Dave Ortega grew up in the weird mixture of wide open spaces and suburban strip malls of El Paso, Texas. After college, he moved to Boston to pursue a career in art and illustration. He has exhibited in art shows both on his own and with friends from The Miracle 5. Dave creates comics and zines that bring together a wide range of sources to create multilayered narratives about cultural conflict, the scars of colonialism and unheard microhistories. His comics are an attempt to linearly trace current events to historical tipping points, often at the hands of an aggressor.
An interview as told to Gilmore Tamny (thanks) For larger images of Dave's work go to his site.
What’s a brief overview of what you do?
I make comics and zines about the effects of Spanish colonialism on the cultural and political landscape of the present-day Western Hemisphere.
Is there anything new you’re working on, or an event that’s coming?
I'm working on a few new zines to debut at some spring zine fests. For the past few years, I've debuted about 3 or 4 new zines at the Brooklyn Zine Fest which is always great. I'm also excited for RIPE in Providence in March. I also have a long-term book project that I hope to finish this year.
Any thoughts on the local Somerville, or Boston-area creative scene?
Whenever I run into an artist in Somerville, there's always a great exchange of ideas even if its just about an upcoming event or about books or movies or something else. The community is so eager to share information and there is also an undercurrent of healthy competitiveness which lights a fire under everyone. I can say the same thing about my experiences with the Boston creative scene as a whole. Keeping a line open with peers that you trust is important because making art is inherently such a lonely endeavor.
What is the first thing you will do as Somerville's Artist of the Month?
I'll just keep working myself to death.
How important do you find routine in production of your work? What is your routine?
Well, I'm teaching at the SMFA this semester as well as working at Brandeis so that has kind of upset my routine a little. I draw whenever I'm not working. I'd like to be able to work less so that I can get more drawing done.
What is one of your artistic dreams? Bestseller on NY Times list? Mural throughout the Davis Square T? Etc.
To be able to quit my day job so that I can draw full time. I think that if I were able to do that, everything else would fall into place a lot faster than it is now. I feel like I need to add 5 years to all of my goals because so much of my time is spent making stupid money to pay the stupid rent. Don't get me wrong, I'm fortunate to be working and my employers are very supportive but I really need to be drawing full time at this point.
You do a lot of sketching. Have you sketched much of Somerville? Is there any spot you particularly like to sit and draw in Somerville?
I have long, boring commutes but one of the benefits of using public transportation is that it affords me the use of my hands to sketch people or to flesh out ideas.
Do you feel like you can spot a fellow graphic novelist, just you know, walking down the street?
Fortunately in Somerville, there are so many of them and usually just are walking down the street!
Do you have any thoughts or even pronouncements you'd like to make about the state of art in the U.S.A. today?
It starts with a solid art education foundation. Arts funding needs to be doubled. Tripled. Quintupled.
Who are some artist's today whose work whose work is interesting you--graphic novelists?--but also musicians, performance artists, baseball players, what have you. (or the past)
I'm re-discovering a lot of comics by Lynda Barry who has amazing things to say about where images come from and Jaime Hernandez who is such a master storyteller. I'm also re-reading a lot of classic daily strips like E.C. Segar's "Popeye" and Ernie Bushmiller's "Nancy". Each strip is a case study in the three-act structure. They're so taut and perfect. The comic book is coming of age nicely and artists from my generation and the younger generation that follows it are making some exciting work right now. Noah Van Sciver, JillanTamaki, Simon Hanselmann, Michael Deforge, Michel Fiffe, Anya Davidson are all making uninhibited, solid work that really pushes the form.