Once I moved to SF and saw the vibrant street art culture in the Mission, I knew I wanted to participate. Since then I have been putting up wheat pastes at the (de)Appropriation Project, working with local businesses to paint murals, and unleashing strange removable pieces of art onto the public.

Elliot C Nathan street art on Valencia

Elliot C Nathan street art on Valencia

Elliott C Nathan creates playful pop culture style street art. It’s fun, silly, upbeat, sometimes irreverent nature is like walking into the definition of cool. If the hey day of MTV and street art had a love child, it would pop out Elliott C Nathan – on a skateboard that he made of course 😉 We caught up with him to learn more about his art and the meaning of the lucid dreaming squid.

When did you start making street art? What was it that got you started?
I became fascinated with street art while living in Barcelona in 2007. The street art scene there is incredible. I started with stickers – just drawing tons of them and sticking them everywhere all the big guys were posting. I continued putting up art as I traveled through Paris, Amsterdam, London, Dublin, and Munich.

A couple years later, in 2009 I moved to Chile, which also has a huge street art scene. I started photographing every mural, sticker, and tag in Santiago and Valparaíso; I even self published a book of it. As I became more intertwined with the street art scene there, I began posting tons of hand drawn stickers. I continued this in Buenos Aires, and my travels throughout Colombia and Peru.

Once I moved to SF and saw the vibrant street art culture in the Mission, I knew I wanted to participate. Since then I have been putting up wheat pastes at the (de)Appropriation Project, working with local businesses to paint murals, and unleashing strange removable pieces of art onto the public.

Do you have an art and design background? If so can you elaborate a bit?

I have been drawing and making art since I was a little boy (some of the inspiration for my comic Ellio McHelium which I write from the perspective of a malevolent 7 year old). I was able to hone and focus those skills through an exceptional drawing program in my high school, taught by Pat DiCosimo.

Later, I went to the University of Connecticut where I was accepted and studied at the school of Fine Arts. I followed this path for two years until I decided to get my degree in Business Marketing. Once I switched majors, I made a strong effort to keep creating new works and have not stopped painting since. I’ve used what I learned from marketing to promote, sell, and distribute my work nationwide.

Elliott C Nathan street art Candy Monster

Elliott C Nathan street art Candy Monster

Do you work by yourself or are you a member of any crews or both? If you are part of crew which one(s)?

For the most part I work alone, but I am interested in doing some collaborations with some local artists in the future. I did a community piece for my last Open Studio Show where I created a large sculpture out of scrap wood and furniture, painted it white, and invited people to draw all over it.

What type of pieces do you do? What types of tools do you use?
I do it all, but I spend a lot of time working with cut wood and acrylics. My favorite tools are my jigsaw, power-sander, paint brushes, and fingers.

Elliot C Nathan - Collage Photo

Elliot C Nathan – Collage Photo

Where can your pieces be seen?
My work is currently showing at Muddy Waters on Valencia. I’m currently booking gallery shows for 2013, and requests can be made through my website. I also have a mural on 24th and Bartlett across 3 garage doors (Video: http://missionlocal.org/2011/11/the-bartlett-murals-story/)

Do you do walls, installations, trains, sidewalk pieces etc?

One that I have iterated a number of times now on the sidewalk is the squidipus/octosquid character with text that reads, “Very Unlucky Pennies, Take One If You Dare.” Then I leave a pile of pennies on the paper and I’m on my way. The first time I did this, I stood from afar and watched people interact with it and wrote down all of the things people did upon reading it. What I took most from the experience is how strangely people stand when they take pictures with their cell phones… also it’s a great way to get rid of your pennies.

Where do you get your inspiration?
My inspiration comes from all over the place… sometimes I’ll get an idea while running, or wake up in the middle of the night, jump up and jot it down in my notebook to complete later. I love seeing the work of my peers and getting ideas and inspiration from their projects. It’s hard not to feel inspired when you watch someone do what they are most passionate about.

How do you go about starting a new piece?
My drawing style is mostly train-of-thought, in that I don’t begin with an end image in mind. Rather, I draw continuously until it seems complete… if something doesn’t seem right, I paint over it and do it again until it is. Some paintings I’m never satisfied with… those go back to the street for someone else to paint over.

Is there a specific message you are trying to get across?
My work is a mix of the lighthearted, fun, and bizarre. The messages in my art are usually pretty upbeat: “Enjoy Today” “Be Nice” “Have Fun” “Eat Candy” “Make Art.” Some pieces verge more on the line of nonsense, for example, my recent pieces entitled “San Francisco on Ham.” Why on ham? Why not?

Elliott C nathan street art san francisco

Elliott C Nathan street art san francisco

What art/artist influenced you in formative years? Are there any now?
As a child I had a giant print of Picasso’s Guernica hanging over my bed. From age 8 I used to try and copy his style and practice drawing crazy faces. My first experience with Surrealism was when Dali’s exhibit came to Connecticut when I was 14. I was fascinated by the dream worlds he created, and how revered he was for painting whatever wild thing came into his imagination. SF also has some wonderful street artists; it’s been great getting to know them and seeing their approach to building up their brand.

