Edgar Lituma Soto has traveled to all corners of the world. Tracing a path through colorful alleyways in South America to the swarming, vibrant markets of southeast Asia, his art is an intricate blend of multicultural influences and the visions of the hazy dreamworld between sleep and consciousness. The uniquely artistic member of his native Ecuadorian Sucua family is now a graphic designer and animator by trade, though his downtime is full of creative endeavors—the products of a passion for self-expression. His work has appeared in local galleries, pop-up shows and in mural form. Despite a severe case of chronic wanderlust, Soto calls Atlanta home at the moment.
The painter started firstly on canvas but expanded quickly to bigger surfaces and also to smaller ones for fantastic stickers. At his online shop you can buy from a huge variety of graphic motives, as well there are t-shirts and clothes. The bigger murals of LITUMAISM which are existing at locations around the whole world you can surely only fully admire while standing in front of them, but you can get a little touch of it with a tiny sticker version. In his artworks Edgar Lituma Soto highlights the beauty of the nature and all living beings, connected and symbolized in morphologies and metamorphosis. The perspective is very positive with bright and intensive colors showing a deep interconnection which goes throughout the world and life itself. Very spiritualistic and sometimes as well with hidden or obvious criticism on today´s social issues. The graphics are also super nice motifs and easy to translate for tattoos. For his designs, motions and branding work he opened as well his own label and agency Litumaism Design.
Last year the creative designer stood during an artist residency in Lithuania and wanted to do a huge wall painting there. By that time I received an Email from him, because he found my stuff about Lithuania on the web and asked for information about graffiti shops and spray paint. That´s how the conversation started. The fantastic mural in a collaboration with the local crew Kintai Arts is meanwhile finished and can be admired next to the Curonian Spit. Back to Atlanta we recorded in January an interesting interview about the artworld, concept and development of LITUMAISM. Listen to the podcast or read the written down conversation in the following covered with heaps of Edgar´s creations.
When did you start with your art?
I always had a passion and curiosity with art and it really sort of started basically drawing Sonic the hedgehog as a kid. And then I kept on drawing this and other characters from the video game world or just the cartoon world. When I grew up I evolved into doing different characters from different genres I liked. Then in my adulthood I realized that I want to make art as a real part of my life. But it basically has evolved from there and my influences.
First when you contacted me and asked for the graffiti shop and paint, I had the picture that you are a sprayer and a graffiti artist. But when I checked your website and your artworks I thought, no, you are actually more a painter who started bringing his artworks on other objects like on stickers or walls. Is that correct? Would you say you started with canvas and then you went on other surfaces?
Yes, that is about right. Because I have never been in to tagging or bombing. But I always admired graffiti. I grew up in Queens in New York. So the B-Boys scene and Graffiti and Hip Hop in New York, it was definitely a factor in my life. I always appreciated graffiti, but I was never really on it or never jumped into the whole bombing thing and the illegality or the different aspects of it. I have always been more of a studio artist and then this basically translated into me bringing my artwork onto walls in public spaces.
I didn´t find the lettering or bombing or your website. Then I thought, ok, this here is the art you do and then you started to expand. The sticker section is really cool, I love it. And with the mural you went on bigger backgrounds.
Yes, thank you. It´s funny because it translates. I had some people who were telling me this too. It has just such a different fell, such a different stamp or a different level of gravity or seriousness. Or maybe the opposite. Any time I reproduce my creations and put them on a big wall in a public space, it´s funny because so many different factors effects how it feels in the public space. The buildings which are across from it, from the people who walk through or the traffic or no traffic. Yes, I definitely want to experiment more with murals and artwork in public spaces. But it can be difficult sometimes.
In the beginning you painted on canvas, and after this, what came first? The stickers or the murals? Did you first went smaller or bigger or both at the same time?
Well, actually I have done murals way before I started doing the stickers. I really just fell into the stickers because there are a lot of vendor markets and art markets here in Atlanta. The art scene is pretty intense and here is a lot of activity. There are a lot of artists participating in the artist market as vendors. It´s a lot harder to sell original artwork at a market and it´s a lot easier to sell these stickers.
And paint costs money as well.
Yes. And that´s the artist thing too. It´s very hard to sell a 200 Euro painting versus a 3 Dollar sticker version of it. People buy that sticker 20 times. It´s very interesting because sometimes I am a little bit doubtful, because I am commodifying my artwork. I am making it into small little throwaways. But at the same time I don´t really get bothered with that thought too much, because it´s a way for me to really get the artwork out there. People cut a plate of every kind of surface they want and make it their own too. So that´s why I really do it as well. I like the stickers a lot, the way how they layout too and yes, it´s a nice little collection.
