At 8 years old, Gabriel Frias realized he had a talent for creating art. Even though he was young, Gabriel immediately began trying to figure out how to make a career and a living off of his gift. He also kept learning about his craft, discovering new techniques in his freshman year of high school that would help him strengthen his skills. “I already knew how to draw but I found out that what I was missing was experience,” Gabriel explains. The teachers took notice of his ability to draw and helped him enter art contests, in which he would always place in the top three.
At this point, Gabriel was about 15 years old and he remembers his parents working at the flea market. “I saw a guy there who was airbrushing and I told my dad that I wanted to do the same. He told me to go find out where we could get the airbrush. I went and asked the guy, and back then nobody wanted to share any kind of information about airbrushing, so he never told me,” recalls Gabriel. Seeing him succeed still inspired the young Gabriel, as he witnessed the man getting tons of clients at his booth. He dreamed of having an airbrushing booth of his own at the flea market next to his parents’ booth. “In September of 1992, my dad had found one but it was a plastic airbrush with an air tank,” explains Gabriel. He would finally find out where to buy an airbrush gun at his high school, of all places. “The guy from school used to airbrush in his garage and he recommended that I go to an art store. I came back home and told my dad about it and we went to go buy one. At the time I didn’t know the business and I ended up buying a one-action airbrush which didn’t give me control over the paint. We didn’t have money to buy another one, so I just started painting with it.” Gabriel practiced his airbrushing on a big roll of white paper.
“Back then white t-shirts with single color outlines were very popular sellers, such as the Virgin Mary and the Smile Now Cry Later designs,” Gabriel says. “I bought eight of them for two dollars each and I filled them in with color using my airbrush. We put them in plastic bags and my parents took them to sell at the flea market for 10 dollars and they sold fast!” His dad called him and gave him the news; his dad then bought twenty and brought them back and Gabriel airbrushed them all so they could sell them the next day. “It became our little business and I used to airbrush them by the dozens,” says a proud Gabriel. Sales started dropping once customers requested more custom work, so his next task was to figure out how he would be able to airbrush at the flea market. “There was no electricity there, so I didn’t know how I was going to do it. I ended up meeting a guy named Manny, who sold airbrushing supplies and he told me about using a CO2 tank to airbrush.” He loaned his CO2 tank to Gabriel until he had money to buy his own. “I started airbrushing at the swap meet on January 9, 1993. I made over $1,000 the first weekend and I ended up doing that for 14 years.”
After such time passed, he knew that it was time to learn something new. “My friend, Gerald Mendez, started working for a company called ODM doing design work on the computer for their clothing lines. I really look up to Gerald and I wanted to learn how to do that as well,” Gabriel explains. He started doing digital airbrushing in 2000 and started attending Cal State Long Beach. After a while, he decided to get into the T-shirt business. “There wasn’t much competition in those times for T-shirts,” Gabriel says. His company was called Deep Blue Graphix and his clothing line could be found in stores all over the states. “My family helped me out and it became a family business. Work has slowed down some, but the family business continues on for the last twelve years.”
You can see more of Gabriel’s work at DeepBlueGraphix.com, IG@DeepBlueGraphix, Facebook.com/GabrielFriasDBG or you can contact him at FriasGabriel@sbcglobal.net or at his cell phone at (323) 479-8228.