In-Sync with… Raul Ortiz (interview)

Continuing my In-Sync series of interviews and to close the year 2015 with the last interview, I invite you to get in-sync with Chicago-based artist Raul Ortiz.


SG: Where did you go to school (college/university) and what degree did you receive?

RO: I began my art education at Columbia College of Chicago because of their strong photography program. At the time, I thought it was a good fit. However, during an art history survey class, I was immediately drawn to a variety of movements: Renaissance art of Fra Angelico and Tintoretto; Baroque art of Caravaggio; Dutch art of Vermeer; Spanish art of El Greco; French Impressionist art of Monet; and the American art of Rothko and Franz Kline among others. This discovery led me to switch gears and study painting.

I then transferred to the University of Illinois at Chicago, focusing on painting, printmaking and sculpture by the recommendation of my spouse. I studied under some of Chicago’s notable artists/teachers such as Rodney Carswell, Dan Peterman, Julia Fish, Susan Sensemann, Phyllis Bramson, Kerry James Marshall, Steve Campbell and Jack Lemon. I also managed to take advantage of many art history and experimental photography courses.

I earned my BFA in Studio Arts (painting, sculpture and printmaking) in 2001.

SG: What is the best advice you have ever received?

RO: The best advice I received was (1) to commit and own my work while enjoying it along the way and (2) to go out and see as many exhibitions as possible. This experience often informs my creative process through the act of looking.


SG: What is your website?

My artist profile is at: – Raul Ortiz

SG: What is your work about?

RO: My current work, “Untitled Landscapes,” is a series of paintings that reinterpret/reframe and update the landscape with a contrasting contemporary twist.

My goal is to create a poetically contemporary landscape that captures an array of subtle shapes, textures, gestures, light and vibrant color relationships that are derived from the tradition of abstraction. This exploration is executed by juxtaposing colorful expressive brushstrokes, patches of flat spaces for contemplation and randomly framed areas by the use of a silhouetted image, e.g. a tree flora, using manipulated photocopies of photographs taken on walks around Chicago or on my travels.

SG: What are you working on and what inspires you right now?
RO: I’m continuing my exploration of the vast and varied landscape. Inspiration is everywhere. For me, it comes in many forms, e.g. shadows of plants, trees, people; looking up through foliage/tree; colorful flora (shape and size); old patterned wallpaper; worn Chicago bricks; reflections on glass buildings, puddles, glimmering sunlight or sunset on the Lincoln Park ponds or Lake Michigan; the Lincoln Park conservatory and so on. I am attracted to color, shape and texture. I often play the accidental tourist, aware of my surroundings, and photograph my journey around Chicago to refer back to it when I’m in the studio.

SG: What are the essentials you must have in your studio/creative space (tools, objects, photos, etc)?

RO: A handful of brushes in various shapes and sizes; acrylic paints; photocopies/photographs of trees, plants, flowers or patterns; and lastly, piano works by the French Impressionists Ravel and Debussy.

SG: Do you find social media to be a distraction or an asset for you as an artist and how do you deal with it?

RO: I don’t do Twitter, Instagram or Tumblr. Facebook, so far, is the only social media I use. I don’t find FB a distraction but I do have a love-hate relationship with it as many of us do. I enjoy useful and insightful information about what is going on in the art world (photography, dance, performances, exhibitions and theater) – locally, nationally and worldwide. Actually, the sole reason I created my profile was to share my photographs, completed artwork, and announcements for upcoming exhibitions (mine as well as other artists). I like informative posts rather than the 20 posts and pics of what one had for lunch. Honestly, I find those posts a waste of my time. I suppose I am just a FB snob.

SG: What is your biggest challenge as a contemporary artist?

RO: My biggest challenge is finding and securing the next show. It is a challenge competing against so many new graduates when art schools are cranking them out – all of whom are looking to fill a spot in a gallery, alternative space or museum wall. Not to mention, the blatant conflict of interest of artists as curators who constantly include themselves in either group or solo shows taking away valuable wall space from other artists in the community.

However, with that said, I have been fortunate to have had a two-month solo exhibition at the University Club of Chicago this past summer and an upcoming solo exhibition at the Old Town Triangle Art Center in December.


SG: How do you define a success?

RO: Success, for me, is being able to exhibit at a consistent basis. Therefore, it isn’t fueled by the need to sell. However, if I happen to sell a piece, I see it as a bonus but that is not the ultimate goal. I mean, don’t get me wrong, who doesn’t want to sell their work.

SG: What’s next for you (use the answer to promote any upcoming exhibits, projects, travels, residencies, etc)?

RO: I am currently preparing for a solo exhibition at the Old Town Triangle Art Center from December 5 – January 15, 2016. The opening reception is Sunday, December 13, 2015 2-5 PM.


Avant-Garde and After: Rethinking Art Now by Brandon Taylor
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

Movie or documentary…
Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (2010)
Art21: Elizabeth Murray, Kara Walker, Judy Pfaff and Lari Pittman

Art museum…
The Art Institute of Chicago
Musée de l’École de Nancy – dedicated to the artistic movement: Nancy Art Nouveau in Nancy, France
The Musée de L’Orangerie, Paris, France
Fundação Centro Cultural de Belém, Lisbon, Portugal

Contemporary artist…
This is a tough question since I can’t just name one artist who has been influential (directly or indirectly) or I admire. So my list is as follows: David Salle, Richard Bosman, Albert Oehlen, Luc Tuymans, Sylvia Mangold, Pat Steir, Marcus Lupertz, TL Solien and Ross Bleckner.

Place to be inspired by…
There are many places that inspire me. I’ve selected a few.
The Art Institute of Chicago
The Rookery, remodeled by Frank Lloyd Wright
The Carson Pirie Scott Building by Louis Sullivan
The Tiffany mosaics at Marshall Fields and the Cultural Center
Lincoln Park’s North and South Ponds
The Chicago Botanical Garden, Glencoe

From travels:
Monet’s garden in Giverney, France
Corbusier’s Notre Dame du Haut, Ronchamp, France
Antoni Gaudi’s Casa Batllo in Barcelona, Spain
Potala Palace and Jokhang Temple, Lhasa, Tibet
Lisbon and Porto, Portugal
The Belvedere, Vienna (Gustave Klimt)

One sentence advice for an art student…
Embrace mistakes and see as much art as you can.

YouTube video…
A recently discovered video on the Danish artist Vilhelm Hammershoi.
BBC4 – Michael Palin and the Mystery of Hammershoi.


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