Everybody who works with passion hates money. We all hate it, but we need it unfortunately to live on it. I really hate money from my deepest hard, nevertheless I need it obviously. But I would just love that I do what I do and people come to me and say: This is great, I would support you, take this money from me. But unfortunately this is not how it works.
Oh yes! That would be amazing, that would be great.
So with ever little piece you are selling the question comes up again, ok, now I am selling. But in some way you have to make the compromise. I think it´s alright to do it, but it´s much better and saving some of your soul if you as well always question this.
That´s true. And this goes through my mind a lot and I find myself telling this. Certain people that know me well enough can say this as well, but as older I get the more I just really want to stay in the studio and just work all day. And obviously we cannot. We have get to market ourselves and we have go out and sell our paintings. I would honestly prefer to stay 90 percent of my time just with creating and conceptualizing. And that´s what it is and where it happens. There I get my goosebumps and that´s where I feel the passionism. Unfortunately we have to pay bills and the society need this and that. But people aren´t really into it as well. I don´t know how it is in all the other countries, every country is different, every culture is different, but it can be so hard to get money for your artwork. Things where you put in hours. Like 20 or 30 hours. It´s painful sometimes when people don´t respect that. I can understand when people cannot afford it but sometimes it´s very disheartening when people don´t think certain art isn´t worth a certain amount of money. But you know, that´s just some part of the game. You have to grow some tough skin.
That´s why it is as well very important to explain the people what art can do or what colors can do. It goes even deeper, sometimes you have to go that far back to explain how perspectives work on the brain. There is a lot of knowledge and you want to explain the worth of that artwork for humanity. Some people say it was always like this. But I think it can change. And a way to change that would be just to paint everything and everywhere! J
Haha, yeah! That would be one way! Here in the States whenever you go to certain neighborhoods where there is paint and murals everywhere, it speaks to a lot of people. If it takes that to people to appreciate it and maybe give it a higher value, so yeah, that´s the beauty of murals and public art. It happens here in Atlanta where I currently live. We always had one tunnel. The Krog Street Tunnel. It has always been basically a tunnel full of colors. Whether there are tags or graffiti or design art. People love it and it’s a focal point of the city. People go there and there are dozens of photo shoots every day. There are video sessions and everybody can spray paint there. Yes, it has a huge impact on the community, the people around and on the whole city.
It is important to tell that you are from Ecuador. In one of your previous posts on your website you wrote as well in Lithuania you had some nice chats about the gods. And I think in your paintings there are a lot of animals and in some way there are spirits in those animals. You use as well a lot time the heart and I think it´s kind of a combination that the gods are in the animals or in the nature. So you put these spirits of these animals and the heart and fruits and vegetables together. You stuck them together in your artworks and show that there is a connection between everything.
Yes, definitely. That´s very well said, thank you. For me it´s always funny, because as we were beginning to discus earlier and all listeners can hear this from my accent. I´ve been living in the States for 31 years. I was born in Ecuador and I lived in Ecuador till I was four. I am a hundred percent American but at the same time I consider myself a hundred percent Ecuadorian as well. And part of that comes from when I moved from Ecuador to New York we moved to Queens. And there we moved to the part of Queens which was Little Ecuador. We moved up there because we had family there. We could get some housing through family and they helped my dad to get a job. They were sort of introduction to the States. The thing is that the nice years I lived in Queens in New York, I was basically going to Ecuadorian parties and to Ecuadorian events. Mostly I was hanging out with my parents and family and we were socializing mostly with other Ecuadorians. I try to go back to Ecuador almost every year and I have still a lot of family there. I´ve always preserved that part of my life as my identity. My dad is one of thirteen and my mum is one of eight. So I have like 53 cousins. And those are only the first cousins.
So it´s a big family and it takes time to know all of them.
Yeah, it´s huge! We are from a very small catholic town two hours from the Amazons in Ecuador. Basically from the jungle or let´s say we are very close to the jungle. My uncle has monkeys and my grandma has three generations of Tucans. We have a lot of the indigenous Sucua community. They have also their capital federation in our town. This all has always been very much a part of my life.
