Jeff Soto Takes Halloween Personally
In America we celebrate Halloween. It’s a holiday about celebrating the fall, with the cathartic exercise of dressing up and looking for a scare. The holiday is rooted in the belief that the veil between the world of the living and the dead is thinnest on that night, and each culture has interpreted that in different ways. In Mexico, they celebrate Dia De Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. For DDLM they pay homage to those who have passed on, and send their best wishes during a time when their messages might just be heard.
Illustrator and painter Jeff Soto was approached by Ford Motor Company to help them celebrate DDLM on social media. As far as picking artists goes, Jeff was the perfect fit. Jeff is from Southern California, living in Riverside, where there is a large Mexican Cultural influence so he’s been seeing a marked increase in DDLM celebrations over the last few years. “We had one in Riverside, and I’m very familiar with the imagery,” Jeff says. “I’m really fascinated by it and I enjoy looking at it. I like the meaning behind the holiday. For me it’s a celebration of the life of someone who passed away. I think it’s a really interesting, healthy way to celebrate someone who is no longer with us.” Jeff brought not only those images, but also the experience of positive reflection into the work he did for Ford.
First, Ford knew they had picked the right guy, so they didn’t start him off with heavy directions. Instead, they let him fly free, which is not something that large companies tend to do very often. “I was just lucky that they had a lot of trust in what I was doing,” Jeff says. “They’d seen my work before and they knew what they were getting into. They didn’t say anything; they just totally left it to me.” Jeff’s familiarity with the iconography, along with the culture he lives in, allowed him the expertise to fly untethered, and Ford let him roll with it. “They gave me pretty much free reign to create. They had a lot of trust in what I was going to do.” That trust allowed Jeff to dig in and express himself and his own interaction with the holiday.
While working, Jeff tapped into his experience and injected it into the piece. Specifically he thought about his late grandfather who had supported so much of his work. “I’ve have a Grandpa Barney who passed away a couple years ago,” Jeff says. “He was a big supporter of my artwork. He was a really cool guy. I always consider what he would think.”
Halloween can have a different meaning for everyone, whether it’s a time to get a little loose and eat some candy, or reach out across the worlds to remember those you love. However one celebrates the holiday it can be restorative, strengthening, and pleasurable. Jeff was lucky enough to filter his contemplation into his work with Ford, and we all to to see the results.