Friday, April 16, 2010

ESPVisuals Interview with Nathan Ota

Proud to bring you an interview with Nathan Ota

Tell us a little about yourself and for how long have you been an artist?

I was born and raised in Los Angeles. My mother was an artist so I'm guessing I got that mostly from her. I don't think I would be doing what I'm doing right now if it wasn't for the full support of my parents. I have always drawn ever since I can remember, thats all I wanted to do. I started with copying everything I could get my hands on from my brother's comic books to old punk rock flyers. In Junior High School, I was exposed to Graffiti Art and that was it, I was hooked. I don't think my passion for the traditional arts came quickly, it wasn't until I got to college that I really started to get inspired by the masters.

Your work is extremely colorful and vibrant, what inspires you to produce this kind of work and what techniques, mediums etc. do you use to achieve this?

I think as far as my paintings, it's all color theory, and design. I sincerely feel that without the knowledge of color theory, light logic and composition, painting can be really difficult. It's hard to pinpoint what inspires me to paint. I think it is everything from my daily experiences to my teaching experiences and my students. If that all fails, I love to look at art, that one never fails! I paint with Acrylics on wood panels, I prefer Acrylics for its fast drying tendencies and I really don't use any mediums with my paints, just water to thin them out. As far as my paints, I like to work from dark to light and from background to foreground. I like to keep things very simple with my palette, about 6 colors plus black.

What are your most memorable and exciting experiences during your life as an artist?

I have a few, my first art gig was sort of being a set designer doing graffiti art for Michael Jackson's Video, "The Way You Make Me Feel". I remember feeling real important that my name was on the list to go see them shoot the video. I also got to do some CD covers for Henry Rollins of Black Flag when I was in college. It was so exciting to see my work in the record stores. Once I got out of school and in the real world, I got my first Illustration job for a Magazine called Movieline. I couldn't wait till the issue came out and see my Illustration on the magazine racks! All 2x3 inches of it! I was so proud of myself! After 10 years of doing Commercial Illustration, I started teaching at Santa Monica College and Otis College of Art and Design and pretty much cut my freelance work in half and put more emphasis on teaching. It was a hard transition but a choice I made but after seeing my students grow to much bigger and better things, they all inspired me to get back and really continue what I left behind. This time I made a full commitment and went all in and the galleries and jobs started calling. The rest is history. I have no regrets, everything leads to something and it all happens for a reason. For me, I consider it a great journey and I can't wait to see what's around the corner.

Which artists do you relate to the most and what type of art do you enjoy the most?

Way too hard of a question to answer, I have way too many to mention. I have always gravitated toward popular culture so my early influences came from Punk Rock flyers and street artists. It really wasn't till I got to college where I really got exposed to more art from traditional, abstract to contemporary.

How have you seen your talent and style transform over time and what were the influences?

When I got into the Art Center College of Design, I really wanted to get away from the "Graffiti Culture", it always had a negative connotation about it. I felt that if I wanted to be taken as a serious artist, I needed to grow up and experience new ways and ideas in the arts. It worked out fine for me but I wasn't completely happy with my work. I got work and was able to pay my bills but something was always missing, I never felt that it was me. I guess all artist struggle with similar problems and in a way, it was a blessing in disguise. It kept me working on different approaches, making mistakes and really liking them! It all lead me to what I'm doing today. After years of teaching and not painting as much, I got a call from a Gallery in Chicago to be in a 4 person show. As it turns out, it was owned by a person that used to be an Art Director from way back that remembered my work. It was the best thing to happen to me and my career as an artist! I worked on a body of work for that show and it just felt right. For once, I was painting for myself and started to see the graffiti influence come back mixed with my new knowledge in painting. It was a good mix for me and the right time to bring it into my work.

What is the message you try to deliver through you art, or how is your art perceived by others?

Most of my paintings are narrative, I usually have something very simple to say and I hope that it is successfully executed and communicated well. My paintings are usually about my everyday day life, some good and some bad. I guess I could say that there is a little about me in all my work. I also like to play with words and see how they could be translated in a humorous way. The most common question I get is how do you get your paintings to look like they are glowing?

Where do you think your artistic style is heading and where would you like it to lead?

I really don't know what category or style you would want to put me in. There is so much separation with the Arts and I just want to paint, have fun, and keep striving to do something different.

What are you currently working on and what future plans can we expect to see?

Right now, I'm working on a solo show for September at La Luz De Jesus Gallery in Los Angeles. It has been almost 2 years since my last show in Los Angeles so I'm a bit nervous. I'm also working on some group shows coming earlier this year. I try not to do too many group shows, but this year, there are some benefit art shows for some good causes that I couldn't refuse. I have a few things that are also coming out but I can't really say what they are right now. It would ruin it all! It comes out the same month as my show. You would have to keep up with my blog to find out what's new.
Don't really know what is next, your guess is as good as mine!

Some amazing prints available here.

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