You wrote you found it interesting with Lithuania, because they have their Nordic Gods and you saw the similarities to Ecuadorian culture. That´s why I mentioned it before. But there are some of your paintings where you started combine all these thematics with today society criticism. For example the two reptiles with the gun in the one’s mouth shooting the other one. Or the We Want You Guy from the army, but on the left side of that scenery the whole city is completely destroyed. It is correct to say that while you got older more and more society issues got into your brain and then you started putting it into your art as well? There are some really nice messages in there.
Well thank you! I am glad you see that. The piece you mentioned is titled “Open up, it´s good for you”. You have the skeleton of the crocodile shooting or pointing his gun in the mouth of the other crocodile. And with that one it was basically exactly what you said. The older I get you experience things and you sort of see how society works. But rather me going on Facebook and having a two hour dialog with somebody I would much rather display my points of views in a painting. Also because it´s different and it takes a lot of politics with certain society issues which I think we look into too much. But for this one here, you see the skull of the crocodile pointing the gun at the mouth of the caiman and it says “Open up, it´s good for you”. This was made for a show on gentrification in Atlanta. The show was called “Atlantrification” and it was put up by my good friend Chad, ColdToni is his Instagram name. He set up a show which wanted to get spot light on gentrification in Atlanta and how it´s changing Atlanta. For better, for worth or just how it changes in general. So this one was sort of good and the fact and everybody is talking about that Atlanta is getting better and safer, there are nicer houses, more malls and more restaurants. They say Atlanta is so nice. But at the same time what a lot of people aren´t seeing is that the old Atlanta is sort of being shoved out. The old Atlanta whether it was poorer or richer, if it had more flair or not, it´s just not the same what it used to be. Not two years ago and definitely not five years ago. So this was sort of “Open up, it´s good for you”. Telling someone like “Hey, this is good for the city!” But unfortunately for some other people it is not good.
You make a mix. In some paintings there is some criticism really nicely involved. But you have so many which are just like a homage on life. For example this one here, there is this heart made out of vegetables. Or just this one here with the two pandas and the penguin. The artworks are very colorful and very bright and show how nice life and nature and the living beings are. And that they are all connected.
Yeah, thank you! There is a medium sometimes. Some of my art can be very serious in the content and subject matter. I am a news junkie and I love the news. Some years ago I worked at CNN as graphic designer for nine month. I am always playing the news. But the thing is that I consider myself a very happy person because even that I am kind of addicted to the news I can also face it out. You know, there is a lot of depressing news. But just to be well informed, I like to know what´s going on in humanity and cultures. As well that´s part of why I travel. And a lot of my artworks is very serious or it´s very meaningful or it´s very deep. But then some of it sometimes because of commission or sometimes because I want not to be so heavy, so I just change the atmosphere. Sometimes I do pieces which are a lot more fun or not with too many levels of messages. Sometimes it is what it is. So the heart full of vegetables, that was a commission for a Mexican chef who is a good friend of mine. He is a chef, he is Mexican and he loves cooking Mexican food or any kind of food. He wanted a tattoo design. So I got it.
Oh, wow, this became a tattoo?
Yeah, well, he hasn´t done it yet. I think he is looking for a certain artist or he didn´t have time yet to get around it. But yes, this was a tattoo design. And it should basically show the love of a Mexican chef. It is the heart of a chef.
Yes, of course, now you say it. A lot of your art would be very good for tattoo artworks. Do you have any connections with tattoo shops or collaborations yet?
I was actually considering about that not too long ago. I was thinking about maybe getting some flash together and then putting it down and going to a tattoo shop. But I´ve never ventured into it. I know I have it and my work translates easily into tattoos. Because it´s a lot with biased colors and not so much shading. But I haven´t got around it yet. To be honest, there are just so many things at the moment. I find myself meanwhile printing t-shirts, making stickers and doing the new paintings and try to update my website. And now I am trying to buy a house. But yes, I definitely should do that and reach out to a tattoo shop that might be comfortable with my aesthetic. The older I get you see certain people who are also getting older, and life is hard, it beats you down. You see people who are getting older and they don´t really care about anything anymore. They just want to go to work and they want to go home and they are fine. And I get it, life is hard, it´s a struggle. But you know, the older I get, I feel like I get more and more energy. And I want to know more and more info. It´s not that I am fighting a fight. I do have friends who are way more proactively involved with protests and going out there and being publicly involved. But I realize for me, my best voice is through my paintings and through my travels. I realized information is the key, whether you get it through a protest or if you are holding it up on a sign on a protest or you are showing a painting at a gallery and you are education and showing people about some kind of protest or some topic in the gallery. That´s also a sort of fighting the fight. This is as well why I travel.
