One may argue whether or not being artistic is a natural talent that flows through the family genes or a talent that is achieved through practice. For Gerald Mendez of Chino, California, much of his famous airbrushed artwork was learned. However, his father was an art-loving architectural model-maker and Gerald's own son Oskar is currently attending a renowned art school in Pasadena, California. So the argument may still stand with Gerald's situation, but the fact of the matter is that today he's one of the best airbrushing artists around.

Before moving from his birthplace of Mexico City, Mexico, Gerald was into different types of art, including inks, acrylics and pencils, but it was airbrushing that captivated him and motivated him to learn more about that world. With much of the equipment and literature found behind airbrushing originating in the United States, it was hard for Gerald to first obtain the tools and information needed to get into the technique. At the time, Gerald was a young man who did not speak English too well and did not have the funds to special order airbrushing instruments to Mexico from the U.S.Making do with what was available to him, Gerald made his own airbrush system (a paint blower) with an eye-dropper and refillable pen. This homemade airbrushing tool did the trick, but was not as easy to use as the top-of-the-line tools were. Sometimes artists have to get more creative with their own artistic skills!Gerald has since moved from Mexico to Southern California, where he has made quite a successful life for himself and his family through his artwork. His main priority is his own business known as GM Art and Design Center, where he's an artist for hire for businesses and individuals who need airbrushed artwork for anything from illustrations to T-shirt designs to murals on car hoods.Keeping him busy nowadays is the artwork that he does on Harley motorcycles through GM Bootleg, a custom motorcycle shop (co-owned by his partner Ted Cordts) where bikes are dropped off to get custom paint jobs and graphics.

But most of Gerald's work actually comes by way of Olaes Design Marketing (ODM), one of the largest T-shirt apparel design companies in the U.S. In the late '90s, ODM actually taught Gerald how to bring his manual airbrushing skills into the digital world. They showed him how many of the same aspects of shading and coloring could be applied on certain computer programs. Gerald proved that he was a quick learner and in less than three months, he was up and running, producing his first airbrushed digital illustration on a computer!Most of the artwork that Gerald does today is done through Adobe PhotoShop on a Mac computer. Gerald will digitally airbrush a final illustration and e-mail it to ODM (located in San Diego, California), where the art department finalizes the artwork that will be printed on T-shirts and sold worldwide!As if all of this didn't keep him busy enough, Gerald actually took the time to found the Latin Airbrush Artists Reunion (latinairbrush.com), a group of Latino artists who also choose airbrushing as their main form of artistic expression. Through this group, fellow artists are able to network and communicate ideas, help and referrals. They keep in touch through the website and e-mail, mail and phone, but every year, Gerald will throw an actual reunion where the artists will gather in person, each bringing a unique piece of their own artwork.In the next few years, Gerald's ultimate goals are to get better recognized for his artwork and maybe show his art through galleries nationwide. Becoming more versatile in his customer base wouldn't hurt any, as well! In either case, Gerald cannot deny the success that he has had so far. His artwork can just about be seen at any major mall and those in the lowriding community are probably his biggest fans!