Otto Splotch, the illustrator whose name well suits his work, which drips in splotches of colour, combines the absurd and the gross (and sometimes even the perverted) with beautifully detailed handiwork. Based in the birthplace of jazz, New Orleans, which he describes as “a wild and dysfunctional party city that requires a specific skillset to live [there],” Otto spends his time between his day job painting Mardi Gras Floats and creating numerous experimental books pushing his illustration practice forward.
Maintaining his creative juices through the day while refining his painting skills on the floats, in his spare time Otto delves into the more experimental side of his practice. Combining his signature theme of the absurd with a mode of illustration which is heavy on the detail, the American illustrator ultimately strives towards “being edgy and vocal while maintaining some level of tact.” For Otto, happy accidents have always served an important role in driving his practice forward. It allows him to be experimental as he never knows what can come out of taking creative risks.
As a result, he’s become more reliant on Photoshop recently. “I used to feel like my illustrations had to exist on a hand drawn piece of paper in its completed form,” he tells It’s Nice That on how he felt like it was almost like “cheating” if he relied too much on the computer. Now, he’s streamlined his process to encompass a mix of the digital and analogue. Having hand drawn a dense library of clip art scanned then filed on the computer, Otto uses Photoshop to collage together new compositions, in turn speeding up his process while having more control over the image and its quality.
As for Otto’s creative influences, it was Rob Zombie’s artwork for his band White Zombie which set his aesthetic in motion at the tender age of 15. “My go-to description for my art is frequently ‘Ya know, like gross Paper Rad’,” the illustrator goes on to say, and along with artists such as Ben Mendelewiciz not to mention a group of his surrounding friends from the DIY art scene, Otto pulls a variety of references to inform his punk-rock aesthetic which he then risograph prints to bring out zingy colour.
After the success of his 2013 graphic novel Stink Helmet, a humorous exploration into a psychedelic world of slime and fart jokes, Otto has since gone onto making books with a looser narrative. From 2014-17, he created a series of experimental art books with the intention of making something aesthetically pleasing, not narrative-focused, even if its sales lacked.
And staying true to this vision, in recent years, he’s continued to publish “a series of trippy esoteric vignettes” through original narratives that are as loose as possible. He’s collaborated with riso printer Max Seckel for a 24 page publication titled Hairdriver where the main character DJ Whoops slips on some goo. And in other work, Quarter Vomit, he’s created a series highlighting the absurdity of New Orleans through three protagonists: a crawfish, an alligator and a nutria. Drawing from the large bank of comic material that resides in the Louisiana city, for Otto, “the series basically writes itself” as the content is abundant and boundless near the Gulf of Mexico.
As for the future, Otto continues to grow, learn and improve, focussing on the creation of individual books rather than several series. “I don’t want to get stuck with one thing that may have been a good idea ten years ago but might not hold up over time,” he adds. “I want to be able to make the best thing possible, even if it lacks consistency.”
About the Author
Jyni joined It’s Nice That as an editorial assistant in August 2018 after graduating from The Glasgow School of Art’s Communication Design degree. In March 2019 she became a staff writer and in June 2021, she was made associate editor. Feel free to drop Jyni a note if you have an exciting story for the site.