Artist Julian Catania created his Pichuquito character several years ago at El Segundo High School—and has since grown it into a local icon.
By Maureen Kingsley
You may have encountered Julian Catania and his art at El Segundo ArtWalk in 2019 or 2021, and maybe you noticed his work adorning the walls of Blue Butterfly Coffee Company last summer. You definitely can’t miss the new white-and-black mural featuring Julian’s signature character, Pichuquito, the next time you drive through the El Segundo 5-Minute Express Carwash on PCH. The artist may even pour you a latte at Starbucks on Grand Avenue here in town on the weekends, when he’s working his part-time job as a barista. Julian and his distinctive graffiti-style artworks have become part of the fabric of El Segundo over the years, since he first conceived of his Pichuquito character as a student at El Segundo High School roughly a decade ago.
“I have always been creating, since I was a little kid,” says Julian, who was born in Orange County, lived for eight years in Argentina, then spent his remaining school years in El Segundo. “I built with Legos, I made videos, I built with wood. My parents gave me the freedom to do what I wanted.” Julian’s grandfather in Argentina supported his grandson’s creativity also, spending mornings drawing and painting with Julian and engaging him in artistic discussions. “He gave me the nickname ‘El Pichuquito del Abuelito,’” Julian shares, and that identity later played a role in the creation of the Pichuquito character that is now central to Julian’s work.
“Pichuquito is the face of my art,” says Julian of the character with the curly black hair, tidy little mustache, and neutral facial expression. “I grew up watching other artists with their own unique tags and logos…this character is mine. He is iconic. That’s the identity I like to have for myself, too: unique and identifiable.”
Over the years, Pichuquito has shown up in all sorts of places, delighting his loyal fans and those just discovering him for the first time: on stickers, shoes, flower pots, furniture, photographs, skateboard decks, and more. In addition to the new mural at El Segundo 5-Minute Express Carwash, Julian’s work—typically created with paint, spray paint, acrylics, markers, paint markers, and Sharpies—has appeared at Aloft hotel in El Segundo, adding a whimsical touch to the space. Julian has also collaborated artistically with the LA Galaxy professional soccer team and Blackriver pro fingerboards. “I’m just knocking on people’s doors and seeing where I can go,” he says of his outreach. He plans to develop partnerships with shoe and clothing companies, and he looks forward to a solo art show at some point. “I have lots of goals for myself, and I have them all written down,” Julian explains.
A full-time student at Cal State Long Beach in addition to his artistic endeavors and part-time employment, Julian is pursuing a degree in Kinesiology K-12 Physical Education and Adaptive Physical Education, inspired in part by supportive educators he encountered as a student in El Segundo. One of those educators was a Center Street School aide named Ms. Lupita. She helped Julian learn English, increase his self-confidence, and make friends. “I enjoy working with adults and kids,” Julian says. “I was helped out by a teacher, and I want to help other people, too.
“Ms. Lupita still supports me even now, as an artist, following me on social media and buying my work,” he continues. “One day I will be a PE teacher and an artist. I’ll be both,” Julian adds. “I believe in myself and my abilities.”
Visit Julian online, and follow him on Instagram and Tiktok @pichuquito_.
This story appears in the May 2022 issue of The El Segundo Scene.