Making It: Dustin Ortiz

Dustin Ortiz grew up in Leucadia, California, surrounded by the creative melting pot of the surf and skateboard communities. Honing his skills under the tutiledge of Gary Benzel from Green Lady, Dustin was persuaded to go and work for a still young brand, called Nixon. Working with a talented design team and with founders directly, he was able to learn a lot about keeping a brands point of view clear and not settling. From there, Dustin has continued to design, create, and develop his skills as an all-around artist. He also has an upcoming art show in Encinitas on August 31, 2012 at Said Space!

When did you first think you could make it as a full time artist? Was there a defining moment where you said, “this is the path I want to take”?

I have an amazing family who always supported me and encouraged me to pursue a creative path. So I think fairly early on I knew I wanted to work on the creative side of things somehow. I didn’t really know where I would end up but I was really excited to make and create. In school, I was constantly exploring all the art and craft classes that were available. And outside of school, I was constantly painting and doodling and was able to be involved on some fun projects and talk with a ton of older ones who were in some sort of creative fields.

By the time high school came along, I realized I wasn’t really good at much else so I started to put all my eggs in the art basket. I took a screen printing class at night through some adult education program in about 9th grade and then got really into graphic design. I met some more really talented people who told me about that path which seemed really interesting. So from there I started dabbling in design, but still putting painting as my focus. That’s when my brain decided to follow to different courses. One is design and the other in fine art.

So fast forward 12 years later and I don’t really consider myself a full time artist because I still have to deal with opinions and guidelines. To me, being a full time artist is having a large studio and being able to make whatever he or she wants to. But for me, to have 2 full time jobs, one as a designer and other as an “artist” isn’t too bad. One day I would love to just work on my art and no design projects but I don’t think I could ever give up the design side of my brain.

As an artist, what characteristics do you feel help you the most to be creative? I mean, not everyone can make a living off their art. Do you feel you possess some sort of built in characteristics that have allow you to be creative? Or are they skills that you learned or picked up on that you have been able to develop over time?

I 100% love creating things. Whether money was involved or not, I would still be doing what I’m doing today and I think that’s really important. Also to be open minded and willing to learn is huge.

There are a lot of artist who are very set in there own ways and refuse to bend their point of view and I think it’s amazing that they’ve been able to make it like that. But I’ve seen a lot of people fail trying to go down that path…very talented people but nobody enjoys working with them.

I worked for free for years and years but in that time period I worked with incredible people and was able to be apart of so many fun projects. It was great. I was so hyped just to make something. Whether it was a wacky beach mural in someones bathroom or a sweet little catalog for a brand or a bunch of t-shirt graphics, it was just fun to start and finish projects. I still work on a ton of projects for free and those projects are always fun and end up paying out in the end.

I read something years ago about the three F’s. Fame, Fun and Fortune. A project should at least have 2 of those qualities. If there is just fortune, but its not fun and you’ll get no fame out of it, don’t bother. If its just game but no fun or fortune, don’t bother. If It is fun, and you might get some fame out of it, then that seems worth it. It’s not a motto that I have hanging in my studio or anything but I thought it was a great little concept. Just make sure your having fun I guess, don’t do it for just fame or fortune.

What’s your overall goal with your art? Is there a underlying message or common thread that you try to add into all of your work?

My art is honestly is my therapy. It’s something I need to do otherwise my brain would go nuts. The themes of my paintings are usually based of nature and traveling. I always tell people I paint landscapes. I want people to be able to look into one of my paintings and picture themselves somewhere or create a fantastical story.

With my design work, I just want to make things look good on the eyes. Everyone deserves to own awesome things, so to work on products that are attainable and look great is my end goal.


What mediums do you work in? Any you prefer the most? Any that you despise?

I’m kind of all over the place. I like acrylic because it dries fast and allows me to do layers and layers of paint all in a short period of time. But I love pens, pencils, inks, spray paints, woods, papers, varnishes and glues as well. I wish I had a wood shop, it would be great to work on larger pieces.

I just bought a bead loom so thats been pretty fun. Making weird beaded patterns. Haha, not sure what i’m going to do with that. I would love to start working with gem stones and metals. I’m in a jewelry phase right now I guess.

I don’t really despise any medium. I don’t love staring at a computer screen for hours but sometimes you have to do what you have to do.

Any particular work that you are most proud of?

Currently I’m working on a fun skateboard project with some friends of mine. We started a company called GoldCoast a couple years ago and its been really fun. We make boards of all sizes, so anything from little mini cruisers to longboards to fun transition boards that you can travel with. Its been great because it’s so easy for people to hate that side of skateboarding but for us we just wanted to make a product that looks like nothing else in this category. So its been a fun challenge to get people to change their opinion on something they normally would hate. Skateboarding is a blast and if I can design and create one that some kid in the Midwest isn’t afraid to get on and that skateboard inspires him to really get into skateboarding and be exposed to incredible free thinkers, artist and musicians that would be amazing.

I don’t know if I would say its what I’m most proud of but I’ve been hyped to work on it lately.

I was able to work for Nixon back when it was a small company and that was amazing to really be apart of the growth there. Everyone involved with them is extremely talented and I will always cherish being there back then.

Oh, I still get hyped to know that Taylor Steele and Dustin Humphrey have paintings hung up in their houses.

It seems like some of artists have a hard time translating their art into business. What are some of the most important things you have learned to translate your art into making a living?

At the end of the day it is a business. As much as I hate that side of things and i feel weird even saying, it’s the truth. It’s not all fun and games. It takes lots of hard work and you need to be able to work with others. If people don’t like you they probably won’t like your work.

What’s next for Dustin Ortiz?

I’m a part of a sweet art show this week. Friday, August 31st in Downtown Encinitas at a new gallery called the Said Space. That should be fun then I’m off to New York the day after. That’s where my heads at right now. As far as the future future who knows…work on as much as possible with awesome people and travel a bunch.

For more of Dustin’s work, check out his website at

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