"...seeing how I’m still looking for a physical place to call home, but in the more metaphysical sense, I think of home as that world I made for myself, and that I can now express through artwork.'"
Originally from Guatemala, Jose Ochoa is currently creating amazing artworks in Redbubble’s San Francisco office as part of the artists in residency program. Let him be your guide on a journey through intense psychological and surreal landscapes.
Where is home for you?
I was born in Guatemala City, which can be pretty nice or pretty rough, depending on which part of the city you are in. I grew up in one of the not-very-nice parts. It never felt like home to me with the poor maintenance of the area, gunshot sounds at night, and how aware you need to be of your surroundings. Adding to my disconnect was the fact that I never really “fit” with the people I met. My likes and dislikes seemed specific to myself and the idea of art as a career didn’t sit well with most. As a result I spent much of my time alone, usually reading and thinking on my free time.
Sounds pretty gloomy, maybe, but with time all that helped me develop my own little world in my head and understand a little more of how the real world works. I was raised, and am, a Christian, and my faith definitely had a big role in me keeping a good attitude.
I had a lot of time to observe the things around me, to read a lot about different topics and, most importantly, to practice my artistic skills pretty much non-stop for years.
It’s a bit of a difficult question for me, seeing how I’m still looking for a physical place to call home, but in the more metaphysical sense, I think of home as that world I made for myself, and that I can now express through artwork. I seriously appreciate the little things in life, and the feeling of wonder they give me is what I would call home.
How would you describe your work in 7 words or less.
I explore imaginative realities.
Weapon of choice?
I use a Wacom intuos4 for my digital work, and I tend to go towards regular ballpoint pens for my traditional work. For me, ink removes the fear of failure, and makes you think a little more carefully.
Name a fear of yours?
The idea of developing carpal tunnel syndrome is incredibly scary. If I can’t paint with my hands I’ll find another way, but I’d just rather not have to.
Which is your favorite work uploaded to Redbubble and why?
I think “Sol” (titled “geometry” on the site) is one of my favorites. It’s not my best, in technical skill, but it taught me a lot about clouds, using shapes regardless of logic, and most importantly about my own style.
What advice would you love to have told yourself five years ago?
It’s scary, but just keep moving. Discomfort is good in the sense that it’ll make you want to move out of where you are. And don’t worry about your art style, which develops on its own without you touching it at all.
"It’s scary, but just keep moving. Discomfort is good in the sense that it’ll make you want to move out of where you are. And don’t worry about your art style, which develops on its own without you touching it at all."
You mentioned that you like doing “psychological landscape environments” – can you explain to us what that means to you?
Well, there’s many things I had never experienced while I was doing most of those pieces. Things like snow, the heat of a desert, or what it’d be like to be facing a giant animal. For me a psychological landscape is one that is built on my own exaggerated perceptions of what something must be or is like in real life. I imagine and exaggerate.
A good example is my piece “Errant Temple”, which is based on the feeling I had when I first saw a Galapagos tortoise for the first time in 2013, while I visited my dad, who lives in Ecuador. I didn’t think the tortoises were that big, and I could just picture myself looking up at one, were I as small as an ant. How would that affect civilization? Maybe someone would worship them and make huge temples on their backs.
What inspired you to apply to the Redbubble residency?
Back in Guatemala I spend a lot of time applying for opportunities online. Since art isn’t very productive there most of my clients are from other countries, so I take the time to look for them.
I had been a member of Redbubble for a couple of years, and had already applied to last year’s contest and didn’t get it. This time I did, so I wasn’t going to waste it!
It has definitely influenced my artwork. The people at Redbubble are really kind, easy to get along with, and I’ve learned a lot from them so far. I’m excited to bring this experience back to my country and see how I can use it to improve by myself.
What are you most looking forward to learning during the Redbubble residency?
Marketing my artwork is the main thing for me. Freelancing is all about being in people’s minds and having good work to begin with, so I’m very excited for a chance to learn that.