Inside the Mind of Okuda
22 de March de 2022
22 de March de 2022
Okuda San Miguel was born in Santander in 1980. His parents worked in the hospitality industry and he spent much of his childhood in the streets of his city — maybe that’s the first key element for his rise to becoming one of the most important and famous urban artists on the planet.
Okuda took his first steps as an artist in 1977. Armed with his sprays, he would paint graffiti letters on abandoned factories. But his professional era and his personal journey wouldn’t start until 2007, when he started studying fine arts at university. His studies on surrealism had a profound influence on him and, together with his graffiti letters, his characteristic style started to develop.
As a painter, sculptor and designer, Okuda has a very unique style — a style through which he has developed an unmistakable iconographic language: Figures that are fragmented into geometrical forms are met by polychromy; a palette of almost infinite colours.
Okuda was already professionally invested in his work. But one of them was undoubtedly a breaking point in his career and a media boom that turned him into a worldwide phenomenon: Kaos Temple. In 2014, the artist filled an old temple from a church (turned into a skatepark) in the north of Spain with colours and figures. The contrast between the neo-romantic architecture of the church and Okuda’s futurist and colourful language shook the world.
Okuda found his way into the most important lists of international artists, such as those in Graffiti Art or Widewalls magazines. Nowadays, his murals, sculptures and exhibitions travel around the world: France, the US, the Netherlands, India, Australia, Mexico, Morocco… Brands like Zalando —one of his last collaborations— keep calling him to have a piece of his vision; one that never stops evolving and exploring new grounds. Now, Okuda’s work has landed in the digital world — on August 2nd, he launched his first NFT collection.
But, how does his mind work? Okuda has granted us an exclusive interview in order to try to answer this question, but also left us with some great advice to help us develop our creativity.
My creative process varies quite a lot depending on whether it’s a piece I’m going to create in a studio or if it’s going to be a painting or sculpture on the streets. If it’s a sculpture, the process starts with a reference, which can be an image or an object. We create a digital 3D file which we give to the studio so they can create the mother piece that we will later paint and lacquer.
The process for murals is very different. I don’t like sketching. I like to stand in front of the wall in order to find inspiration and take in everything that’s going on in the surroundings. It’s right there that I think about the composition. I start by making the main character or main elements and, then, as the work progresses, the work itself tells me what the next step will be.
The paintings I create inside a studio also have a completely different process. The first thing I do is to mark them with colour codes. My assistants help me during the initial routinary processes and, afterwards, I add more details, shading and gradients.
It depends heavily on the surface or the place I’m going to work with. I have mostly worked with flat buildings, which isn’t much of a challenge since it’s much like a canvas in my studio. But when the architecture is more complex— like churches, castles or classical architecture with a lot of ornaments— I find the answer on the building itself. I think that combining modern digital language with classical architecture provokes a thrilling effect.
In the beginning, my inspiration came from my academic studies, where I discovered surrealism and other wonderful parts of the history of art: Renaissance, Baroque and, most of all, classical art — all of which I re-interpret in order to bring them into my futuristic digital compositions. But, to be honest, what inspires me the most is everything that surrounds me, travelling and the cultures I visit.
My quietest state, the one in which most ideas come to me, happens to occur when I’m in an aeroplane. Maybe it’s because I’m forced to spend many hours in one quiet place, maybe quieter than my own house, because in an aeroplane nobody can call you or visit you. When I’m inside an aeroplane, I’m alone and in the clouds, and I think that inspires me a lot. I’m also more creative when I have to work under pressure, like having to meet a deadline for an exposition. Working with pressure highly motivates me and helps me come up with many ideas.
I think creativity and art have always represented the changes in history: social, historical, political changes and conflicts. All of this has inspired artists who have put it all into their work.
My work transmits messages such as freedom, the meaning of life, love, multiculturality… I love showing a dialogue and a contradiction between the future and the past, between the modern world and our roots, between nature and cement.
More than a piece of advice, I have a phrase that defines me: “I need to create in order to be happy”. Creativity is my psychiatrist. For example, if I go on holidays —I’m actually going to Egypt on holidays right now—, I know I’m going to come back full of ideas and inspiration. I think creativity never stops. I experience it 24/7. For me it’s necessary to do it this way in order to be happy.
To the young creatives and artists I would say: whatever you do, do it from your heart; and whatever goal you set for yourself, set it according to what makes you feel better and not thinking about the money or being more popular — social networks can confuse us and change our values. In the end, what’s important is you being pleased with yourself. Finding meaning in life is finding a personal motivation that’s greater than anything else.
Article written in collaboration with: Okuda