Risk + Ota Return With Old School New School

Graffiti writer RISK & artist Nathan Ota have been collaborating since their formative high school years. We’re excited to bring you the second piece in of a series of collaborations from the Californian duo, the second of which highlights a trouble laden period of time in the graffiti career of RISK. Read on for the exclusive 1xRUN Thru Interview with Nathan Ota as he discusses his upcoming print with Risk.

Nathan Ota & RISK

1xRUN Thru Interview

Old School New School by RISK & Nathan Ota

1xRun: This is the second piece in your series of collaborations, what else can we expect from you two?

Nathan Ota: Risk and I will continue to work together and continue to see where this journey will take us.  The fun is in the ride!  We plan to put a body of work together very soon but for now, I am working on a solo show at La Luz De Jesus Gallery in November, 2012!  There will also be a new painting that no-one has seen that Risk and I collaborated on.  It’s a big one, 4×6 feet!

1xRun: Ok, can you tell us a little bit about this piece, is the original still for sale? When was it created?

Nathan Ota:  No, the original is sold. It was painted with spray paint and Acrylic on wood panel in July of 2011. This is a painting that showcases the starting origins of many collaborations to come.

1xRun:  How did the idea and execution came about? 
Nathan Ota:  This painting showcases the transition from the old school to the new school.  As a traditional painter now, I no longer use spray-paint in my work which is evident with the skull and fat caps on the ground and having the bird on the skull is sort of a new rebirth of what I do now.  These collaborations are a rebirth of Risky and I coming back and working together again after 20 years of perfecting our skills and putting it back together again like we once did in high school.
1xRun: How long did the piece take?  
Nathan Ota:   All together, this painting came together in about a week.

1xRun: What is unique about this piece?

Nathan Ota:  The thing I like mostly about this piece is the merging of 2 artist coming together and working together and making it look seamless.  It is also very autobiographical to both of our lives.

1xRun: Describe the piece in one gut reaction word.    

Nathan Ota:  Damn!

Old School New School by Risk + Nathan Ota

1xRun: When did you first start making art?

RISK: Since before I can remember. My grandmother told me about all the things I made. She gave me things like buttons, and empty spools, etc. as toys. I had to be creative to occupy my time.

Nathan Ota: I remember drawing a lot in my younger years but don’t think I took it seriously till I got into Jr. High school. I can still remember in grammar school, tracing one of the students while he laid on a big piece of paper and making it into Santa Claus for a banner in the hallways. I wouldn’t say that it was my start but I was always the one asked to do something that required drawing.

1xRun: What was your first piece?

RISK My first graffiti piece was a “Surf” piece on the side of UNI hi in Los Angeles.

Nathan Ota: I remember tracing old comic book covers and rendering them. Maybe Spiderman? Too young to remember how old I was.


1xRun: What artists inspired you early on?

RISK The Los Angeles Fine Art Squad did a piece on the side of the West LA police station. It was a freeway falling off into the Ocean….This was the first Mural that blew me away! just look at it!

Nathan Ota: Too much to name but the earliest artists that I started following was Robert Williams, Frazetta and Olivia. It wasn’t until I went to college where art history classes really opened my eyes to a whole new world of art

Los Angeles Fine Art Squad

 1xRun: What artists inspire you now?

RISK There are too many to list, every one in MSK is truly inspirational.

Nathan Ota: Again, way too many to list but to name a few, not in any particular order, George Bellows, John Singer Sargent, Andrew Wyeth, Van Gogh, Claude Monet, Toulouse Lautrec, Egon Schiele, Jackson Pollock and it just keeps going on.

MSK in Detroit

1xRun: Do you listen to music while you work? If so what? If not then what is your environment like when you work?

RISK I listen to a lot of Led Zeppelin, Classic Rock, Funk, and Blues. Especially when I’m doing graffiti pieces, I like to imagine my letters dancing or fighting.

Nathan Ota: Yes, I have a lot of things going on, I have the TV on and I listen to music. Sometimes both at the same time. I listen to anything from jazz, punk rock, folk, alternative, sports radio and sometimes just completely experimental music. My studio is just a big table, an easel, a small radio with a CD player and 4 walls and a nice comfy chair to take naps between coats of paint. It’s a bit tight but I have to be in a comfortable environment and this is it for me.

Nathan Ota Studio Space


1xRun: If you could collaborate with any deceased artists who would it be and why?

RISK Michelangelo.. He is the best-documented artist of the 16th century, and considered one of the best artists of all times, yet he had a very low opinion of painting. Some of his work among the most famous pieces of all times. There is too much to say about him and his work, he had so many mediums and attributions. He was considered the greatest living artist of his time and he pioneered Western Art. I don’t think you could get any better than that!

Nathan Ota: I would love to experience painting with the first Neanderthal cave painters! Imagine how cool it would be to see them spitting red pigment on the walls and using their hands as stencils. I’m also very curious on how they look.

Michelangelo – Sistine Chapel

1xRun: What was the first piece of art that you bought? Do you still have it?

RISK A Robert Williams print and I still have it.

Nathan Ota: I think it was Jordin Isip. Love his work and yes, I still have them.

Robert Williams

1xRun: What was the last piece of art that you bought?

RISK I’m currently trading Seen for a piece. I consider him to be one of the all time best graffiti artists!

Nathan Ota: A piece from Glenn Barr.


1xRun: Where can people find you on the internette?

RISK: –WebsiteFacebookTwitterInstagram

Nathan Ota: – WebsiteFacebookBlog – Instagram @Nathan Ota