And this is the funny thing. I live in the States, the USA. Whether you love it or hate it. I love it here. I travelled a lot and I lived here. And I am also as well Ecuadorian and Latino and I know how different our cultures are. Americans are some of the nicest and most approachable people you ever meet. I think so. But at the same time we live in the most powerful military country that´s been at war for pretty much ages. We tend to be too self centered I think in the States with “we are number one” and this and that. And when you meet people in the States who have never travelled outside the Caribbean or Cancun or the Bahamas – there is nothing wrong with those places, I have been there as well several times – but in America we are so self centered about everything, so I feel even more obligated as an American and as an Ecuadorian and as an international citizen of this world, as an human and as an artist to inform and do something. We don´t know what we should know and it´s an injustice. Call it America news media or call it whatever it is. I just feel like some information needs to be put out there and it´s not. Every country has its own kind of biases and narratives but I just feel like here in the States we are just to self centered sometimes and we just don´t know what´s going on sometimes. Americans need to travel a bit more and to go more out of their comfort zone. It kills me when on my journeys I only meet Australians and Germans and French people. It´s great but it would be nice to see some more Americans out there.
I love the way how you show the combinations in your artworks and how you try to wake people up or get their attention. You have a lot of paintings where you put two or three or even more animals together into each other. But mostly there are two together. Like with the birds or the seagull. And there you can see somewhere in the background a sign with the writing “Something is always behind”. Like the animal you see at first isn´t really what it appears to be. Like the message “Look closer”.
Yes, and that is something which became kind of reinforcing my work lately. I like to include a lot of symbols and iconography and icons. As a graphic designer I love the geometry of icons and symbols and what they mean to different cultures and different places. So yes, a lot of my work can be very symbol heavy or icon driven. And yeah, I do a lot of animal morphologies and mix bodies and parts of anatomy. For me I am just trying to create that abstract way of conveying a point. For me it is mostly about symbols and animals.
The bull is just fantastic. The one which is full with blood and there are these little dots you give. There is this little shit thing and it´s smiling.
Yeah, it´s a poopamoji. Many text messenger have it now. Well that one, that´s funny. It´s based on a legend of folk tale in Peru. It´s about a bull that poops gold on the top of a mountain. And they try to chain him down with seven chains. It´s called “El torro de chile lique”. That´s the story. And part of me when I read folklores or legends or tales, it creates some kind of imaginary in my head and I usually just jump on it. Any time I read something or I hear something then I get this split second, this eureka in my head, then I just immediately jump on that. I love these kinds of stories when I really visually narrate a good interesting story which I read.
I love the details. I love detailed elaborated works and while switching through your pages and photos, I try to imagine how big the stickers are.
I think sometimes it´s intentional, but it all depends on the time if I can spend eight hours on a small piece or on a painting. Sometimes it depends. I was used to draw feathers a lot more. So the more I learned to draw different textures the more detailed I feel a have become.
El Chistoso, how big is this one?
It´s 14 inches by 32 inches. Or wait, you prefer centimeters. It´s 35 centimeters by 81 centimeters. That´s an artist thing too. With life in general, it´s never black and white. There might be some life´s occasion where it is black or white. Like either you are alive or you are dead. But I sort it out. There are so many shades of grey. For example the piece “El Chistoso”. The one that you just mentioned. If you look at the other one, it´s a part of two. “El Chistoso” and “La Chistosa”. In Spanish it means, the funny man and the funny woman. If you go on ‘Gallery’ at the website where you see the buffalo, the one on the left of it is “La Chistosa”. It´s a blue bull with a dragon fly and it´s right next to the buffalo one. It should be close to the wolf with the gas mask. With that one it is about love, heartache and love and manipulation or being too much into somebody. It´s more about the painful side of love or the obsessive part of love. That´s what “El Chistoso” and “La Chistosa” are about. We are all sort of funny about love at one point or another.
You told me before that you had a lot of life struggles to deal with in the last months but your art is always helping you. And art can be like a therapy and is supporting.
