Steel City Artist: Drawings and Interview with Charles Ott

1 Comment | January 22, 2010

"Cinderella Castle, Magic Mountain" by Charles Ott, Jr.

"Cinderella Castle, Magic Mountain" by Charles Ott, Jr.

Lest you think that I have a predisposition for trippy, vulgar, and raunchy drawings (what am I saying, I confess I do!), I want to showcase an artist who’s been making a name for himself in the Pittsburgh area and beyond with his meticulously rendered architectural style scenes – Charles Ott, Jr a.k.a. Steel City Artist.  I’ve always thought that there is something peculiarly special about this genre of drawings, illustrated best perhaps when considering such drawings of hundreds of years ago.  That is to say, they have a distinctly historical appeal by capturing a scene suspended in a time and place.  They almost present a sort of ideal of that place and require, I suspect, a focused type of concentration when in the process of rendering such pictures.

Charles agreed to partake in the Drawn in Black Artist Interview (thank you!), so without further adieu:

What’s your name?

Charles R. Ott, Jr.

Where did you grow up? Where do you live now?

Pittsburgh, PA

How old are you?


What is your educational background? What, if anything, did you study?

Self-taught architectural illustrator.

"Bethany College" by Charles Ott, Jr.

"Bethany College" by Charles Ott, Jr.

How do you make a living?

Nearly two years ago, I was at a certain crossroad in my life and career due to the fact that design firm I was working for out-resourced. I decided to focus my time and effort into doing what I love. I spent my days working to supplement my evenings through the mornings on creating a solid portfolio of illustrations. This in turn led to the development of my illustration website, Steel City Artist, which I launched in Spring, 2008. The illustrations feature detailed hand-drawn pen and ink illustrations of the prominent landmarks from Pittsburgh and across America and continues to grow. Right now, I make a living selling my work throughout the world and marketing/branding my work to various companies/businesses where I feel my illustrations have relevance.

What does “art” mean to you?

As an illustrator, I am a realist and that is the art form that has meaning to me. My artwork allows me to combine my lifelong passions/interest of architecture, illustration and history and my love for the city I call home, Pittsburgh. My artwork allows people to remember and reminisce the places that have had significant meaning in their lives, whether it is the steel mills, buildings or colleges they attended. Art to me means expressing yourself in a way that moves people and inspires them.

How long have you been making art, and what role does that play in your life?

I began drawing at a very young age and I have been drawing for nearly 25 years. Like anything in life, if you have passion and perseverance anything is possible and you must be willing to devote yourself to your craft/talent. My illustrations are the cornerstone of my life, my identity.

"Heinz Memorial Chapel" by Charles Ott, Jr.

"Heinz Memorial Chapel" by Charles Ott, Jr.

What would you consider your “style” of art to be, if you have one?

My style of work is traditional pen and ink architectural illustrator. With advancements in computer/design technology, it is very rare anymore to find true artists who can create incredible illustrations freehand, I truly consider it a gift.

What’s your weapon of choice? What medium and drawing tool do you prefer to use?

All of my pen/ink illustrations are created by hand. My tools simply include T-square, metal ruler and a series of Pigma micron pens. These pens range in size from .008-.05 mm and create a very fine crisp line which does not bleed like some ink pens while creating the drawing. Each 18×24″ illustration is created first in pencil and then retraced with the pens. Each drawing begins from the center of the paper and blossoms outward after I spend a good deal time evaluating the photo with which I am working from. My work is also featured at Sakura of America whose micron pens I use for my work.

Are there any people that influenced you that stand out? What current artists do you follow?

During the 1980’s my father owned a business at The Shoppes of Station Square in downtown Pittsburgh. Nearly every evening as a young kid I would visit him. There was a well-known Pittsburgh artist who I believe inspired me to become an illustrator, Nevin Robinson. Our work is somewhat similar in that we both work in pen/ink and feature the places of Pittsburgh. My work is more technical in nature and requires a series of techniques such as cross-hatching/stippling for the landscape. Since I launched my website, I have been introduced to artists from all over the world. One artists’ work who I admire is Michael Smith, Buffalo, NY.

"Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church" by Charles Ott, Jr.

"Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church" by Charles Ott, Jr.

Charles Ott, Jr. online:



  • Robbie,

    It was great to read your interview. I am very proud of you and the amazing artwork that you are drawing. May God continue to bless you.

    Joy Krahe