Our Final ILW Judge’s Interview: Karla Ortiz (the next step is yours: Enter!)


Illustration West 55 Show Chair Steve “Primary” Hughes interviews our final judge for our Illustration West competition – early bird deadline is September 30!

Karla Ortiz is an award winning artist who enjoys working on a diverse and wide variety of projects. As a concept artist with over 6 years of professional experience, Karla has worked for Paragon Studios/NcSoft, Ubisoft, Kabam, Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) and now works as a concept artist for Marvel Film Studios. As a professional Illustrator her clients include Wizards of the Coast, Ace Books, Tor Books and has provided cover work and art for various independent authors and toy makers.


Steve: Your work isn’t stuck in just one market, so how do you shift gears or change your approach when doing concept art, gallery work, or general illustration?

Karla: As an artist one of the things that motivates me the most is diversity! Being a concept artist, illustrator and fine artist offers me that diversity. Some days I work on warriors from another land for book covers, other days I work on my own personal visions, other times I work on a variety of assets needed for film! It keeps my brain and creativity sharp when I have to tackle on many different shapes, moods, narratives , etc. However my technical approach remains the same. First I start with simple quick doodles to get my ideas down, second I gather the information and references I will be using, thirdly I create a defined and thorough sketch as a foundation to my painting and lastly I render over said sketch to a final I’m happy with. This methodical approach is applied to all my projects, the novelty lies in the different subject matters and the solving of the visual problems!

Steve: What are the challenges/rewards for you of working in a studio environment?Second Omens

Karla: I absolutely adore working alongside other artists! There is so much you can learn from your peers, and in some ways as an artist who mostly spends their time alone in my own personal studio, that camaraderie is very much needed! I go through phases of needing solitude and needing the companionship of other artists. When I want my solitude it’s because sometimes being in a studio with others can be distracting. When I seek companionship it’s because working alone for too long can create a sense of comfort in your work, that should be constantly challenged! Seeing the excellent work of your peers is a great reminder to always push past your artistic boundaries!

Steve: Art Schools, Ateliers, workshops, mentorships, do you have any suggestions for beginning artists interested in pursuing illustration or training?

Karla: There are many roads one can take to become a professional illustrator and to improve as an artist.

My own personal road began with an overpriced college that sadly did not do me much good. I found refuge in an Atelier and got my classical education through it. Not just this but I would also attend many workshops through out the United States seeking knowledge from those I admired. Today I am grateful for the education I received, but remain riddled with student debt. While there are INCREDIBLE art colleges out there, I always urge those who do not have the financial means to attend these expensive colleges to consider Ateliers, workshops, online courses and books as alternatives.

Steve: What keeps you excited or entertained outside of the studio? Does that feedback into your work in any clear way?

Karla: I absolutely adore video games and great television/movies. These form of entertainments were my first love, particularly video games. They inspire and fuel my creativity, my interest and my subject matter, so I always make sure I take a bit of time to enjoy these forms of media!

The Sorceror of the wildeeps 72Steve: First 7 jobs?


1. Worked at a french pastry shop. I got fired two days into my training!
2.Worked as an artist for local authors
3. Worked for a small comic book company as a colorist.
4. Worked in a local small video game company as a story board artist, job lasted two weeks.
5. Became a concept artist for a small video game company that was operated by a famous jewelry thief who apparently stole from Liberacci. In our all hands meetings he would tell us stories about prison and make everyone both really uncomfortable and slightly scared for their lives.
6. Worked for a small miniature company doing concepts for their miniatures.
7. Hired at NCSoft, Paragon Studios.


All artwork ©2016  Karla Ortiz – no copying allowed