SANTA CRUZ -- Moto Ohtake likens himself to an architect when describing the process of building his approximately 20-foot stainless steel sculptures.

"For painters, you can scrape paint off to change the image if you want," Ohtake said. "My process is rather similar to architecture; I can't change my mind in the middle of the process."

Fortunately, the 59-year-old has years of practice under his belt. A past instructor at various schools, including UC Santa Cruz and Cabrillo College, the Tokyo-born artist recently installed a 22-foot wind-driven kinetic sculpture at San Francisco's Fulton Playground commissioned by the San Francisco Arts Commission.

Ohtake's sculptures play with movement in response to changing weather patterns, using loops that move in continuous gyroscopic circular motions that rotate in opposing directions. He plans the pieces and does initial building in his Santa Cruz studio, but has to take the projects elsewhere as they start to grow.

"My studio's not that big -- the main moving components take up a lot of space -- so I usually go to a shop near Harvey West Park and they help me fabricate the larger components," Ohtake said.

Ohtake came to the United States in 1976 to pursue a BFA in sculpture at the Academy of Art in San Francisco. While Ohtake had never traveled to the U.S. before, he had a general idea of what he was getting himself into.

"I heard about this school in San Francisco -- my friends told me about it -- but also the U.S. was a country I wanted to come to for a long time, since I was a kid," Ohtake said. "I'm not sure why I chose San Francisco over New York City, but San Francisco was on my radar because of the '60s and the Flower Power movement; I knew San Francisco was a very exciting place to be."

Ohtake's work goes beyond the physical; the artist said he enjoys witnessing how his pieces adapt to places they're installed, such as on the north end of the Pacific Garden Mall.

"I like the fact that I create this piece that is well-calculated or structurally well-figured out beforehand, but then the piece gets involved with the wind and it creates a totally unpredictable movement," Ohtake said. "To me, that's organic."

Ohtake said he feels fortunate to be able to create whatever he envisions, even if it grows larger than his personal studio.

"I feel like I grew up in this country, and I became more independent when I moved here," Ohtake said. "It basically gave me the opportunity to mature as an artist."

Follow Sentinel reporter Bonnie Horgos on Twitter @bhorgos

Getting to Know

Moto Ohtake

Born: Nov. 14, 1952
Family: Married to Dorothy Franks. The couple has two sons: Forrest, 25, and Calvin, 24. 'We all love music,' Ohtake said.
Education: San Francisco Art Institute, master of fine arts in sculpture, 1982; Academy of Art College, San Francisco, bachelor of fine arts in sculpture, 1979; Nihon University, bachelor's in design, 1975.
Current Employment: Art department chair and instructor, De Anza Community College in Cupertino.
Upcoming projects: Foss Creek Pathway in Healdsburg in conjunction with the Voigt Family Sculpture Foundation, scheduled for later this year; city of San Francisco, Central Subway 4th and Brannan Platform Artwork, in conjunction with the San Francisco Arts Commission, scheduled for 2018.
On Teaching: 'I thoroughly enjoy the experience. Oftentimes the students' creativity is a source of inspiration for me. While I worked at Cabrillo College for nearly 10 years as an adjunct faculty member, I feel very lucky to now have a full-time position at De Anza College where I can continue to share my knowledge with students who are pursuing degrees in fine art, architecture and design.'
ON creating: 'I'm still learning, and I graduated from college 30 years ago. Art making to me is an endless, lifelong learning type of activity. That's what makes it fun for me.