Louis Otis is an illustrator & animator based in Barcelona, Spain. His internet age-inspired illustrations have been featured in campaigns for the likes of Apple, Fast Company & Rebel Data. We had the chance to visit Louis at his studio in the neighborhood of Gracia, where we talked about his creative process, how he got into illustration, and how he keeps himself out of the cycle of endless revisions.
Hey Louis, can you give us a quick intro to your work and how did you start working in illustration?
I always drew a bit when I was younger. I probably started copying things that I found in French comic books like Asterix & Obelix or Spirou & Fantastio, and then when I was a teenager I was really into manga. In school, I would draw in my agenda or desk and make caricature portraits of my friends, a lot of phallic content obviously. One summer, I produced very sketchy commissioned porn illustrations for my cousins in exchange for their Leaf Green Pokemon Gameboy game which I didn’t have time to finish by the end of the summertime. A lot of this, but I only really started taking illustration more seriously much later when I started considering applying to an art school and had to put together a portfolio for admission. I got into Central Saint Martins in London where I studied Graphic Design, and later more specifically a pathway called Moving Image which was essentially an animation course, and graduated with a BA in that in 2015.
I’ve been exploring different styles since then, photo-realistic stuff, gradients, and now more cartoony and clean lines but I guess one’s work is always evolving so we’ll see!
It’s great to hear about how your work has evolved over the years. What’s your current creative process like? How would you say you get to A-Z?
I like to start by playing around with different visual references, to add some sort of background narrative to my work, like leaving a trail of breadcrumbs and clues to what the actual intention behind it might be. I sometimes sketch things down with pen and paper but I’ve grown very accustomed to sketching digitally these days. Over the years I’ve learned to get too caught up with what I’m working on, jump onto projects quickly, and focus on producing work, rather than getting trapped in the eternal loop of ctrl-z.
We love how your colorful characters often snowball into surreal situations like jiving with different styled top hats or hula hooping with skating giraffes. How would you describe your work to our blog readers?
I like to think that someone seeing my work can build their own personal interpretation of the pieces, I try to use a visual code that I hope speaks to most people, or maybe it mostly speaks to me which is okay too 🙂
What’s the best and worst thing about being a freelance illustrator?
The best thing is that I get to be my own boss and draw all day, that’s pretty sweet and I feel lucky being able to do that. Poco a poco I get to have more work and therefore more freedom in terms of the projects I decide to take or reject, and I’m able to leave more space for personal projects and touching other creative fields like ceramics, sculpture, and many other things I’m looking forward to exploring.
The worst thing is that you get to sit on your butt looking at a screen a lot, and it can get pretty lonely. Last year I moved into a shared space with a bunch of cool illustrators and it really makes a difference to have humans around you, even if they’re all also sitting on their butts looking at screens all day. I’ve been working from home all the years before then but I’m not sure I can do it anymore.
What’s been one of your favourite works to date and why?
Recently I’ve offered some friends who run a wood workshop in the neighbourhood of Hospitalet to paint their shopfront, and I’ve really reconnected with the process of holding a paintbrush, taking your time and waiting for things to dry, staining your clothes, making mistakes and getting your hands dirty. Also, there is a very social element of being out in the street the whole day, talking with people, feeling the heartbeat of a neighbourhood and the way people go about their routines. It felt really good and I’m definitely going to try to look for more jobs like that and escape the screen for a bit. I think it’s very important to touch different creative fields when you’re a creative, and not get caught up in the comfort zone of the skills you’ve learnt to master over the years. Keep learning and taking risks!
Do you have any new projects in progress you’re excited about?
Yep ! I’ve just wrapped a project with the electronic music pioneers at Moog, to design a double-sided poster that works as an index of all the analog modular synthesizers, drum and rhythm machines, theremin, and instruments they have put out in the world over the years. They include it in the new product they are launching that year and they reach out to a different artist every time. I really enjoy working with musicians and the music industry in general so I feel so blessed to have been chosen this year, I can’t say a lot about it but I’m really excited for it to be released. Also, the project budgeted an instrument to be included for the artist, so I will get to play around with it very soon and I can’t wait.