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Dustin Ortiz is a native son of North County. Dustin’s art, while inspired by the sea is anything but cliche beach art. With a keen eye on design, Ortiz uses clean lines to create contemporary pieces that have an air of timelessness. Dustin, an independent artist, has worked with a number of today’s best brands including: Nixon, Yes Snowboards and Adidas, as well as a handful of up-and-coming brands like GoldCoast Skateboards. We caught up with Ortiz to talk about finding inspiration in North County, surfing, and what’s next for the Leucadia local.
Tell us a little bit about growing up, did you grow up in a creative household?
I grew up in Leucadia in the 80s, in my mind it was way different than it currently is, I feel like the whole town was more creative centric. I wouldn’t say my household was more creative than any other, my mom has always worked with flowers and plants and my dad was very active doing volunteer work so the overall perspective on life was definitely different than most homes. My parents encouraged me a ton from a very young age, we always had art supplies around the house which was awesome. My cousins and I were always learning and experimenting with new mediums from a bunch of different local art classes. It was super epic.
Was there a creative community in Encinitas that you could be inspired by and learn from?
Definitely, I wish I could remember some of the names of the artists back then who were hosting little classes for us kids. Miss or Mrs. O’Toole was one of them, I forgot her first name, but she ran a radical little art class in her garage. We got to experiment with tons of different mediums including copper and ceramics. The San Dieguito Art Guild was run out of the downstairs at Pannikin those days, and everyone involved with that was a huge part of exposing me to the art world. By the time I was in high school I knew I wanted to work in a creative field not sure where, though. Mr. Ratajkowski at San Dieguito was a major mentor for me. I always had multiple classes with him, and he encouraged me to take night classes by the time I was 15. Through him, I met so many amazing creative individuals in Encinitas. Also, I think skateboarding helped the creative community a ton. I got a lot of my first t-shirt graphic jobs from friends that I knew through skateboarding.A lot of artist that skate and surf found their creativity through their exposure to the surf and skate culture, was that the case for you?
Absolutely. The surf and skate culture was the biggest influence, from skateboard graphics, t-shirts, and magazines I was constantly surrounded by amazing people and art. I didn’t realize how special Encinitas was until I was older. I didn’t realize that not everyone had surf and skate PE in school. There were regular movie premiers at La Paloma and with most of the magazines based in North County there was an insane amount of culture oozing out of this town.
How does surfing and skateboarding influence your art now?
I think just by still doing those activities has a huge effect on who I am and what I make. There’s so many great personalities in those communities and being surrounded by creative people is always inspiring. Currently, I think skateboarding is in a great place and so fun and creative. I try to get in the water as much as possible and that’s the biggest influence on me. There is something so healing about the ocean, it has so much power and beauty it’s great to just be out there.
One of the things that immediately drew me into your work was how contemporary it is. You seemed to have escaped the sort of cliche beach art that seems so prevalent in San Diego. Was that a conscious decision?
I always loved art and design from the 50’s, 60's and early 70’s and just naturally stuck to that those color palettes and compositions. I never wanted to make “surf” art, but I loved being outside and always seem to draw and sketch things related to nature. Once I started doing graphic design, when I traveled to cities I would look at things through with a different perspective and that translated to my art. I love big cities and modern architecture just as much as the ocean and the desert and as long as I’m playing with those to landscapes I think my work will show it.
Who are some of your peers locally that inspire you?
Oh, man that's a tough one. There are so many epic people locally who are doing so much awesome work. Andy Davis was always influential growing up and I’m stoked to see him making new stuff all the time. Manny of Mandala surfboards is a big inspiration, he’s got a cool approach to making surfboards. Sketchy Tank is an epic human, so is Andrew Reyes and his work is incredible, Pete Panciera, Steve Neiley, Brooks Sterling, John Antoski, Adam Jafry, Sam Allen, Shelby Ling, Embry Rucker, Julian Martin, Austin Lane are just a few of the radical creative people locally that I’ve been able to work with recently. I’m sure I’m forgetting some names. Gary Benzel and Peter McBride were probably two of the most influential designers for me when I was younger. Peter lives up in Ojai now and works for Patagonia, and Gary lives in Point Loma still practicing design and teaches at SDSU.
It seems like you had a pretty strong connection to Nixon early on in your career, how did that inform your art?
I was giving a great opportunity to work at Nixon while I was fresh out of school. I got to work with some great designers and I was able to learn and progress so much during my time there. The company has always trusted their designers and let us push and explore when it came to new products. I have so many great memories from working there and always say yes when they ask me to work on new projects.
What brands are you working with now?
Currently, I’m the creative director for a skateboard company called GoldCoast Skateboards. We consider ourselves the best designed and highest quality entry level skateboard company. We design boards for all shapes and sizes and get excited when GoldCoast is someone's first skateboard and we had the opportunity to expose them to something that has changed our lives. We started it about 6 years ago and had a different viewpoint than anyone in that space at the time. Since then we are so excited to see that skateboarding has evolved and kids are riding all types of boards. Companies like Welcome, Penny and Landyachtz have really changed what skateboarding looks like. It's super exciting.
The other half of my time goes to different freelance projects like Yes Snowboards, Nitro Circus and Adidas just to name a few. My studio-mate Pete has a brand called Norden, and I get to help with that a bunch. My childhood friends (and Encinitas born) The Mattson 2 are always needing art/design help so that's fun. Then I squeeze my personal art projects in between all that, my studio is always evolving with a new mess which keeps me smiling.
What does 2016-17 look like for you any major projects that we should be aware of?
I’m working with a friend designing a restaurant right now, so that’s been a great epic experience. I have some fun video projects that I’m working on as well. AND hopefully another art show later this year. No dates at this point, though.
If you could give one piece of advice to young creative what would it be?
Live, travel, take deep breaths, work hard and don’t worry about the small stuff.
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing but burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue center light and everybody goes, Aww!" - Jack Kerouac