My guest this week is Randy Ortiz, a freelance Illustrator that has significant experience with both commercial and personal work. I am really stoked to share this discussion with a traditional artist this week, especially on the tail of a weird market cycle with digital art. It’s no secret I like to stay grounded with physical art often, and this discussion really helped with that.
While he was mostly working with charcoal and graphite prior, the last few years has led to him pursuing oil painting. He greatly dislikes the term “dark art,” though the themes in his work tend to be associated with that label. Very relatable for many artists that work with more somber and often uncomfortable themes.
Randy is probably the 4th or 5th person I’ve interviewed that took a u-turn from architecture. As with most creatives, he experienced the societal pressure of being told to do anything but being an artist as a career path. Typical, yes, but also maybe instrumental in pivoting artists towards what they really want to do and create.
As an architectural technologist, he was forced to do work that he had no creative control over, and was in fact aimed at crushing the creativity of those that had to get their designs past him. The irony of this is pretty thick. He says that it was, “frustrating to know it would go nowhere creatively,” which perhaps is the kind of springboard most artists need to experience, to know what they want to do. CFW, Bezmiar, and many others have expressed this with their journeys into art.
Randy has a lot of experience with print media, and I do love me a good poster, so I dig into the topic a little. Randy expresses how lucky he was, since a company as established as Mondo hired him because of his style, not just as another illustrator to mass produce some work. That is a form of rare freedom in an industry like that, and also came with the benefit of direct exposure and connection to other artists he looked up to. They are all peers now, nice.
So what the fuck is dark art? It doesn’t matter; here’s Randy’s view on what he does. Throughout different periods in his life, he just drew the things he was interested in, and he refers to his process as a mental health exercise. I think that the act of creating art as a cathartic process for him, is highly resonant for many artists working with darker themes. In his case, the theme is currently primarily grief.
We get into the weeds with the topic of grief a bunch, and admittedly, it was really therapeutic for me just talking with Randy about this. He phrases things so well about what the process of grief looks like for us as individuals, especially on the subjects of it being something hard to do alone, and something that literally everybody goes through at some point in their lives. It reminded me of that article I wrote about grief earlier this year, and was a good reminder that we’re all dealing with things in different ways, but we’re absolutely not alone.
Looking back at earlier work, he sees progress from a technical perspective, but says he hasn’t been on a nonstop roll with ideas in a long time. It stands out to me that what he’s seeking along the way is some sort of balance in life; I love that he’s just accepted that he’s having a human experience, and that all the good and bad stuff that comes along with it is just more fuel for his art.
Looks like some of the really good stuff recently was experiencing a shift fully towards oil painting after going and looking at art in Europe for a bit. Since then he’s on a permanent path with the medium. And while stuff like Youtube and social media are cool to learn from and all, getting your hands-on time with something is the real teacher. I like that he says that as artists, we’re always missing something in our personal work, which is what keeps us hungry for learning more.
And then, just like that, BAM, we land on “marketability.” And goddamnit, he’s right about everything he says on this topic. As artists we generally fucking hate this marketing bullshit, but absolutely have to take it into consideration. Saying it’s been tough deciding the direction his work may “need” to go, he circles it back to the question of what it is that makes you content or happy again. What a weird cycle we’re all in.
Speaking of social media, I find Randy’s instagram is so pleasing to scroll through. It’s a great interface for just looking at art; the older formats of images as grids will never get old in my opinion.
Even more importantly, what’s the deal with physical art? Randy is so honest about it, and I think his humility downplays the importance of what his experience with it is. From the logistical problems of shipping art, to the percentages galleries take, I think he nails the reasons so many folks flocked to NFTs. Just the absurdity of sending a massive, flat piece of art through a questionable mail system is enough to make one shake their head. The odds of your art making it to its destination are so stressful, and it reminds me of Robek’s performance art piece on Foundation. Check out “The Physical Art Fallacy” here.
Talking about “the skull creature guy” being himself, Randy indirectly addresses my recurring question of whether artists see themselves in their art in a completely different way. It all feels very personal, and while this is quite literal, it’s actually pretty powerful in its simplicity. Coupled with Randy’s acceptance that viewers will get what they get out of what they see on their own terms, it feels very free to approach this complex topic like this.
When it comes to whether there is any occult influence in his work, Randy says there really isn’t. I think it’s important to note that while he acknowledges he was brought up Catholic, it’s not something that shows up in his art. The dark art label tends to be an oddly vague, all-encompassing term, and it goes to show how many adjacent topics and subsequent aesthetics there are that share, but don’t need the title.
There are some really great reminders throughout our discussion on how we really need to delegate things better as artists; specifically marketing. I absolutely love Randy’s honesty about his approach to his work, and think he’s a great motivator for artists that may be doubting themselves with their concepts/ideas. Just do what you love, and make some common sense driven decisions along the way to survive as an artist in this money driven world.
Make sure to go check out his latest soothing oil painting work on Instagram, check out his website, and you can also follow him on Twitter! He even has some NFTs if you know where to look.
Next week, the incredibly talented Ochie Winaga! Tune in for a really long distance call discovering what Ochie does with her art.