“It’s direct and you can draw big. It’s fast,” artist Erik Otto told us of spray painting as he stood in front of a nearly blank canvas. Over the course of thirty minutes, he’d cover that salmon-colored wooden board with bold black swooshes of paint and dripping details created with a spray bottle.
Erik went to school for illustration and has worked in set design, created window displays and dabbled in a variety of other mediums. Above all, painting is his primary art form. “Painting is pure—it’s the magic,” he explained.
While a completed piece of work brings him a great sense of accomplishment, he creates because he enjoys the process of working. Even if that means he’s spending the majority of time in his San Francisco studio, always immersed in his work.
His creative drive kicked in when he was a kid, always drawing what he’d imagine to be his dreamworld. He’d sketch his sprawling mansion or ideal arcade, and eventually began to create physical objects to bring these dreams closer to reality. As a teenager with car keys in hand, he’d drive to the nearby railroad tracks and backroads to scavenge for supplies.
His approach to sourcing materials today stems from his scavenging days. He visits the local dump to pick up discarded house paint, spray paint and objects to use as his painting surfaces. “I create with what already exists,” he told us of his process. If there’s a perfectly good can of discarded paint that he can pick up for free, why not use it?
“I like to just get lost and discover,” he told us of San Francisco, “this town is crazy.” He’s spent years exploring the city by bike, watching the neighborhoods evolve, gathering inspiration from them. “That’s how things go with change,” Erik said. “Some people welcome it.”
And he’s one of those people. After years in San Francisco, the city has become familiar and almost less inspiring. Frequent trips to Mexico City are keeping him on his toes—it’s a place with a growing artistic community, where everyone seems to be out on the streets talking and creating, rather than remaining detached behind a computer screen.
We expect big things from Erik—in both the scale of his work (like this recent mural in Hawaii) and in his success.
Erik is wearing the Beckett in Striped Chestnut.
Photos by Collin Hughes