Artist's confidence gives business character

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Jesus said anyone who had faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain.

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With his brother Derrick Sinquefield (right), New York native Benito Diaz came to Augusta and founded Mustard Seed Comics to showcase his art.   ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/STAFF
ZACH BOYDEN-HOLMES/STAFF
With his brother Derrick Sinquefield (right), New York native Benito Diaz came to Augusta and founded Mustard Seed Comics to showcase his art.

Benito Diaz founded his art company, Mustard Seed Comics, on such faith, in God and in himself.

The name seemed appropriate, he said.

"It's because I came here with $2,500 and faith," he said.

Diaz grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he worked a variety of artistic jobs, including painting murals, designing T-shirt logos and staging merchandise for department stores. None of those fulfilled his dream to own his own business.

He found it difficult to stand out in a city filled with talent, and because he often found himself working several jobs at once to survive, there never seemed to be enough time to devote to a building a business.

In 2002, Diaz moved to Augusta with his brother, Derrick Sinquefield, and $2,500 in his pocket.

"I never could seem to get my business off the ground in New York, because there's so much to do," he said. "It's like a rat race there. Over here I was able to have the time and the space to be able to do it."

He and Sinquefield, who assists Diaz with coloring, found work doing promotions for a club, and at first they lived at the club until they could get on their feet and find better lodgings.

Diaz said that after disagreements with the club's owner, he and his brother walked out and quickly found themselves homeless.

Still chasing his dreams, Diaz sold a few pieces of artwork through a street vendor and moved into a motel.

Through the years, he took a variety of freelance art jobs, including creating tattoo art (but not tattooing), drawing caricatures at a flea market and designing Web sites, until he saved enough to open a studio.

The front room of the two-room studio on Wrightsboro Road is decorated with Diaz's work: caricatures of Sade, Elvis Presley and Shakira; paintings of his fiancee, Sonja Stevenson, and President Obama; and some still-lifes.

A small rack containing his six published American manga graphic novels stands in a corner of his sparsely furnished workroom, which is painted bright blue. A plasma ball and a moving picture of a fish tank lend a quirky feel. This is where he now does his art.

His primary interest is the books, which are distributed through Baker and Taylor. They will be represented at 11 shows in the U.S. and abroad this year.

He is now working on an animated cartoon called Grandma Trigger , which features a vigilante grandmother taking on the likes of He-Man and Spider-Man.

For now, the Mustard Seed is open to clients, but Diaz's dream is to open the studio for artists in all genres to gather, hang out, learn from one another and work together.

"Our goal is to really kind of fuse all the different art styles that are out there," he said. "I just kind of want to bring it all together."

Learn more online

Check out samples of local artist Benito Diaz's work at www.mustardseedcomics.com.


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