Michelle Ruby, aka Mr. B Baby, uses elements of her heritage as an inspiration for her striking and lively artwork. By combining vibrant colors with traditional imagery, Michelle is able to uplift her audience and intrigue her viewers. The artist aims to bring happiness and joy to her collectors and community, while also having stronger messages intertwined, all of which are open to the viewer’s interpretation.
Our interview with Michelle Ruby (aka Mr. B Baby) dives into her ambition, dreams of an amusement park, and wise words for pushing through self-doubt.
Can you share a little about your background and how you first heard of Thinkspace?
I’m a muralist, and artist, originally from Chula Vista, CA. I was fortunate to grow up in a border town where there was rich culture around me. Tijuana was not a far drive, and so I spent a lot of my youth there, where I was inspired by the artisans and craftsman hustling their work on the streets.
I was drawn to the bright, vivid colors, which have become a huge part of the artwork I’m creating today.
The artwork I create has a whimsical twist to folk art and children’s books while combining cultural elements.
I’ve always wanted to create work everyone can relate to and see themselves in. The work I create has been largely inspired by my daughter and creating positive work for the youth that touches on mental health and other taboo issues.
When I first moved to LA about 7 years ago, I began my art journey and have been fortunate to have still be able to be riding that wave. I discovered Thinkspace early on, as they always showcased artists that were inspiring, so it was a huge honor to be asked to do this show with them.
What does a day in the studio look like for you? How do you structure your days?
I wish I could say I had more structure, but I really just try to create every day; some days work better for me than others, but the one constant is that I will create something every day. From murals to mock-ups for those murals, to canvas work, toy design, or even experimenting with other mediums. I’ve always found my peace of through creating.
Do you have any rituals that help you tap into a creative flow?
One thing that’s really helped me create concepts and stay focused is running. I typically start my mornings with a run, which is where I run through most of my ideas in my head. It’s my quiet time to think where there’s no pressure of actually creating, just thoughts and figuring out how to transform those thoughts into tangible creations.
You’re highly motivated and determined to follow through on your ideas, leaving nothing on the table. Have you always been this focused? And what is your relationship with burnout?
It feels like in this life, I’ve lived many lives.
I was definitely not always like this; I struggled a lot in my youth with crippling depression and anxiety, which led me into a path of addiction but luckily, I’ve learned how to deal with it, and part of what helps me is my artwork. So it’s such a blessing to be able to do this for a living and have others enjoy that vulnerability. It has really been such a great shift in my mentality and my belief that just like the artwork I’m creating, I also have the power to dictate the type of life I live. There’s a lot of responsibility but freedom that comes from that.
Burnout is something I have recently started to experience but stepping away for a day and coming back usually does the trick. I end up missing creating when I step away for too long, but it’s necessary because that helps me create; when I’m super anxious to do so. Honestly, I prefer to stay busy and feel like I have a purpose than sitting around any day.
You’re mother and sister are two of your greatest inspiration. Can you share some of the words of wisdom they have departed on you?
My mother grew up in Puerto Rico. She came from a humble beginning and raised my sister and me. I watched her struggle every day but also watched her persevere. There was no obstacle too big for her. She inspired me to be independent and really instilled the belief in me that anything was possible with hard work and dedication. She created a great life for my sister and me.
My sister and I are both entrepreneurs; we have done what we dreamed about doing since we were little girls. She was always a writer, and I was an artist- seems like a childhood fantasy, but somehow we both made it work, and I owe that to the lessons my mother taught us.
Can you share where Chuco came from, and some of the other figures we see recur in your work?
Chucho is a character my work is known for.
He is a piñata. Piñatas originally were filled with seeds, held over the garden, and broken for the seeds to spread and grow. The idea that through brokenness comes growth was something I connected with and was a huge part of my story. He is my constant reminder that even when the world tries to break you down, growth comes from it. Some things don’t make sense right away, but looking back they all led me here. Even through your hardships, you can get through them and, in turn become stronger.
I have created a range of characters. Maria, who’s inspired by the Maria rag dolls found in Mexico that represent us, my daughter and my inner child.
Chaco, who’s an anxious horse, he’s anxious about everything, and I put him in fun situations where he conquers his anxiety.
There’s more characters, and plan to continue developing more. The next step for me is a children’s book.
What were a few of your favorite children’s books growing up?
Monster mama and Miss spider stand out, but there were so so many great ones. I had many loves. I wish I could list (and remember) them all!
It’s definitely what inspired my little brain to want to create. I even wrote my own as a child and like I mentioned is where I’m trying to take all of this. Essentially I want to create books, toys, and games for my Latino children.
What’s been your most challenging mural? Can you share with us what the experience taught you?
Every mural comes with its challenges. I think the worst ones were when I was starting out, getting paid absolutely nothing and having people who are extremely opinionated (and entitled) tell me how I should do it. Actually had a family tell me how ugly it was the whole way through. Felt very unwelcomed, but that’s life. But in this industry, I have learned that EVERYONE will have an opinion, and at the end of the day, as long as you’re true to yourself and your goal, NONE of that matters.
If you could have any skill or topic downloaded into your brain, what would you want to be able to do/ be an expert at?
Wow, this one’s tough because there’s so much I wanna do, but if I had to pick, I’d wanna have the skills of a builder, construction worker.
I’d like to be self-sufficient in that sense where I can build myself a damn house if I wanted to. Plus, it would be really epic because I’d def build a Chucho-inspired house, then I’d go to the ultimate goal- which for me is to create a theme park. Just gotta get like 123 million dollars to start!
Who would be on the guest list if you could throw a dinner party for five people, dead or alive? What would be on the menu? What would be the icebreaker question?
Menu would 100% be lobster with homemade tortillas and beans. Thinking Puerto Nuevo style, I can eat that any day. I’m bougie with my food, what can I say.
Since we are going in a fantasy world. I would have my younger-self present, just so I could tell her how things turned out okay for us. That’d be number one. Feel like I owe it to her.
And as much as it would be epic to have legends from the past sitting next to me, I feel the power move would be to talk to people currently in the industry that can help elevate me. To be 100% honest, I don’t know who I’d invite. I’d have to do quite a bit of extensive research to find the top players. Haha, the people who may be able to help with my future theme park would be a good start…..
With that being said though, there’s so many legends, so much wisdom, and so many footsteps I’ve followed to get to where I am, and I’m very thankful for it.
So many people to thank for being able to be here today, and I’m truly grateful.