The reggae-ska-punk band Sublime brought the Long Beach California flair to the masses with their signature sound spanning multiple platinum selling albums during the mid-90’s. Behind the scenes Long Beach artist Opie Ortiz helped solidify the band’s image by designing artwork for most of their releases including the iconic sun logo featured on the cover of 40oz to Freedom. Opie continues to spread the Long Beach flavor across the land as a member of Sublime’s spiritual successor band The Long Beach Dub Allstars. Today we’re honored to have Mr.Ortiz with us to share a little about his life in the arts.
BLANKMANinc: When did you first realize you had a knack for art?
Opie Ortiz: There was this one time in fourth or fifth grade when I had to do like a full page report on some shit and I was like “this sucks”. I didn’t understand the concept at that young age so I drew a picture. I did the report on cows and I drew this picture of cows and I think it was just like color pencil and I just talked about the cows, how they have like four stomachs and blah blah blah. I did this little drawing and the teacher was just amazed and I got an A. She didn’t even care what I fuckin wrote down she showed the whole class the little drawing I did and I was just like “woah, if you draw something too you can get a better grade!” ya know?
BMi: At what point did you think you could turn your art into a profitable thing?
OO: It was weird. I was doing a bunch of jobs as a young kid. I was trying to get into like a printing job because I was already skilled in working with printing and stuff like that, all because of photography, but I think I was just too young, I think and people didn’t want to take the time to like teach me ya know? I just took all of these odd jobs and they were all art orientated like painting backdrops for like photography stuff and like a location technician, kind of stuff for commercials. It helped that I had an art background because I understood what the photographers were doing. Then I saw one of our old friends with a tattoo at a young age, he was like 15, and it just blew my mind.
BMi: Reality shows about tattoo artist and tattoos have become very popular now but most tattoo artists don’t enjoy that. How do you feel about tattoo reality shows?
OO: I don’t really like them. It’s funny to me but it’s kind of sad because it’s something you take spiritual and hot very highly. What you do is your craft but it’s become some fucking weird fad. It really pisses me off.
BMi: The sun logo on Sublime’s 40oz to Freedom album has become iconic and it’s just everywhere. Did you ever think when you designed the piece that one day you’d see it everywhere?
OO: Well you wish for that ya know? It’s sweet when it’s happening and then it has a tragic ending like that and it’s kind of bittersweet ya know? Brad (Nowell) would say that to me “I’m gonna take your art to the top”. He always said that but I never thought it would be without him enjoying it too, ya know?
BMi: How did you come to be involved with Sublime in the first place?
OO: I went to school with Eric (Wilson) the bass player and we were pretty good friends. We used to get high and party and he had a punk rock band and we’d all go hang out when they’d practice. A little after that he ran across Brad and they started jamming some punk rock stuff too but they would jam like Bob Marley and some other stuff and the reggae stuff started coming into the mix. We were just all hanging out, ya know? Like a backyard band kind of deal.