A passion for storytelling, whether written, drawn or filmed, has destined Nelson L. Cruz ( born 1954 ) for a life in the field of communications. A talent for finding the unique, interesting or funny in the most mundane of situations has given him a wealth of inspiration for works of art and writing.
His early education with the Italian priests of Don Bosco and the engineering-oriented curriculum of the school would have stifled anybody’s creativity but it produced the opposite effect in Nelson. In fact, knowing how things functioned gave him the impetus to find out how they can be made to work better or at least, look better. He kept bugging his teachers if he can do variations of his assigned projects so that they applied the same principles but looked different than anybody else’s.
In the 70s, Nelson started his college education at the University of the Philippines, Pre-Med, at the behest of his parents. Although a career in science was interesting, what occupied his mind more was how to present his anatomy plates in the most attractive manner possible. Thus, while his classmates presented stick drawings of the insides of frogs and cats, Nelson did pop-ups, fold-outs and 3-dimensional renditions of animal parts prompting a professor to say that his being a doctor meant wasting a God-given talent. That epiphany was all Nelson needed to see a future in the visual arts.
While at the UP, Nelson also applied his visual skills to the raging political scene. The university’s walls became his gallery and mimeograph machines his art form. When Martial Law was declared, he realized that he had quite a few fans in the military who figured that an enforced vacation in detention camps would provide a respite for this budding artist’s restless imagination. Instead, it sealed his determination that art was his future.
Upon his release, he embarked on a quest to be the best advertising student ever, enrolling simultaneously in Fine Arts: Advertising at the University of the East and Mass Communication at the Maryknoll College. As luck would have it, in 1980, Nelson was hired by J. Walter Thompson before he could finish his studies. As a visualizer, he applied his skills to storyboards and print ads, trying his best to make them look better and more interesting. He moved on to Lintas Worldwide in 1985 where he became Associate Creative Director. His multitude of accounts include laundry soaps, beauty products, medicines, milk, beer, automobiles and more.
In an interesting turn of events, upon returning from a training stint in Thailand, he passed through Malaysia and was interviewed by an agency looking for an art-based Creative Director. Malaysia is a multi-racial nation whose 3 major races did not understand the others’ languages. It was premised that a visual approach was acceptable to everyone and so Nelson was hired by Melewar-Zecha Integrated Communications in 1990. He handled the agency’s biggest accounts, Malaysia Airlines and the Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board. These accounts exposed him to an international market further honing his visual communications expertise.
In 1995, he moved on to Jakarta, Indonesia to establish a sister office called IMC or Integrated Marketing Communications Bhd. Those were interesting times but political unrest in Indonesia proved too dangerous an environment to be raising a family in so Nelson moved back to Manila in 1997 as Creative Director of Bozell Worldwide, which eventually became Foote, Cone and Belding. He handled various accounts which included personal products, food, travel, telecommunications among others.
In 2002, Nelson shifted his interests to the production industry and became a TV Commercial Director. He founded ROLL!, a production house which also provided creative services. He continued his foray into creative entrepreneurship to this day.
Today, Nelson teaches Advertising Design at the University of the Philippines College of Fine Arts, department of Visual Communications. Surrounded by the immense talents of his fellow faculty and the emerging new artists in his classes, Nelson could not help but reignite his first love for painting.
After decades of doing art for commerce, Nelson can now indulge in his own personal art. His years of working abroad redefined for him what makes one truly Filipino. He now focuses his attention on the quirks and characteristics that make our country one big interesting, funny, lovable mess. Nelson Cruz has now come home to paint his life.