I love the pop culture graphic nature of your pieces and the Dali like play with consciousness, dreaming and reality. What brought you to the idea of the lucid dream octopus?

How many times have you been doing something that feels so real and so vivid only to wake up and realize you were dreaming? I wanted to create a series of pieces that would force people to question whether or not they were dreaming or awake.

Lucid Dreaming is when you become aware that you are dreaming and in some cases can use that knowledge to control the dream world in which you are interacting. Essentially, by harnessing the power of lucid dreaming you can become god of your own universe. One technique to lucid dreaming involves doing reality checks throughout your waking life, (ex. checking light switches to see if they work or looking at a book to see if the text is stable) in doing so you will perform a reality check while dreaming and realize you are dreaming… now… LOOK AT YOUR HANDS!

Do you know what has been your most popular or longest running piece?

I’ve been using the squidipus/octosquid character for the past year as my mark to link all of my different pieces together. He comes from a series of similar characters called “The Nobodys” that I drew back in 2010. My most popular pieces are the robots and the elephant riding a skateboard.

Elliot C Nathan Street art in San Francisco

Elliot C Nathan Street art in San Francisco

We loved your piece on 24th and Bartlett and the video you made posted by Uptown Almanac. Can you tell us a little more about what your inspiration was for that piece? What inspired you to make a video about it?

I had been thinking about doing some fast-motion videos of my work, and this was the perfect opportunity. My friend Ernie Milan owns that building. I was working with him to prep the store on the corner to be rented out (now Campfire Gallery). In conversation he mentioned the three paneled mural that was there needed some updating and asked me if I would like to take over the space and create my own mural. I excitedly said YES! and started designing a piece incorporating a number of my favorite elements, including: old TVs, robots, birds, elephant feet, squid arms, balloons, hearts, checkers, and more. Uptown Almanac referred to it as “Cthulhu Elephant TV Shotgun-Ejaculates Geyser of Winged Street Art,” which cracked me up, but is also fairly accurate.

Do you make a lot of videos about murals and artwork you do or in the Mission? Should we stay tuned for more videos? Do you have a youtube, vimeo, socialcam or vidddy channel we should know about?

Yes! Stay tuned, more videos are coming! When I was 6 my parents let me use the video camera to make “Elliott’s Show,” (which I plan on posting) and I have loved doing that since. I’ve done a few other videos, including a goofy music video to “Puttin’ On The Ritz,” when I was 14, and some stop motions and fast motion videos showing the creation of things.

I sense that showing people the creation process gives added value, understanding, and appreciation to the finished work.
Here is my Vimeo Channel: https://vimeo.com/elliottcnathan
And YouTube, which I use less frequently: http://www.youtube.com/user/elliottcnathan

Elliot C nathan Street art Robot in San Francisco

Elliot C nathan Street art Robot in San Francisco

I am fascinated with the diversity of street artist. Some I have met work as fulltime creative commercial artist by day and on the streets at night. Other artists have a 9-5 style job that is not artistic at all and street art is their creative outlet. What do you do from day to day? Does your day job have anything to do with art? Is this a full time thing for you it looks like you do skateboard decks? Am I correct? Do you use a lot of the same artwork on there that you use on the street?

After years of running small businesses, I have spent the past year completely focused on art. My biggest expositions in 2011 and 2012 have been during Mission Open Studios, where I took over the entire space, which is now Campfire Gallery, and created a gallery featuring all of my recent work. I was able to sell many pieces at these shows, which have also acted as springboards for the shows at coffee shops and galleries.

Apart from selling paintings, I am the founder and head artist for SunkenMonkey skateboards where I produce San Francisco’s smallest handmade wooden skateboards that still cruise like a longboard. I draw, cut, and sand each deck by hand, then embellish them with upcycled, vintage and found materials to create wild and original deck art. We just took over the front display window at Mission Skateboards.

The actual art on the decks depends on the series. Sunken Monkey Series 1 was done mostly with repurposed street art with a centerpiece that I created. Sunken Monkey Series 2 I played with repeating patterns and used a lot of photos, scraps, and cutouts that I found on the street when I was living in Santiago, Chile. Sunken Monkey Series 3 is currently in production and the style is under wraps, but they will be small and they will be fast… stay tuned for their 2013 release.

Elliott C Nathan street art on Valencia

Elliott C Nathan street art on Valencia

Do you have an upcoming project or show you want me to let people know about?

I have a new show going up at Mission Cliffs on 19th and Harrison starting November 5th through December 31. You can also find my work for sale at Luz De Luna Gift Shop on 24th and South Van Ness and at Mission Skateboards on 24th Street.

For updates and announcements please subscribe to my facebook and follow me on twitter @elliottcnathan. Finally, if you have a wall, I’d love to come paint on it!

Love will PrevailSummer LoveHappy Pride.A bird in the hand… Party City.
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