Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Artist of the Week

Nathan T. Ota

The need to classify things can seem so senseless, but still it goes on everyday. However, it seems to be most prevalent when dealing with the creative mediums. Whether it is indie rock vs emo or illustration vs abstraction, these classifications give the creations meaning that are not always what was originally intended. When Los Angeles artist Nathan Ota creates fascinating otherworldly scenes that appear to glow in all of the right places. To label his work or to push it in to a certain catagory would not be fair.

Nathan is simply an artist working hard at perfecting his art. He teaches at Otis College of Art and Design, CA and Santa Monica College, CA. His work has been shown in galleries for more than fifteen years, and he has achieved a great deal in his career.

Recently, Nathan was kind enough to answer a few of our questions.

Orange Alert (OA): How would you describe your style of painting?
Nathan Ota (NO): The best way that I would describe my paintings would be that they are narrative, surreal and whimsical. I have been told that my paintings are luminescent and I kind of like that one the best.

OA: I am fascinated by many of your creatures, and find myself creating little back stories in my mind for them. Where did some of these creatures come from? Has there been any thought of publishing a book or possibly an animated film with your creatures?
NO: That is another question that I have been told also. I would love to entertain the thought of maybe a children’s book. As far as the characters, I get my ideas from situations that I always get myself into. I don’t want to get into too many details but the characters represent a little part of me, and the people around me. I like to stick to made-up creatures because it is not important to represent it literally. I like to think that my work can be interpreted in many ways and people can make up other scenarios for what they mean.

OA: In your bio you reference graffiti as an early influence that still remains in your current work. Does this come into play primarily in your canvas washing and backgrounds?
NO: I am totally old school when it comes to Graffiti, I was doing it a lot in the mid 80’s and you can actually find me in the book, “The History of Los Angeles Graffiti Art”. When I went to Art School, I totally stayed away from it but later found that I was having so much fun incorporating that part of it into my work. It just felt more comfortable. It can be seen in my backgrounds and characters. Sometimes the pose of the characters remind me of the old B-Boy’s that I threw up on the walls at Pan Pacific and Belmont Tunnel.

OA: You tend to utilize shading or tinting in some of your pieces, and an example of this would be "Standing Still". How do you create that effect? Is it a wash that you apply after the piece is complete?
NO: My paintings have a lot of atmospherics to it (to show depth) and I just stay with a consistent palette and keep the light sources consistent with all the objects in the composition. I like to play with the warms and cools, to work the lighting in my compositions as if they were displayed on a stage and not represent real lighting.

OA: In recently years the illustrator has become more prevalent in the world of galleries. What are your thoughts on the overall acceptance of the illustrator as artist?
NO: First of all, I think that there is only one art. I think there is too much categorizing and it just makes things too confusing. I think it is about time that people are starting to accept this art in the main stream. I had my first show in 1992 with the La Luz De Jesus Gallery when they were on Melrose and they were the first that I can remember that would give,” Illustrators “ and other underground artist an avenue to display their work in a gallery setting. It did quite well and is still strong today with all the other galleries.

OA: What's next for Nathan Ota?
NO: I would like to continue teaching and continue working in the Galleries. I just like to let things come as they may. Also to get better at Golf! Golf, I have no control over.

Bonus Questions:

OA: Coffee? If yes what is your favorite type of coffee and where is your favorite coffee spot?
NO: Coffee? YES!! No designer stuff. Regular straight coffee, black, strong and no sugar! I really like Peet’s, Major Dickason’s Blend. With Starbucks, it’s Sumatra and Gold Coast. Back in the old days I really liked Café Bustelo but can’t seem to find it anymore. I also like Café Americano and A Shot in the Dark (Red Eye). I don’t go out much for coffee anymore but the strongest coffee I ever had was at Kings Road Café on Beverly Blvd.

OA: Do you listen to music while you painting? Who are some of your favorites while painting and in general?
NO: I have to have something playing on the stereo. I usually play news radio or the baseball game when the Dodgers are playing but when I listen to music, it is usually the I pod on shuffle. I listen to pretty much anything from Jazz, Funk, Alternative, Rock, Punk Rock, Country and the list goes on and on.

For more information on Nathan Ota, please visit his website.

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