The artist known as “Zodak,” AKA “Louito” Alvarez, is an all-around talent whose work across many mediums is deserving of recognition. The San Diego, California-based artist can inspire others with his words as well as his art. We thank him for graciously answering a few of our questions to benefit other artists and anyone who can appreciate artistic expression.

LRA: When did you first realize that you were an artist?Zodak: The time that comes to mind would be the fifth grade. The janitor at my school just happened to be an amazing artist. He would see drawings that I did that my teacher would hang in her classroom. He saw potential, and asked my teacher to buy me a set of art pencils. For him to see something in me after seeing how incredible his work was, that’s when I knew that I had something.

LRA: What type of mediums do you like to use?Zodak: I’ll experiment with just about anything, but my favorite would be the No. 2 pencil.

LRA: Could you tell us some more about your favorite medium?Zodak: It’s my root, it’s what I started with. Get rid of all these computer programs, hand everybody No. 2 pencils and we’ll see who really has skills.

LRA: Do you ever use yourself or friends as the subjects for your work? If so, why?Zodak: Well, I use myself more often because I’m always around. I use my hands for hand positions, face for expressions. Like most artists, I pay close attention to my environment and nature for inspiration.

LRA: What artists have influenced you, and how?Zodak: My father, Louie Alvarez Jr., was the first person I ever saw draw something. He taught me my first letter style. I had my first tattoo experience with him when I was about in the sixth grade. I drew a pattern on his forearm with a ballpoint pen and he tattooed it with a jail-style machine that our homie “Fats” from the neighborhood let him use. My uncle Edward Salazar was the first person who amazed me. Anything I asked him to draw he would make it look just like it. I had to know how to do that. Also, my cousin Theresa Alvarez, she always amazed me. Instead of going to play with my friends after school, I would sometimes go to her house and draw with her attempting to impress what in my eyes was a master artist.

LRA: How is the art scene in San Diego compared to other parts of Cali? The world?Zodak: There’s so much hidden talent here, so much. San Diego, not being an industry city like L.A. or New York, makes it more difficult to be recognized, but it also makes the artists here really grounded to their craft. Money, no money, fame, no fame… styles will be pushed. The feeling that an artist experiences when he or she sees progression in their art is priceless.

LRA: What other interests do you have besides drawing?Zodak: Fishing, boxing, skateboarding, my pets, playing instruments, health, pretty much anything that falls under the category of “creativity.”

LRA: What inspires you to paint/draw and how do you keep motivated with all of the traveling, working the tattoo studio, and your extra projects?Zodak: All of my other interests keep me inspired. They’re part of my life’s balanced equation. I think that if I just focused on drawing and painting, I would not have the same drive. But my biggest inspiration comes from my loving family, my tribe. If I didn’t have my talents or my other interests, I will always have them.

LRA: Any new projects that we should know about from “Zodakism”?Zodak: At the moment, I’m working on a shoe series with Osiris, and attempting to resurrect my clothing line Top 2 Bot’m. I’m currently producing an album featuring a couple of my boys, Briskone and Louie Fangz.

LRA: Where do you see your artwork in 10 years?Zodak: You see, that’s one of creativity’s gifts to an artist. Most people in general don’t want to think 10 years into the future for fear of becoming old, but for me as an artist, it just means that I’ll be 10 years better and that’s exciting.

LRA: This is an old question but here it goes. What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?Zodak: Practice, patience and focus on trying to do your best at the present time. Good will follow, doors will open. Everybody has a different view of what they feel is the way, but what works for me was naturally invested in me. The passion for creativity and the fascination with progress, and to be able to inspire another human being so that he or she can someday enjoy it the way that I do, is a gift in itself.