Staying Bright-Eyed, Los Angeles Artist Tony Camaro Puts Youth First

"All I care about is humans and art."

 

Sign Up For Our Daily Newsletter

By clicking submit, you agree to our <a rel="noreferrer" href="http://observermedia.com/terms">terms of service</a> and acknowledge we may use your information to send you emails, product samples, and promotions on this website and other properties. You can opt out anytime.

See all of our newsletters
Tony Camaro. Andres Castillo

Tony Camaro paints, but he isn’t bound to one medium or artistic practice. The Los Angeles artist has released clothing collections and designed utilitarian objects like lunch boxes and bike tool bags. He draws and curates atmospheric playlists on YNOT Radio. He produces video campaigns for brands like Holiday and even designed an incense called “BEAUTIFUL DAYS,” complete with a promotional trailer for a fake movie.

In April, Camaro collaborated with clothing company Madewell to design a capsule collection of t-shirts, peppered with his cartoonish imagery of flowers, fish, cowboy boots and guitars. Inspired by the spring “superbloom” of poppies in Southern California, he also designed t-shirts, wine bottle labels, ceramic plates and menus for Great White, a restaurant group based in Los Angeles.

Camaro’s youthful, creative energy is exemplified in these varying forms of expression. He paints and draws in a relatively simple style—there’s lots of color-blocking and clean lines, cartoon faces and Pop-art influences with familiar imagery like Wonder Bread and Snoopy. He operates from an enthusiastic and playful standpoint—forever feeling like a kid in a grown-up body.

“When they told me never let the child in you go, I really listened, so it’s here,” he told Observer, “I look at things with very bright eyes.”

A colorful painting hanging over a muted taupe sideboard with decor objects
An example of one of Tony Camaro’s colorful pieces. Courtesy Tony Camaro

This attitude penetrates Camaro’s art. His artistic gestures tend toward the childlike and approachable, though he’s twenty-eight. Born and raised on the east side of the San Fernando Valley, he says his work is to this day deeply influenced by his childhood in Los Angeles. Specifically, the art and music culture, skating, biking and nights of listening to KCRW, the radio station out of Santa Monica College. Camaro is quick to describe nostalgic images from his teenage years: the twinkly lights in friends’ backyards, driving up in the hills to watch the sunset, getting Chipotle.

He shares relatable teenage experiences that happened to take place in a wildly unique city. Unlike the way many view Los Angeles as a whole, Camaro explained, he “never looked at the Valley as superficial. I loved that every single person knew one another at every outing, every kickback, every party.”

The Valley still feels almost suburban even as it exists in the midst of one of the biggest cities in the U.S. Full of grid-like streets, backyards and pools, it has a mixed reputation: teased for being too residential and beloved for its homey, familiar feel. Not to belabor the point, but Camaro found value and inspiration in the small-town energy of the Valley and holds those memories of his childhood close.

He studied at the San Francisco Art Institute, but he left in 2016, after his junior year, to return to Los Angeles. Since then, his output has only grown in range and complexity. He has an upcoming collaboration with New York fashion brand Le PÈRE, slotted to be released in February. So far, only a few images are available, mostly displaying Camaro’s colorful graphic design on a cycling jersey, modeled on Anwar Hadid.

“They’ve integrated my designs into their clothing in a really interesting and dynamic way that isn’t as simple as plopping an illustration on a t-shirt,” he said, “I love incorporating my artwork into fashion to a higher degree than just the streetwear stuff.”

Between the Madewell and Great White releases and the coming Le PÈRE collab, Camaro has racked up a lot of experience working with others to see his visions come to life. For larger projects, like the incense movie trailer, he relies on production help from Max Junk, the best friend he’s known since middle school. Junk described seeing Camaro “wide-eyed” when they first discovered the art and fashion world on Fairfax Avenue in Hollywood in the early 2010s. He doodled, often on napkins, wherever they went.

“I think Tony’s really good in that sense, because he knows what he wants and he has big ideas, and jumping in to help him achieve those ideas is always a blast.” Junk said, “I think just knowing him for so long… I don’t want to say I understand how his brain works, but I have an idea.”

Despite moving around California, Camaro has never let go of the Valley mindset of neighborhood and community—both of which inform his sense of place in the art world.

A painting of line-drawn flowers over strips of color set on the floor and leaning against a case of books
A floral painting by Tony Camaro. Courtesy Tony Camaro

He’s passionate about community involvement and particularly youth enrichment. This month, he’s releasing a coloring book with thirty-two illustrations in collaboration with the coffee shop and art space Community Goods. One hundred percent of the proceeds will go to Heart of Los Angeles (HOLA), a nonprofit that administers after-school programs for underserved Los Angeles youth.

“I think it’s so important to let kids know that there are safe spaces for them,” Camaro said. “We need to constantly uplift them and let them know that anything is possible. I want kids to know that they’re not alone in the pursuit for peace and positivity and self-love.”

I asked the Los Angeles artist, who plans to release a new body of work in the coming year, what success looks like to him. “I don’t even have AC in my art studio, so success to me is getting that,” he laughed.

But upon reflection, Camaro elaborated: “Success to me is working to the point where I’m able to support this art career and not have to think about anything other than community stuff and amazing design and art. That’s all I care about; all I care about is humans and art.”

Staying Bright-Eyed, Los Angeles Artist Tony Camaro Puts Youth First