We had the good fortune of connecting with Zach Oldenkamp and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Zach, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
I remember seeing a realistic drawing done by a contemporary artist in my late teenage years and being completely blown away by it. At the time I knew there were amazing paintings done centuries ago but I didn’t realize there were artists doing it the modern day. I had no concept of how someone could draw something so naturalistic and evocative and I couldn’t stop thinking about it as a problem to solve. Almost like seeing a magic trick and I couldn’t stop thinking about how it’s done. I was hooked and knew it was something I had to learn. The challenge and problem solving of art and design has continued to be a constant drive in continuing my artistic career.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I think something a lot of artist struggle with is trying to figure out what they want to communicate with their own art. And once they have an idea it can be intimidating to try and figure out how to depict those things. It can be paralyzing but ultimately the best way to figure it out is to think it through as best you can and start making the work. My work mostly focuses on making art that feels intimate and personal. Mostly this is done through depicting moments and spaces that invoke a sense of familiarity and stillness. I always think of early mornings and late nights as these special times of day where you’re able to take a breath and reflect on things which is why you see a lot of my figures either at the beginning or end of their day. The goal is similar with the interiors and the still lives. Most of them present everyday spaces/objects in naturalistic lighting that hopefully people look at and it brings forward some sense of familiarity. Ideally depicting these simple things is encouraging for people to start to notice these moments in their own lives and to take some time to slow down. I’m sure that doesn’t come across to everyone but when someone makes a comment or reaches out about how it made them feel and it’s exactly what you intended it’s hard to beat the feeling. Even if the piece isn’t your favorite or doesn’t succeed in the way you’d hoped it can still be a step in the right direction. Knowing what doesn’t work is valuable knowledge moving forward and making something is always better than doing nothing.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
It’s a little tricky considering the current state of things but I’ll answer with the hopes that everything will be opening back up. Lands End is always a good time. It’s such a unique area to San Francisco with an interesting history and provides some great views. You can enjoy great ocean views while sitting on ruins of a huge old bath house that used to be there. I always recommend waking up early and getting there before the rush and going at night after most people have cleared out. It’s one of the best sunsets in town! It’s also not too far of a walk from the Legion of Honor where you can see some great paintings and some great Rodin sculptures. The de Young is another great museum in town that offers forms of art from a lot of different areas of the world. It also has a viewing tower that has a great view of Golden Gate Park. The SFMoMA gets some exciting exhibits as well. San Francisco’s culinary scene has been one of my favorite parts of living in the city. Some of my favorite spots are Ben Thai Cafe, Aslam’s Rasoi and Monk’s Kettle. Delfina in the Mission District has opened my eyes to a whole new level of pizza. Finally I’ll mention Rhea’s Deli which has some of the best sandwiches I’ve had. There’s no shortage of bars in SF and it’s hard to pick a favorite! Before the pandemic I would spend a fair amount of time in a small cocktail bar called Stookey’s Club Moderne. It was a great place to go early on a Saturday and do some reading and sketching. 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?
It’s hard to pinpoint a specific person because this is a field that requires constant learning and growing and I’ve been fortunate to constantly have friends and coworkers that are always inspiring me. Of course, I owe a lot to my parents who have been supportive of pursuing a path in a field that none of us knew anything about. A lot of my artistic career is owed to the teachers and fellow students of the Safehouse Atelier. The teachers were experienced and active in their fields and having fellow students with diverse levels of education made it a great place to learn and grow. A lot of the relationships I formed there have continued to be a big part of both my personal and artistic growth.