Damn the Design: Randy Ortiz

Randy Ortiz is a great illustrator living in Winnipeg, USA. I really like the way his pictures are so fresh and clean, but still really detailed. I got in touch with him about answering a few questions about his work, when he replied I don’t think he was being 100% serious on some of them. I left them in anyway, see if you can guess which ones they are.

Oh, and if you can’t guess, let me know if you want to buy some magic beans. I have a trailer full of them.

Randy Ortiz

How old were you when you decided you wanted to be an artist?
I don’t think I consciously decided to become an artist, it was just something I’ve always loved doing and was the only thing I was good at. I’ve freelanced for the past six years, but only since the past year I decided to take it seriously and try to transition to a more full time career rather than a part time hobby. One of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.

How long would a piece like ‘Inamorata’ take to finish?
Inamorata was a bit of an anomaly as I usually don’t take that long to work on a piece. I recall taking about two weeks to finish it. Just having to draw every single blade of grass was quite the task. Inking it was only half the battle as coloring each blade and adding shadows and highlights to them was just as daunting.

I find that I’m doing all of my art straight into Photoshop, which definitely helps cut down on time and frees me from any unfortunate mishaps with spilled ink or botched coloring. Ctrl+Z is a big part of my career these days. Turnaround on a piece is usually no longer than a week.

Why did you decide not to go to art school?
It’s that same old story that a lot of people who want to do art for a living hear all the time, “There’s no money in becoming an artist!” So I never thought of art as an actual career, just a hobby. It took awhile to come to terms with the fact that no matter what job I had and no matter how good the pay was, I wasn’t happy if it wasn’t directly related to art.

So for many years I did jobs I hated while teaching myself how to become a better illustrator. In hindsight, I’m kind of happy I took that route, as I learned far more than what I think I would’ve in art school. Especially the business/marketing side of things. Not to take anything away from art schools, I just have no regrets with the path I chose. It’s all worked out pretty well so far.

Click on the thumbs to see the picture in various stages

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A really cool part of your website is the showing of the different stages of each picture, what was the idea behind it?
Along the way of creating something, I usually stop and take a snapshot and share it with them for any feedback as I usually like to include the client in the process as much as possible. At the end of a project, I have a ton of progress shots and I like to share that with everyone. It’s just neat going through them step by step to see it come together.

People seem to really dig it, so I oblige. I’ve also been thinking of doing process/speed videos, but I haven’t figured all that out yet.

Do you use real animals as references for your work?
I recently did an illustration of a grizzly bear’s face really close up for the band KEN mode. I actually went down to the woods and fought several grizzly into submission before I found the perfect one to reference. I then illustrated the piece with the bear’s own blood. True story.

Randy Ortiz interviewWhat colour ink do you use the most of?
Before switching over to the digital side of inking, I would use this special ink that was harvested from various aquatic molluscs such as Aplysiomorphas. I would experiment with mixing the different melanins these gastropods would create and that would give me my unique color palette of ink. Over the years of mixing these rare pigments, I have discovered several colors that do not exist and cannot be found in any combination of primaries/secondaries/tertiaries. One of these colors I named “Blurple” and that was the color I used the most of.

You have designed lots of for bands, do you find it easier to work from a brief?
Definitely easier. I meet with bands (or whoever) and hammer out ideas during the beginning stages of work. I then use that as a guideline to work with until the end of the project so there are no real screw ups along the way. Anything that does change is always at the clients request and usually at their own expense, so it’s all good to me. I do sometimes get the odd “We have no idea what we want, but we trust you” client. This can go either way!

What musician / band would you like to design the cover of their next record?
Is Cameo still together? (yes! They are playing at the Vintage Festival this year) I’d love to design the cover for their ‘essential hits’ album. The kind you can buy at the counter of a dollar store. “Word up.”

Do you have any advice for someone looking to sell their artwork?
It depends on what you’re looking to achieve. If you’re wanting to do your own work with your own ideas and sell them, there are lots of online shops that you can work through. These are great for newer artists who haven’t built up a reputation yet. Some of these sites will even do all the printing and shipping of your work for you (for a commission fee, of course). Another way is to get a group of other artists in your area and have an art show. Promote it all around the city and online and I’m sure you’re bound to get some customers that way.

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If you wanna be an artist who does commission work for others, that’s a much more difficult thing to give advice on. There’s no real sure shot way of doing it. From my experience, it took me many years of getting better, doing work for local bands on the cheap and social networking online. You need to be very patient, stay humble and constantly learn everything you can during this period. Not everyone is suited to doing it. Also, be aware that marketing research and formulating a decent business plan is one of the keys to becoming a successful artist. It’s boring as hell sometimes, but it’s very necessary.

randy ortizWhat other artists do you like?
Matt Woodson, Aaron Horkey, Ken Taylor, Kevin Tong, Daniel Danger, Olly Moss, Alex Pardee, Martin Ansin, Rich Kelly. I dunno, the list can go on forever. I recently participated in the Mondo Gallery opening and shared the walls with some of these artists and it blew my mind. It was quite the honor.

Then there are artists who are just a bit like myself, starting out and trying to make their way in this challenging world of freelance. Hard working folks such as Ben Bonner, Erica Williams, Jimbob Isaac, Simon Fowler, Jacob Van Loon, Peony Yip (The White Deer), James Martin are all artists who inspire me to keep working hard and it’s comforting to be going through the same experiences as they are.

Where is the best place to eat in Winnipeg?
On my friend’s couch, with pizza, chips, whole lotta dip and of course, Super Nibs.

Check out more of Randy’s work