Student Artist Spotlight: Elim Utterback, Sketch Artist

Sophia McCrackin

Contributing Writer

Sketches by Elim Utterback feature sci-fi themes and faces emerging from the page. PHOTOS COURTESY OF ELIM UTTERBACK

Elim Utterback, a sophomore fine arts major, has an imaginative style that people can recognize just by looking at him. It is not just his painted sweatpants and laid-back demeanor. Utterback, a sketch artist, oozes creativity. 

Art has always been a part of Utterback’s life. When asked to recall his early works, Utterback thought back to being just two or three-years-old and drawing “potato people” on each page of his dad’s yellow legal pad. Utterback’s art has come a long way since those first potato sketches. Much of his artwork is done in pencil, though he is always exploring new mediums. 

Today, Utterback’s work combines elements of social justice with psychedelic style. His piece titled “Manifest Reality,” depicts a woman in a futuristic space suit holding what one can only assume is a sci-fi space laser, standing before an alien wasteland. 

Kerra Hendrickson, Utterback’s classmate, describes him as one of the “most aesthetic people she’s ever known.” “He’s not only an artist,” Hendrickson said. “He considers philosophy and people’s placement in society. He takes almost anything and applies it to creativity.” 

Utterback grew up moving all over the country, but he says the time he spent in Hawaii influenced his art the most. He explains that in Hawaiian culture, it is common to express emotion that opens up pathways for art of all kinds. In addition to sketching, painting, and working with oil pastels, Utterback also produces music, plays the cello and guitar, and makes clothes. 

“Now, I love oil pastels and s— that just throws down a lot of color,” Utterback said. This is no surprise, given that Utterback identified French cartoonist Jean Giraud as his muse. Giraud, who often went by the alias “Mœbius,” illustrated the “Silver Surfer’ comic with Stan Lee in the late 90’s and was best known for his cowboy cartoon “Blueberry.” While Giraud’s influence is evident in Utterback’s work, Utterback displays an undeniable amount of originality. His art includes sci-fi inspired landscapes and figures that invite viewers to a turbulent, intergalactic realm, but his sketchbook also reveals faces emerging from bewildering scrawls of color. There are figures with their eyes closed, as though they have just ended an exhausting day, and others full of anticipation, as though they are hanging onto someone’s every word. 

Utterback’s attention to detail and his pursuit of beauty is evident in all his work. Utterback says that while he’d love to support himself with his art, it isn’t his primary motivation. “I would be so limited, even if I loved [my work],” he said “I would like creative things I do to help others, this is a global community… I would like to create something that is definitively good.”

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