One of Mexico’s most prolific artist Octavio Ocampo was born in 1943 in Celaya, Guanajuato, Mexico. He grew up in a family of designers and studied art from early childhood. His creativity started as a young child. Octavio has worked with many different artists. In art school, Octavio constructed papier-maché figures for floats, altars, and ornaments that were used during carnival parades and other festivals. In high school, Ocampo painted murals for the Preparatory School and the City Hall of Celaya. Ruth Rivera, daughter of artist and muralist Diego Rivera, and Maria Luisa Mendoza encouraged him to attend the School of Painting and Sculpture of the National Fine Art Institute.
His talents are not limited to painting and sculpture, but also extends to acting and dancing. At the Art Institute of San Francisco, he studied all of these disciplines and pursued both a film and theater career. At the age of 33, he began to devote himself solely to painting and sculpturing. He now works primarily in the metamorphic style-a technique of superimposing and juxtaposing realistic and figurative details within the images that he creates.
“I am fascinated by the forces of Good and Evil and the Sun (male) and the Moon (female). I live in Tepoztlan, which is a mountainous region southwest of Mexico City and is considered to be one of the most magical places on earth. Like the Bermuda Triangle, there is a strange and unexplained but extremely powerful, confluence of magnetic forces seemingly concentrated in the Tepozteco Mountain.”
When we stepped into Octavio Ocampos’ second studio located in Mexico City it was like walking into a museum. His work is well-known all over the world and is constantly used as reference for various types of artwork. As we explore his studio looking at his original artwork we know that this is the real thing and not just a copy of his creations. Surrounded by some of the best artwork in the world, we sit down with Ocampo and ask him a few questions and this is what he had to say.
Can you give us a quick history of yourself?
I was born in Celaya Guanajuato, Mexico. My father, Rafael Angel Ocampo, was an engineer, mechanic and electrician. In his spare time he was a designer and painter. My mother was a homemaker with artistic skills, an actress and did elaborate knitting. Now I live in the city of Tepoztlan Morelos in Mexico. I moved here when I was working as an art director. I have directed more than100 movies. I was also an actor and have been in 10 movies, and I have worked on five Mexican soap operas. I have also acted in 10 theater plays. When I turned 33 years old, I discovered my true calling was painting and I dedicated my life to painting ever since. I decided to paint full time and live in Tepoztlan because I have many friends here and the city has a magical and enchanting feeling that is unique.
How has art influenced your philosophy in life?
I’ve had artistic talent since I was a child because I was always surrounded by art. I had the capability of piecing two different elements that would look like one flowing piece and then in detail they were individual pieces. I studied plastic arts in the city of Celaya, Mexico, and then I attended the School of Painting and Sculpture in Bellas Artes, Mexico. Later, I took some courses at the Art Institute of San Francisco, California. I used to paint figurative images that were most realistic in detail and frequently had the effect of double imagery in the same place. At the age of 33, I dedicated full time to paint and decided that my style would be what I call “Metamorphic” because when you look at my painting they transform from one image to another. My philosophy is that we live in various universes that are parallel to each other so I showcase that on my paintings. And since I am a Pisces, I feel like it’s natural to me. I love to study the relations of the universe and philosophy.
What is your daily routine?
I wake up at 11 a.m. and eat breakfast, take a shower, and I paint for about 4 hours. Then, I exercise, have lunch and paint for four more hours. I watch TV, read, and since I am a nocturnal person, I sometimes paint until 3 a.m. I also schedule social days to visit friends and do my daily chores.
Do you have many friends that are artists? Do you ever collaborate with them?
I have a lot of friends that are in many artistic fields including actors that I have worked with in show business and various sculptors and painters. As a painter, I have never collaborated with anybody. Until this day, even when I do large murals, I do everything by myself including building up the scaffolds. However, when I create sculptures I work with different metal workers.
How important is it to study to be an artist? What’s your opinion?
I think it is important to study to be an artist depending on the type of art they want to create. If they intend to paint figurative or realistic art, it is a good idea to obtain knowledge and guidance from teachers at school. However, if the intension of the student is to paint abstract art, then just knowing the materials that you will be working with is good enough. I think it is also important for an artist to be knowledgeable in history, art and philosophy. So it’s a good idea to attend a school that can teach you about history, art and philosophy.
What’s your process on creating an art piece? Do you create a sketch or start with a blank canvas?
For me, my process in making a painting depends on the idea I have and what I want to create. Sometimes I start by sketching on a napkin or whatever paper is closest to me. Sometimes I sketch directly on the canvas with a paintbrush and build it from there. Sometimes they start as charcoal sketches. The hardest part is putting more than two images together.
How many pieces of art do you do in a year?
I paint about 30 watercolors and 20 oil paintings.
How was your experience in San Francisco?
It was fantastic! I had a few friends that were studying in San Francisco so I decided to try it out. It was the best time of my life because it was during the hippie movement in the early ’70s and I participated in the beginning of the new age of human rights. It was really interesting. I was involved in many marches against the war and participated in parades for the equality of human rights. I also got involved with drugs but soon realized it was not helping me in my artwork. I remember that most of the teachers and students at the Art Institute used to paint abstract art while I painted realistic art. They always asked me why my paintings were realistic and they would jokingly say, “Don’t you know that Kodak already exist and if you want to see something realistic just take a picture.”
Why was it important to move back to Mexico after finishing your studies in San Francisco?
I never forgot where I came from. I used to spend several months every year in the United States including San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and San Diego but because I love my country, I always had to go back home.
Between your artwork, movies and sculptures, what is your favorite piece of all time?
A lot of people ask me that question. My favorite piece is the one that I am currently working on.
What has been your greatest accomplishment?
I would have to say my greatest accomplishment is the popularity of my artwork and that people all over the world, young and old, like it.
Do you do any kind of teaching or workshops?
It’s been a long time since I have taught or lead workshops because I am always painting and have no time to do so.
What projects do you like to do?
I like my theme-free paintings-creating what I want with no restrictions.
Are their any galleries showcasing your work in the United States?
I am currently displaying my artwork in amazing galleries in Sedona, Arizona, and in San Diego, California.
What do you recommend for an artist that wants to do this for a career?
Motivate yourself by studying art and history and dedicate yourself to it 100 percent. Try to identify yourself with your own style of painting or in anything you decide to do. The complicated part is trying to make a living from your artwork.
Who are some of the painters you admire?
I have many favorites in the history of art who are known as the best painters. I would have say Escher, Salvador Dali, Diego Rivera, Remedios Varo, Rufino Tamayo and many more.
Where can we see some of your work or purchase some of your prints?
You can always order them through my website: www.octavioocampo.com.mx.
Any last words?
I would like to encourage the new artists to work hard and not give up on what they truly love doing, and that I am an example that you can make a living as an artist.