Al Ortiz got in touch with us after seeing Cyrus’ rig in the Compassing promotional material. He had drawn a strikingly similar illustration of a van with a vaulted ceiling years prior, and we were all mesmerized by the similarities. We’re not sure what that means on a cosmic level, but it gave us a good chance to start a conversation about art. Ortiz creates large-scale murals and small comic-style illustrations, and lots of painting in between. Here he shares his varied and unique influences, a little about his process and lots of good words of wisdom to consider when thinking or a life as an artist.
1.) Who are your top three artistic influences?
There’s so many. I find everything influencing me both good and bad, but here’s three favorite visual art influencers:
One major influencer has been the skate and surf graphics I grew up on (Jim Phillips & Rick Griffin!), which are closely aligned to comics and animation, which I’ve always also loved.
A second major influencer is many of the painters out of German Expressionism (Max Beckman, Otto Dix, etc.), but I love so many painters really.
My third favorite, I’m guessing, is stuff like Taqueria menus, signage, and well-worn old walls and buildings. (Stuff with real stories to it.)
2.) Where do you create your art?
I create my art all over the place: On the Subway or bus in my sketchbook, on my couch, at the kitchen table, in my studio, on the walls of buildings, construction trailers, inside stores, bars/clubs and anywhere I can find the time and space to work.
3.) How much time do you typically spend on one piece?
This varies depending on the piece. A mural could take anywhere from two days to two weeks or more depending on size and logistics of set-up, supplies, materials and cleanup. A finished ink drawing could be three to four hours and a comic could take up to several days per page from sketching, writing, penciling and inking. There’s definitely a fine line for me between making something just right and overworking it.
4.) What mediums do you work in?
I work in pencil, pen, brush, ink, and watercolor on smaller work, illustrations, comics, and animations. I sometimes scan and color on the computer for smaller work or to show an idea for a larger piece, but when I go larger I love paint. I’ve worked for years in acrylic, but I love painting with most types of paint: Acrylic, Gouache, Oil, or watercolor. There’s advantages and disadvantages to all of them, but I try to pick the one that suits the job and the style I’ll be using.
5.) Do you have any advice for young artists?
Take any advice with a grain of salt, but I think there’s a few basic truths I believe are sound from my 39 years on earth:
#1 Work super-duty extra heavy, double hard at what you love and find others who are making or doing things that inspire you. It helps to have a supportive, inspiring community of creators.
#2 Be prepared to suffer and not get any recognition/high-fives/awards/money for years and years after working hard on your work. Not everyone will be whisked away by wealthy, supportive clients and handed the security to make their work.
#3 Ask yourself WHY you’re making your art. Don’t make work to please others. (UNLESS they are paying you well, you’re comfortable with the work and you need to eat!)
#4 Expose yourself to as many different art styles and people as you can! Try and find the work that inspired or influenced your heroes, by going deep and looking farther back than the immediate. It will deepen your artistic bag.
~Surviving as an artist advice: Learn carpentry or other practical craft/labor skills if you’re someone who likes working with their hands. Learn graphic design, digital production or art direction if you prefer computers, technology and lighter physical work. Possibly marry wisely and/or find wealthy partners/relationships/ friends that believe in your work and are willing to put up with or even enjoy encouraging a selfish artist. If you’re already wealthy, follow the top advice and share the wealth by supporting artists you believe in and helping to fund amazing projects!
For more from Al Ortiz:
Portfolio site: http://www.krop.com/alortiz/
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