Interview by Glenn Sakamoto
Dustin Ortiz is a talented surfer/artist from the sleepy beach town of Leucadia, California. Dustin's modern art and design first got our attention from his posts on Instagram (seems to be the place to find talent these days). We recently caught up with him to learn more.
Where are you from and what was your childhood like?
I’m from Leucadia, California and lived here ‘til I was about 22 and then did some traveling for some time and landed back here about 3 years ago. Growing up here was amazing, my family lived a simple life and spent a lot of time with each other and were able to travel a bunch. Leucadia was a different place back then, the cost of living was way cheaper so the people you would see in and out of the water has changed a lot. My mom is from California and my dad is from Colorado, so we spent a good amount of time outdoors. I can’t imagine a better childhood.
What inspired you to begin creating art/design?
I loved to draw as a kid and my parents were super supportive and it just snowballed from there. All through school I took as many art classes as I could and constantly was making things. In high school I started taking screen printing classes at night so I could make my own stickers and shirts. That was my first experience with “graphic design.” I had no idea that it was a thing before then, but I knew from about 1st grade that I was going to be an artist when I grew up. In that night class, I met or I guess I should just say I spied on Peter McBride. I’m not sure if I actually talked to him since I was probably 15 and he and his girlfriend were out of high school and just taking the class to screen print personal projects and he was an amazing skateboarder and we all knew who he was. He was making the most amazing graphics and I think that inspired me a lot to push myself and learn how to take drawings and turn them into legit graphics. Being from Encinitas there are a lot of people in the surf and skate industry so I started to meet a lot of older guys who were designers and was able to learn from them.
Also my high school art teacher Mr. Ratajkowski was a major influence on the direction I went in. He pushed me really hard to work with all mediums and always keep making things and not be afraid to fail. I was just insane about making stuff and was always keeping myself busy with projects. All my money went to more supplies.
What do you hope to create in the mind of the person viewing your art/design?
I guess I don’t take what I do that seriously. Thats probably not the best thing to say, but honestly I just love working on new projects. With my work, I like to make designs as simple as possible, keeping it really bold and minimal but at the end of the day if the client or consumer doesn’t like it, you failed at the task at hand. Designers can create incredible creations but if it doesn’t work or do it’s job what’s the point?
I always wish I was more heady with my overarching themes with my designs but I guess I’m just a simple person. With my art, I make it only for myself. I got really into having art shows when I was younger and I could make some extra money but then I found myself painting things that I thought would sell. Now I’ve scaled it back and went back to making things for myself and it’s way more therapeutic. I’m sure I’ll never be a well known “artist” but I’m okay with the path I’m on. I just get really excited when someone likes my art. It’s a good feeling when someone wants to hang something you’ve made in their house!
Just the other day I had a friend come up to me and show me a picture of a painting I made years ago and it’s hanging in their newborn’s room. Then I started to really over think it, I know exactly all the art my parents and grandparents had on their walls. Those paintings and images formed who I am and will always be in my memory, and now to think that something I made, might be in someones memory for the rest of their lives and my their kids will see it starts to really make my brain explode. Pretty exciting to think about that. Or ti could just be moved to the garage or a thrift store one day and no one will ever see it. Ha. Either way i like that art and design can maybe influence others.
Of all the places you have traveled to, what place in particular stands out? And why?
Oh man thats a tough one, there are so many incredible places just in the US, and globally the list is huge. The whole earth is pretty ridiculous when you think about it. I’ve always been really drawn to Switzerland, its super landlocked which is a bummer but its just so clean. The air is amazing, the food, the whole zone seems to have a nice harmony between humans and land. I love the pacific ocean so anything along that coastline I love, California, Mexico, Oregon, BC,etc. New York is probably the best city, I know thats a big statement to make but its pretty all time. The Wasatch, Rockies and Alps are incredible when it comes to mountains. People always say to me that I travel a lot but I feel like i’ve been nowhere, theres so many places I want to go.
Who/what inspires you?
I love passionate people who get a lot accomplished. There are so many incredibly talented people out there and it makes me sad when I see peoples talent go to waste. I share a studio with some amazing people and those guys get me pumped on a daily basis. Plants are a big influence to me, their incredible living works of art, everyone is different and seeing them grow and die and grow again is pretty powerful. I nerd out when it comes to nature stuff, things are working to perfect and it such harmony when left on its own its hard to not believe that all that stuff was designed. We as humans just ruin things when we try to get involved. I am just about this pyrite fossil shell thingy and put it on my desk and have been staring at that a lot. Thats my current inspiration.
What is the greatest thing you have learned in your life?
When I learned about the Golden Ratio that was a game changer.
What are you most proud of?
The fact that I get to draw and make things in my brain for a living is insane. I’m proud that I was able to make this happen. Its not over either, I still have to hustle to make it work and everytime I convince people to let me pick colors and shapes I view that as a win.
What is your favorite board? Your favorite surfspot?
I got a 5’10” Dead Kooks “Riches” this summer and that thing is incredible. A space ship. I don’t think i’ve had a bad day with that. My 9’4” Model T by Donald Takayama is another powerful spaceship that I just love to death. My favorite spots locally are probably in Cardiff and between Carlsbad Campgrounds and Warm Waters. There’s such a range of waves in that zone, you can always have fun.
What’s your favorite meal?
Bean, cheese, rice and guacamole … and tequila.
What are you currently listening to on your iPod?
Mattson 2, Pat Metheny Group, The Rolling Stones, T Rex, The Beatles, The Seeds, The Clash, The Cramps, Future Islands, Blood Orange, Beach House, Moss of Aura, Cocteau Twins. I’m kind of all over the place.
What are you most grateful for?
Having amazing parents that have supported and encouraged me to pursue working in the creative world. They taught me by their example that money isn’t that important and happiness is attainable. You can’t slave for two masters.
What’s next for Dustin Ortiz?
To live a healthy lifestyle. I turned 30 this year and i’m not as lean and active as I used to be. I need to change that, more swimming, surfing, yard work, snowboarding and walking. Also, I’ve been working with my good buddy and amazing photographer Stone Crandall. We just recently opened up a studio called The Flint Co (theflint.co) Were focused on making the most artistic, mind blowing imagery you’ve ever seen. That hasn’t happened yet but thats what were focused on so hopefully we can make some rad imagery. I love working with new people so hit me up if you want to grab a burrito and we can chat.
Find out more at his website or follow Dustin on Instagram @dustinortiz