Yes, and you know that´s the thing. Because with art it started as a passion. And it still is. But the older I get I feel like this passion is becoming a form of therapy. During your life´s hardships. Sometimes I focus more during the hardships, sometimes it´s afterwards. But that´s the good thing about artwork. I can find it and fit it in as a therapeutical part of my life. It´s very much Ecuadorian feeling as well I think. In Ecuador we are known for loving our very sad kind of music. The same can be said about many other countries, but that´s definitely one thing. If I am very sad, I don´t mind listening to very sad music. Not only is it appropriate, but it cannot make me any sadder. Or maybe it can, but it´s fine.
Let´s talk a bit more about your travelling. How do you do that? Do you check out a country before or do people invite you, or you pick it just randomly? How do you plan and choose?
Well, it´s actually really all over the place. One of the biggest factors is always a plane ticket. That´s definitely basically the biggest factor. More or less. If I find a cheap ticket and if it coincides with a culture or country in the world that always got my attention or I have been curious about. I totally try to do it. So it is a combination of finding a cheap ticket and reaching out and making connections preemptively. But for me it has mostly been artist’s residencies as well. If I am not just travelling for pleasure and to try to like soak in other cultures, I am trying to travel and do artist residencies. So I can actually see how it feels like to live in a different country and see how it affects my work. And during the last residency it totally affected my work. It basically molded in the whole experience more or less.
We have as well another saying or a word for some people. And I think you are one of them. It´s called a “sponge”. It means you are open and you soak it up. You use it, you observe your surroundings, you watch it, you try to feel it, you think about it, you read about it and you want to get into the culture wherever you are. You look on the people, the nature, and then finally you put it into your art.
Yes, well that´s an artist thing too. I am very inquisitive when I go out. If I am with a local from a country where I don´t know anything about, I am always asking questions. It´s funny how many questions you can gather from just looking on things. You can go to a country and don´t read the language at all, but observe things and you ask questions and by that you can learn so much. Just through direct observation. And then you are asking the right questions, it´s very interesting.
Do you think what you do, and what all artists like you do and let´s make the circle a bit bigger, so what I do as well and let´s say what we do. Do you think it´s changing something, is it important and can we do something with this?
Well I mean yes. And I think we both have the same answer. It´s not easy. With all this information nowadays, with all this media and everyone has their causes, as they should. You can have the perfect message, but still it´s just hard to get it out. Because everyone has their messages and everyone has their fights. But I think yes, it´s very important. The human beings are very stubborn. Not all of them, but most of us are. And I know it´s a bit more than being stubborn. My biggest struggle right now as an artist is like being shown loved as I supposed to be everywhere else. I try to make it here for a while, but I have not really been reciprocated. And I don´t know, maybe a part of that is some of my own fault. But I have never really connected with people here in the States on the art level. And when I told before, I wished people in the States should travel more. I said that, but I feel also bad about it, because one of my problems is, that I think I have more success internationally than here at home in the States, because my subject matter is so international. And I live in the city where Atlanta is not very international. Atlanta is very black and white, from the civil rights, from the civil war, the history here in Atlanta is very black and white. And it´s very hard to get your voice out as an artist if you don´t really speak to that nature of the city. If that makes sense. I am not black and white Atlanta, I mean, I am affected by Atlanta and I love Atlanta, but my artwork has everything to do with outside of that. It´s a worldly kind of artwork. I have never really hit a success core here in my hometown or in my base city.
I guess what I wanted to tell is when I said Americans need to travel more and get out of their comfortable bubbles, I automatically know as well that travel is a luxury. Fortunately I have been able to travel. I have been able to make it work, because I managed to handle my career and my finances and my time. And I know Americans don´t travel as much as other people do, because of the lack of vacation days that we get. You know, we get like nothing. We get around ten paid vacation days, that´s sort of normal. So I get it and I don´t want to sound like a elite traveler and just say: “Travel more!” I know it´s not easy and a lot of people just cannot do it, because it´s such a financially consuming activity. But I wished travelling wasn´t as expensive at it is, because one of the most beautiful things you can do as a human being on this world is to travel to other parts of the planet with an open mind and an open heart and let this affects you in your persona. It´s one of the most beautiful things in life. That´s what I want to say about that and I wished everybody could experience this as much as I have been fortune enough to. My journey is never going to stop, I am just always at a different place.
Mural Art & Sticker World – LITUMAISM
Contact Page: https://www.litumaism.com/about
Graphic Design & Visual Branding – LITUMA DESIGN
Edgar Lituma Soto aka LITUMAISM: Resume
Edgar Lituma Soto aka LITUMAISM: Curriculum Vitae
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