Former LA Galaxy player Charlie Rugg has found his passion in painting and advocating for mental health.
The LA Galaxy collaborated with Rugg on The Shape of One Tee, available now at the LA Galaxy Team Store. Read below to learn about his love for art and mental health advocacy, and how the two combined with his soccer history and appreciation of the Galaxy's legacy to inspire The Shape of One Tee collaboration.
When and how did you get into art?
“I’ve always had this kind of artistic identity. Ever since early school days. I was the kid who could draw, and I was also the athlete in middle school. So, I’ve always had this artistic identify. And, throughout the years, I kept in touch with it and continued to draw and paint throughout my soccer playing days, and it’s really just continued to be a part of myself as I’ve had other ventures, other careers. I learned to paint in high school. Just in a general art class. But, for the most part, I’m a self-taught artist, which, I think is an interesting, interesting piece to it.”
Did you grow up in an environment that fostered that creativity, or was that something you had to seek out for yourself?
“My family is pretty creative. My mom, she’s an architect, but she draws. And she takes pictures and stuff like that. My dad has, in retirement, become a big bird photographer. Him and his wife. So, I definitely grew up in an environment that was supportive of the arts and being creative. It’s just kind of something I had to do. And has always felt right for me. I enjoy doing it. It’s just something that felt right for me, felt true to me. And, then throughout the years, I obviously didn’t go to school for it, but there’s a lot of places that you can get information these days. I think just looking at other people’s work online and Instagram, you kind of pick and choose the methods and try to kind of reverse engineer their technique.”
Were you able to paint and sketch much when you were playing competitively?
“I had plenty of time to work on stuff when I was playing. The thing is, I didn’t really lean into my artistic self when I was playing soccer. Which is something that I wish I did, and is something that’s important for me to pass on to younger players. You have all these parts of yourself. You have who you are with your friends. You have who you are with your family. Other things that you’re good at. And, suppressing those things or not making the most of them is also going to take away from your athletic self, too. I encourage people, I encourage young players to find other things that interest them and really go for those things. It’s really going to make you a better player and allow you to enjoy your time and your life better.”
When you’re painting, how does that make you feel?
“When I’m painting, it’s my happy place. There’s no other place that I feel so at home and just at peace. Even the times that I don’t really feel creative, I don’t feel like I want to paint, if you just go and do it, I end up sitting there and I’m listening to music or a podcast, and I’m just painting, I look around, and I’m like, this is amazing. For showing up to work and it being this awesome and being able to do something you love, it’s perfect. And I want everybody to experience that feeling at some point.”
What is the meaning behind the Shape of One Tee?
“The first professional soccer game that I went to was the LA Galaxy versus the New England Revolution in Gillette Stadium. I think that kind of first gave me this idea. This sense of this mythical, mystical team off on the west coast. And that has always stayed with me. I think that speaks to the Galaxy’s identity in Major League Soccer and in the U.S. as just one of those legendary teams that everybody knows. They have this identity. It’s not made up of a few successful seasons, or a few players who stand out that everyone knows. It's a collection of moments and relationships that amount to more than the sum of its parts. That's what "The Shape of One" means to me and that's why the Galaxy identity and this shirt are so special to me.”
You place a special importance on Mental Health and the human emotion, mentality, etc. How does your work embody this, and why is this important for you to tap into?
“Just like the Galaxy identity is a collection of moments and people and parts, we’re individually a collection of experiences and moments. And a collection of identity that is not one thing. And, I think the important thing for me is, if you can tap into those things and channel those things that feel like you, that feel like a core piece of you, for me, that’s all I’m trying to do in my work. And, I think that’s one of the most important parts of leading a happy life. So, for me, that’s an important piece of mental health… finding yourself and channeling that out into the world.”
Tell us a little bit about what you choose to paint, and what the feeling is that you’re trying to portray and show people through your artwork.
“So, this piece behind me is called ‘From The Source, Bro,’ and I think it’s a perfect one for what we’re talking about. I’m always just trying to do things that feel like they come directly from me. I’m always just trying to do things that come from my core, and who I am. And not make things that are for other people or anything that is influenced too much by trying to be like someone else, or for someone else. And, again, I think that’s so important to my happiness and everyone’s happiness. Is finding ways to channel yourself. This piece, it feels like this kid is tapped into some place and that feels like the source that I’m talking about. That internal source that is so uniquely you, that nobody else can connect with it. But it’s the most important thing to put out into the world I think.”
How important is it to be uniquely you, and someone connecting your work to you and your vision, but also having their own take on it, and being able to, inevitably, connect to other people?
“That’s super important to me, too. You’ll see in the museum, all the pieces have some level of ambiguity, and that’s intentional. Not only does it feel like I’m just drawn to images like that, but I love the idea of people making their own meaning of whatever image it is, or whatever the piece is. And that’s kind of the theme of ‘And also…’ which is the show in the museum. A big part of it is people having different perspectives and making their own meaning. And coming up with various ways of defining the world. It’s going to be unique to each person. It shouldn’t be my own view of what it is. So, I like to leave some kind of openness to interpretation to all my work.”
What is some advice you’d give to a young soccer player about mental health?
“For young soccer players, just staying in touch with why you’re doing it. Why are you so investing in this career? Why are you here? And, again, staying in touch with the parts of yourself that feel true to you, and it’s really all just about joy. Whatever is bringing you joy and happiness. If you forget that you’re playing soccer for the joy of it, then it’s not going to work out for you. That doesn’t change in retirement. That doesn’t change after you stop playing. It’s just a part of life. And you can use a soccer career for kind of a platform to start learning that. Because, you’re playing soccer because you enjoy it. And that’s really the key piece of it that young players need to remember. I mentored this kid, who, he was like, one of the first things he said to me was, ‘I want to play professionally so I can support my family.’ In my mind, I’m like, that’s all backwards. That’s going to put the pressure on you. That’s not going to get you to where you want to do. And, yeah, that works out for some people, but it can’t be the driving force of you wanting to play soccer or be a professional soccer player. It’s too turbulent of a career and a life to put that much weight on yourself. Especially that young. It all has to be about what you want to do with your life and how you want to be experiencing your life.”