We had the good fortune of connecting with Wolfgang Bloch and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Wolfgang, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I was born and raised in Guayaquil, Ecuador. The house I grew up in was in a new development and it sat alone, surrounded by open space and nature. As a kid I could venture outside everyday; get my hands in the dirt and be exposed to nature.
Our family vacations were spent throughout Ecuador and we always traveled by car. Somehow my parents managed to cram four kids and gear into a Volkswagen. I can still remember the images I saw, while looking out the backseat window during those trips. Beautiful, vivid landscapes with hardly anyone around. Looking back, I think those trips and being exposed to that landscape really shaped me into the person I am today.
Being in nature is still vital to me. It helps me stay centered; it inspires me, opens my eyes and opens my heart.
My work centers around that feeling.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
My paintings have been described as moving, romantic, evocative, contemporary sea and landscapes, that interpolate between being representational and abstract work.
My creative process is purely intuitive and emotional. I don’t plan, sketch or paint from photographs; it just evolves.
The surface is really important to me. I paint on discarded and used materials, such as reclaimed wood, cardboard, paper and fabrics. I don’t want my paintings to look manufactured. I like showing little imperfections in the materials; I want them to have a somewhat organic feel.
It’s been a long and unimaginable journey for me. Coming to the United States in 1982 at the age of 18 to go to college, from a very small country in South America.
Life in the states was very different than what I was used to. Latin culture is vibrant, loud and warm. Central Florida didn’t offer much of that…it took some adjusting. English was my third language and I had an accent. I was constantly asked where I was from and surprised to find out that many didn’t know where Ecuador was.
I wanted to become a marine biologist, but I soon realized that I was a much better at art than science.
I changed majors and graduated in 1987 with a BFA. I applied for grad school in order to stay in the US on my student visa, and was accepted at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena into their Graphic Design program. It was for another Bachelor Degree, but I didn’t mind; I was really excited to be able to move to California.
I still remember the feeling when I finally arrived in LA as I drove past downtown on my way to Pasadena.
I loved it; the diversity of people, so many different cultures, the variety of foods, music, art, and I could finally speak Spanish again without getting dirty looks.
Art Center was an incredible experience. Just visiting the campus for the first time and seeing the iconic, modernist building was an incredible and inspiring experience. The work load was intense, but I loved the fact that most of the faculty there, were actually working professionals, who also taught and gave students a view into the workings of the real design world.
After graduation I got a job as a designer for Gotcha Sportswear in Irvine.
It was a great job, I had lots of creative freedom, but somehow working in front of a computer all day wasn’t for me. I really missed getting my hands dirty and actually touching what I was working on.
After 4 years at Gotcha, I decided to venture out on my own as a freelance artist. I did a lot of illustration work, mainly working for companies in the surfing industry. It felt really good to use pencils, brushes and paint again. I continued doing that for about 10 years.
In the year 2000, I was commissioned by Billabong, a surf clothing brand, to create a painting for their lobby in their new building. It was a large piece and it forced me to move from my small one car garage studio, into a larger space.
I started painting again. It felt so good to just paint; to have the opportunity to experiment, to enjoy the process and not know where the work was going or where it would end up. It had been years since I experienced that.
I participated in small group shows. My work was well received and I got some editorial exposure, and little by little I was painting more and doing less design and illustration work.
In 2008 Chronicle Books published a book about my work titled Wolfgang Bloch: The Colors of Coincidence.
I’ve been painting now full time for almost 20 years. My work has been exhibited in galleries and museums throughout the country and world.
I’m in my studio everyday. I love to work, I love to create; if I’m not painting, I’m building panels, or experimenting with different materials and mediums.
It’s been a long journey and I don’t take anything for granted.
I’m so thankful that I get to do something I’m passionate about everyday.
It was not a smooth road…many lessons learned the hard way.
But I’ve learned that struggle has only made me stronger. It taught me perseverance and has helped me keep my feet on the ground. Growth comes from enduring difficult times. It has also pushed me to create some of my most honest work.
In 2013 I was going through some very difficult times, where I felt as if I was drowning. I started a series of underwater paintings titled Pacifico, that show images of being deep in the ocean, looking upwards toward the light.
On the surface they represent the contrast of light versus dark, but looking deeper they represent the struggle I was going through. They are dark and bear a lot of weight, but always show a promise of light…a promise of hope.
I think the biggest struggle for me to deal with has been, and still is, to learn to trust. Learn to believe in myself and my work and trust that I’m on the right path and that things will somehow work out.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
As an artist, I always enjoy a visit to LACMA, MOCA, or the Broad Museum. The Mint on Pico is my favorite place to go listen to live music. Its been open for over 70 years.
Just half a block away, also on Pico is my favorite Ethiopian food restaurant called Awash. Family owned, low key with great food and mainly locals. In Little Tokyo, Pho Ever on second street is my favorite Vietnamese restaurant.
The Los Angeles National Forest is a great place to get away from the city. It has so many different trails and a great place to get away from it all. The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My father, Helmuth Bloch deserves all the credit. He always believed in me and pushed me to become the person I am today. He’s been gone for over 20 years now. My good friend, Mike Stice, and author of Wolfgang Bloch: The color of Coincidence, wrote this passage about what my father meant to me.
“In life, Helmuth had been many things to Wolfgang: friend, father, pilot, tour guide, companion, and mentor. Mostly though, Helmuth had been a tireless and sturdy pillar of integrity, upon which a boy, a family, a friend, or a company could safely rest its faith. Helmuth’s life exemplified what resounding effects a person was capable of producing in others when he held firm to his beliefs. In the wake of his father’s passing, Wolfgang became more convinced than ever that his own deepest convictions are best experienced and expressed by the means of his art. Through painting Wolfgang knew he would be able to experiment and reminisce, discover and recollect, and innovate and commemorate. And so, being his fathers son, he continued painting.”
My father still inspires me to become a better person everyday, and I honor him by being the best father I can be to my own two kids.
Linnea Stephan – portrait photo