Artist Interview: 12/22/2008  

San Francisco's Erik Otto

Erik Otto's surreal ocean settings contrast perfectly with his organic, pieced-together canvases.  This Bay Area artist discusses his visual inspirations, the San Francisco art scene and where he scavenges for materials.

'premonition' - 38 x 50 in. - $2,200

Sezio: What are some of your visual inspirations?
Erik Otto: Anything and everything from the abundant world around us. There is just as much beauty and intrigue in a majestic landscape as there is in a rusty old hubcap slightly shattered and abandoned from a car accident that happened prior.  When we look around, everyday we do that...we just look, but where I draw inspiration from is really seeing everything for more than just what it is.

'moment of truth' - 49 x 75 in. - $4,000

SZ: Living in the city, where do you go searching for wood..?
EO: All over, but you have to be quick about it - good junk don't last long on the streets in more populated areas.  I don't even own a car, but with the help of programs like City Car Share and the dedication to scavenge for my materials rather than buying them, anything can be possible. For the times when I want something more specific, I hit up Building Resources in SF and Urban Ore in Berkeley.

'never abandon ship' - 38 x 50 in. - $2,200

SZ: Tell us about the art community in San Francisco, is it collaborative or cut throat?
EO: Both.  Like many big cities you find the trade off of being surrounded by more creative opportunites, but also everyone you meet is a creative in one way another, so the competition can be fierce.  If anything, I feel there is this unspoken dilaogue between peers in the same genre that inspire one another to push ideas even farther.  It will make you serious about your craft a lot quicker, but at the same time, it can burn you out.  It's all about the balance.

'final encounter' - 45 x 52 in. - $2,800

SZ: How has Justin (Shooting Gallery) helped your career?
EO: Justin practically birthed my career as an artist in San Francisco as we know it.  He was introduced to my work through collectors and previous shows and granted me my first solo show in San Francisco in 2007.  He took a huge risk in giving me such an ambitious first opportunity, but the show did very well, and we sort of continued to work together from there.

'rising tide' - 20 x 24 in. - $850

SZ: How did New Leaf clothing come together?
EO: New Leaf Clothing is a separate identity developed as an effort to connect all three of my passions in a different medium that could effectively reach a wider audience - art, nature, and philanthropy.  The idea for New Leaf was created as far back as highschool, but the first shirts were printed and sold at an art show I did in January 2004 and the company was officially launched shortly after with my good friend, Deny Khoung.  Together, we have released 8 seasonal collections, created artwork for companies like Urban Outiftters, American Red Cross, Jansport, as well as donated proceeds to organizations like Feed The Children and Friends of the Urban Forest.

'when it rains, it pours' - 42 x 66 in.

SZ: What music are you into lately?  Any San Francisco acts?
EO: Lately I have been getting back to my roots with DJ Shadow and Tribe Called Quest, but also have artists like Prefuse 73, The Octopus Project, and The Radio Dept dialed into my Pandora Radio quick mix.  Although every day is a new day, and some times I want to hear nothing but house music all day while other days a nice dose of complete silence does the trick.  One of my favorite musicians of San Francisco has to be Tommy Guerrero for his mellow and wordless grooves that always seem to strike a chord in me to create.

'a long way home' - $40 - signed edition of 100

SZ: What do you have coming up in '09?
EO: 2008 has been a rough year on me financially, but I plan to carry on strong.  Solo and group shows in SF with 2 small solo shows in NY with a Artist-in-Residency at the San Francisco Dump starting in October.  I will be working with Outer Edge Studios to create short run giclee prints, Poster Cabaret to provide open edition off-sets, and BloomPress with screen prints to offer something more for the collector on a budget.  More designs and development for New Leaf Clothing await along with the official launch of a 4-person design collective that has been brewing since summer.

Erik Otto's work can be seen at ErikOtto.com.  If you're interested in one of the pieces above, email Justin@ShootingGallerySF.com.  Below is a video of Erik's 2007 show, A Long Way Home, put together by Paul J Ecinas.

Tags: Artist Interview, San Francisco, Shooting Gallery, Gallery Three, Erik Otto


Great work, very inspiring
Steve Javiel made this post on 12/23/2008 at 9:30 am
City Car Share is awesome, we need one in SD! Great interview.
Jonathan Foster made this post on 12/24/2008 at 9:04 pm

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