if he ever sleeps or relaxes.

Let the dialogue begin!

I admire your versatility, especially considering you are an artist and musician. Do you see yourself as an artist or musician first? Which was harder to learn?

I’ve been drawing and creating art since my early childhood, but learning music was harder. It took more time sitting, reading, and practicing with my fingers. I spent countless hours studying and learning how to use a guitar with all its components. My teachers would save my drawings and tell my parents how gifted I was at an early age. Although I love music and play constantly, I am more of an artist than a musician. But, they do go hand in hand.

I find your caged ballerina artwork particularly fascinating. How did this idea come about?

Thank you! She came to me in a vision I had. I was thinking about how Covid has stopped us from creating on stage and performing with others. It really hit me hard and I know it hit other creatives as well. She represents us all trying to dance, but we are constrained in a straitjacket. We all have a beautiful mind like a flower that is caged from blossoming during this Covid battle. I always admired Harry Houdini trying to escape the jacket while being chained. We will eventually escape this dark time, and The Ballerina shall dance once more for all to see. She is our emotion.

If a budding artist is considering a move to art full-time and came to you for advice, what would you tell him or her?

Be prepared. Have a solid style and a consistent client flow. Networking and connections are the basis of being a successful artist in this day and age. It’s good to have a strong social media presence and a good body of work that is consistent. Most artists have another real job that helps along the way. This breaks up the monotony of always being creative to make a buck, which can kill the soul.

I’m excited to see your new gallery space when it’s finished. What are your goals for Happen Space?

I’m so excited as well. Right now, I’m super happy to have a huge studio to create any size art I want to. I’m excited to host clients and friends big time. We have lots of cool ideas – gallery openings, art classes, events, dance classes, art sales, mural consultation, interior creative needs, custom art, custom signage, yoga, furniture building, t-shirts, and much more. I’m open to letting people use it for their needs as well. We have a master carpenter in our space, as well as an architect and a merchandise designer. So there will be lots happening at HAPPEN SPACE.

What is your favorite part about creating outdoor murals? 

I love it. Being outside creating murals is probably the greatest thing I could ever do on this planet. The people, energy, sounds, comments, laughs, and viewers. Nothing, I mean NOTHING, beats street art if you want to be noticed. Your work can be seen by tons of people day after day, and you can meet lots of people. Also, you can share your thoughts and ideas with the world. Street credit is big if you want to get in the game and be an outdoor artist. Get up and get out. Speak your mind. Be heard.

You are seriously one busy guy! I know you are also the owner of Mark Squad LLC. What is Mark Squad?

Haha! I have to agree with you. People say they never see me sitting down. Life is too short. Maker Squad LLC is my company that specializes in residential and commercial painting. We mainly do high-end work in homes and businesses within the Chicago area. We also have a carpenter and an architect on staff. I have other work trades on hand as well to fit our clients’ needs including a plumber, electrician, flooring, windows, roofing, and more. We are makers of different types from different places, and we all make things happen creatively while working together

Do you find time to relax?

I never make time to relax, but I should. I play music and write lyrics to relax. It’s go time right now in my career and I don’t want to ever stop. I go out once in a while and enjoy a good dinner with my wife. Almost everything I do is based on the next big thing. My vacation is going out of state to paint a mural. This mentality is why I’ve been able to get noticed in Chicago. Instead of coming home from work and chilling out, I go to my studio. I create more art and then take it out on the streets late at night for all to see. I guess for me relaxing is creating. I do love the outdoors most, and I would have to say I’m a bit of an adrenaline guy (skydiving, climbing, motorcycles, hot rods, and rock n’ roll.

What’s your game plan for the rest of the year?

I have several art projects lined up. I’m painting with Uptown Chamber doing some columns for the CTA. I’m painting a mural in the Dayton, Florida area. I have a whole business front to paint and design in Chicago. I have a lot of canvas commissions starting to back up, so I will probably pull some all-nighters at the studio. I’m about to start recording an album with my brother. And, between that, we are painting a condo or two every week. Life is great, so there is no time to waste when you can be creating and working to help yourself and others along the way.

I don’t know about you, but I need a nap after reading this. How does this guy do it all and do it so well? It goes to show what a driven creative he is.

Get in touch

If you haven’t already, check out Rodney’s Instagram account because it’s so motivating! And, have you seen his website? It’s smoking (for real).

Upcoming art show

Rodney is part of a show where you can view his work AND buy it. The Rostrum 312 Art Exhibition will be held on June 4th from 6pm-10pm at Roosevelt Collection Shops at 150 W. Roosevelt Road. Keep on keeping on, Hot Rod!

Photo courtesy Rodney Duran

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