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Interview with San Francisco artist Elliot C. Nathan

Artist Profile: Elliott C. Nathan

Q & A with artist Elliott C. Nathan

Jeremy Joven Editor in Chief

by Jeremy Joven
Published July 2015

It is one thing to draw from reality and another to make something out of nothing. Vivid colors, outlines, and magical creatures from the deepest depths of one’s imaginations are still another. As an artist you must dance between the world as you know it, and the world only you can see—Elliott C. Nathan is a denizen of both. He’s the personification of an infectious energy: bright, happy, and full of ideas. Surreal, joyful, poppy, and abstract like his work.


When did you move to SF?
I moved to San Francisco almost 5 years ago, September 2010.

What do you do when you’re not making art?
When I'm not making art I'm usually at my day job at Academy of Art University where I work as the Program Manager for student events. Between work and going to the studio I enjoy running through San Francisco's different neighborhoods. After a long day in the office it reminds me that I'm making a life in a really amazing city. I also enjoy skateboarding, being silly, and partying late into the night.

Where did you go to school and when did you start creating art?
I went to the University of Connecticut. I started as a Fine Arts major and later transferred to the School of Business. I've always had both a business and artist mindset and have been creating since I was a little boy. I think my first artistic venture was when I was 5 years old.
I would draw pictures on notebook paper and tape them over rocks then sell them to the neighbors as lawn ornaments for 25 cents. My sales where good but I never saw them in any gardens.

As a kid I would fill sketch books and doodle constantly. My Uncle, David Colon, an incredible artists ( gave me my first drawing lessons at my grandmothers house when I was 8. He showed me how to block out a face, how to shade with a pencil, and what perspective is. From there I continued to practice, doodle, and draw from photos. My next big push came from my high school drawing teacher, Pat DiCosimo. She was tough and she was blunt, but she pushed me harder than anyone else had before and it's just been building from there. I've always loved creating things, I'm sure it will always be part of me.

How did Sunday Mass start? Who are the founders and what was it like from the beginning to today’s version? Sunday Mass started with a group of guys who wanted to create a new Sunday night party -- something a little more alternative than the nightlife scene we were used to. In the beginning we were running the event at The Chapel on Valencia street. There were 6 or 7 of us when we started and everyone brought their own thing into the mix. Combined we had a solid group of event producers, DJs, costume designers, graphic designers, and artists. Each of us had our own network of friends and acquaintances we reached out to and invited to our first event.

We were all paying for the party out of pocket and just splitting the expenses and rentals between each other. Although it was expensive we made the party free for the first 6 months to help build a following and get our name out. We were running Sunday Mass as a twice monthly -- which ended up being very confusing to people, so we decided to switch Mass to a monthly party.

Our party encompassed so many elements, I think that helped create the draw to our party leading up to our blowout last year for Pride. We had multiple stages, fine artists showing their paintings, a gallery popup by Art Attack SF Gallery, Drag queens, face/body painting, photobooths -- it was wild! We had over 600 people come to our party, it was really encouraging.

After Pride we decided to move our party to Public Works to ease on the expense of many of the rentals as well as the ability for our party to grow as it has. Earlier this year we had the opportunity to bring our party to LA which was awesome. For a Saturday night party we decided to create a new brand that we could bring back to SF, Electroluxx. We took over this old theater in Silverlake and threw what turned into a massive rave. It was great -- we teamed up with some social media promoters for EDM festivals and they helped us get the word out, the place was packed.

The time commitment to throwing these events is significant so a few of the founders have stepped out because of their own time constraints, but they still join us for our events, which is really nice. Our team now consists of 4 of us. Myself, Brett Mendenhall, Alex Fonti, and Danny Snodgrass.We have such a great and supportive team, our friends are all very supportive and help with as well.

What drives you to create art and what inspired you to combine it with your events?
I'm not really sure where my drive to create comes from -- It's something I've felt my whole life. I've always loved making things since I was a little boy. We used to have a workshop in our basement and my dad taught me how to use tools and would help me build my inventions. My first invention was this elaborate contraption to catch squirrels in the backyard. My parents were very kind to let me put that monstrosity outside in public-- they were always very encouraging. I never caught any squirrels.

The inspiration to combine artwork and the party scene emerged as the Sunday Mass team came together. I love creating art, and it's exciting to have gallery openings -- but after a while all of your friends have been to your show, they have seen your work and it can get a little repetitive. It's important to keep booking shows and having openings, but I never want it to be an obligation to the people in my life. Showing tons of artwork at the event is great because people aren't coming to show their support for you, they are coming to party and dance -- the artwork is just part of the experience. I think its a great way to really connect with people too, people take pictures with the art and post to social media. I like the idea of artwork not just being about the work itself but about the scene and the lifestyle it's showcased in.

What do you think about people thinking your work is very Keith Haring?

I've heard that more recently in past couple years as I've taken to bright colors and thick black outlines. If people relate my work to his I take it as an extreme compliment, he was so prolific in such a short time. I've watched some videos where he describes his process and I definitely relate to him. I tend to go into works with a go-with-the-flow type attitude and see where my brush strokes take me. When you don't like what you've made you can just paint white over it and start again.

Read the full article in print - LEISURE ISSUE (also available on Newsstands through August 10th)

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