Studio Visit: Erik Otto

San Francisco-based artist Erik Otto has been at it for a while, and it seems with a lot of hard work, the stars have aligned for him and his career this year. Otto works with all kinds of materials, his style is quite versatile, and he feeds heavily on his creative juices and drive to guide him as an artist. He’s been hired for private commissions as well as big city public projects, and he soon jets off for Pow Wow Hawaii 2013 to hang and paint with some of the worlds’ biggest muralists.

I had the opportunity to visit the burgeoning artist at his studio, which he shares with a few other art gurus, and he talked about his process, his travels and what the new year holds for him. Check it out!


LF: Seems like 2012 was quite a year for you. How did you manage to pull off so many cool projects?

EO: I have been fortunate to receive some pretty exciting opportunities. It’s no secret that hard work and determination will take you places in life, but I feel I have become better at setting clear goals and seeing them through. I have lists for days that help me stay on task and with every project comes more opportunities. I am also not one to sit around and wait for things to come to me and I always take time out of my week to make sure I put in work to get more work.

LF: I photographed you for a Bold Italic story about SF’s parklets, where you were hanging out in your Peace Keeper parklet outside of Fabric8 Gallery.  I see on your blog that it has a new home in the woods. Is it happy?

EO: It is very happy indeed. I recently relocated it to it’s new final resting place at a private residence in Grass Valley, CA where it will receive the benefit of four seasons and a wonderful family who will enjoy it for years to come.

LF: You work with many different mediums, including sculpture art, mural painting, printmaking, and even photography and video. How did you get so multidisciplinary?

EO: I often say my real job description is to do whatever it takes to get the job done and sometimes that means taking on new disciplines to get it done right. When it’s your own work and you believe in it greatly, it becomes a healthy motivation to put your all into everything you do. Working in this manner can only produce positive results and I am never shy to new challenges.

Erik Otto : Profile Video from Erik Otto on Vimeo.

LF: You released your first ever woodcut print this year. How did that make you feel?

EO: I have been recently been collaborating with a new fine art print shop here in San Francisco. In the past, I send out production ready files and my job is done, but being a part of the process from beginning to end is both refreshing and rewarding. I give more respect to the work of fine art printers and that woodcut is only the beginning of the multiple collaborations I have planned ahead.

LF: What is your favorite medium to work with?

EO: Whatever medium I am currently working with. I love them all equally.

LF: Give us a little bit of insight into how you tick. What inspires you to create?

EO: The world is a hectic place and when you take a step back to observe where we might be headed, it doesn’t look good. My role as an artist (and a human being for that matter) is to do all that I can with what I have in order to do my part in being a part of the solution. It just so happens a career in the visual arts came naturally, but I also chose the artist life because it can transcend across so many barriers. We all have a voice. Never settle. Make the work. Be the change.

LF: Have you been actively making art since you were a kid?

EO: When I was a kid, I was into constructing imaginary worlds I wanted to live in out of whatever materials I could find. My mom was into crafts and my dad had tools to fix everything around the house growing up. This influenced me to make things with my hands and it was not long till the family garage became my first working studio where I spent most of time tinkering away making things with no understanding of what I was doing. In high school, I started to turn every homework assignment into a film project and would have friends cut class, pull all nighters, and skip parties just to work on them with me. I still work with a film mindset and I am still creating worlds I want to live in…only now in a new way.

LF: You’re headed to Hawaii for their annual mural festival Pow Wow Hawaii, and then back to Mexico City for a group show. Can you talk a little bit about this?

EO: Sure thing! Pow Wow is this amazing festival on Oahu where artists from around the globe come together to create murals all over town. It’s a growing group of solid people involved and like no other mural festival — it almost feels like an artist retreat. Then I am headed back to Mexico City for my third trip within a year to work with new friends, ARTO and STREET Magazine to handle a couple of murals and make work for various shows.

BELOW: Erik’s limited edition print  in collaboration with 1xRUN called “Chasing The Sun” – which will be released in conjunction with his involvement at Pow Wow.

LF: Does traveling inspire your art?

EO: Completely. Traveling helps keep that sense of wonder about the world we live in. There’s nothing I love more than that uncomfortable feeling followed by an unforgettable experience all because you took a chance.

ABOVE & BELOW: Photos of Mexico City by Erik Otto. Quite the photographer, right?

LF: What gets you off, literally or figuratively?

EO: Attempting the impossible.

A Full Day’s Work from WEREHAUS on Vimeo.

LF: How fast do you live?

EO: I work fast, ride fast, and consider myself a quick learner. However, I also believe the real fun is in the process of getting to where you want to be and setting the intent to enjoy every high and low that comes your way. Live fast, but enjoy each moment – I refer to it as the slow journey.

(All photos by Abby Wilcox except the shots of Mexico City, which were photographed by Erik Otto)

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