Otis Hope Carey is a multi-talented artist who was born and raised on Gumbaynggirr land (mid north coast of New South Wales), an area known for its stunning coastline and subtropical rainforests.
From a young age, Otis had a strong connection to the ocean and the land, which has continued to be reflected through his artwork and surfing.
Otis attributes the Gumbaynggirr totem, Gaagal (the ocean) as a key connection as to why he has always been drawn to the ocean. This connection and natural talent quickly became apparent in his surfing as he developed a unique and expressive style.
This style often characterised as unconventional, saw Otis push the boundaries of what is considered traditionally critical on a wave, echoing the rebellious approach of friend and fellow feather ruffler Ozzie Wright.
Otis's unorthodox approach earned him recognition on the international surfing circuit, where he travelled to various places around the world. Despite the appeal of the exotic surf locations, he always felt most grounded when he was back home on the coast.
In addition to his surfing, Otis is also an accomplished artist. His work is a contemporary take on traditional stories and symbols, which he uses to share his culture and create a safe space for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to have conversations and learn from each other.
Otis has a talent for conveying narratives through his artwork. He preserves old, conventional stories and paints them in his distinct style, while staying faithful to the original stories.
For Otis, art is not just about technical skill or talent; it is about the journey of personal growth and self-understanding. His art has been a way of processing and healing, a way to voyage through his mind, thought life and connect him back to his history.
To him, creating art is a spiritual and emotional journey, and this
profound sense of connection is palpable in the final outcome of his pieces.
When it comes to his creative process, Otis emphasises the importance of having fun with your craft, challenging yourself to push your boundaries and to navigate to find peace and let everything flow naturally from there. Speaking from his own experience he finds that “as soon as I’m battling internally with myself that’s when my work is often forced and you can really see it in the work I do.”
As Otis has grown so has his work, and as he has matured, so has his understanding of himself and understanding of his approach.
When speaking on navigating creative blocks he has learnt to not create anything, instead he takes time away from his work and comes back to when he feels the “spark” again, describing the need for a hiatus of “taking a break and recharging”.
He describes his perfect day as a “Perfect day creating. Get up early and go surfing, Brekky after a surf then head to the studio to paint for a few hours then back down the beach that afternoon with my beautiful kids and partner.”
While he won't be having a solo show this year, Otis is preparing to embark on the biggest job of his career, with works beginning at the end of this month.
For now, Otis’s perspective on the long term is “to just keep painting, keep creating art that makes me feel better.” A grounded look on finding solace in the beauty of creating art for self-expression. One that focuses on the act of creating rather than external validation or commercial success.