I am SO excited to share with you all my latest Artists to Know interview! This time I had the pleasure of learning all about painter & mixed media artist, Daniel Van Gerpen! Daniel and I are in the same artist mentorship program called "Dream Crafters" created by professional artist Natasha Wescoat. When I discovered his work I was so impressed - It's just so different from anything I've seen before. He combines found objects with landscape paintings & photography, creating a completely unique product that I know you're going to love! Though I have to say the best part of this interview is how honest Daniel is about his process, what inspires him, even down to the music that keeps him going. So sit back, relax and enjoy learning more about Daniel's work :)
To start off - in just a couple sentences, how would you describe yourself/your painting style?
Through myriad of media such as painting, photography, and assemblage my style aims to reflect the contemplative nature of the natural landscape. My current work follows a theme of remnants and relics. This theme incorporates found objects, simplified landscape paintings, and landscape photography.
Where is the place that you feel most inspired? Why?
I gather a lot of inspiration from being outside. I love taking drives and hiking. Whenever I am driving I capture glimpses of inspirations for compositions. I am always on the look out for that perfect scene or trees that have a unique character. I then try and break down the information that I have collected into a simplified form. Where the magic happens, though, is in the work. Picasso said, “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” I think this is very true. I find a completed piece often is different than where I had thought it was going. Along the way of creating I find better options that come to life during the process. I think a key is being open and flexible to that leading. While inspiration comes in a spark, the real fire comes from the crucible of the work.
What is your favorite song (or band or genre of music) to listen to while creating?
I enjoy what I call cinematic orchestra music. Some of my favorite Pandora channels include: Explosions in the Sky and the Album Leaf.
How much time do you spend viewing other artists’/painters’ work? Who are your favorite painters?
I think studying other artists is a great way to learn the language of art. In college I developed a habit of devouring art books, magazines, and websites. Before the time of Pinterest I would just search galleries and artists online. I loved this practice because the rabbit hole of searching for an artist would lead to other artists that I had never heard of before. It’s like Christmas morning when I find an artist that I really appreciate and spend time just absorbing there work and technique.
Mark Rothko, Jesse Pollock, Joseph Cornell, George Inness, and Nancyjane Huehl were artists who really inspired my work during college and I still feel their influence in my current work.
What is your favorite surface to paint on?
I enjoy working on wood both for painting and for building boxes. With my mixed media pieces it is easier to incorporate paintings with found objects through building supports and boxes to hold found objects. I also like to mount my wood panels rather than frame them. There is something about the raw imperfect edges that really appeals to me and contributes to the character of the overall work. A few years ago, while browsing through the hardware store, I discovered upholstery nails. I find these useful in mounting my work with a touch of character.
Favorite easel/brushes/ any other favorite materials?
I have not developed a particular favoritism towards any particular brand. My favorite types of brushes to use are filbert style. I prefer the curved edges that I obtain with my brushstrokes. They work great for getting the marks I like and for scumbling. I would say that I prefer oil paints to acrylics for their inherent texture and the colors seems to be more vibrant.
Talk a little about the 30/30 Project.
In October of 2015 I made a goal of creating thirty pieces of art in thirty days. I believe one of the keys to getting better at something is by putting in the time to do the work. I think developing good work habits is key to growth and maturing as an artist. Although I have not had the guts to do a 365 project I find that a daily project is a great discipline to utilize. Forcing myself to create something every day is a great way to explore new ideas and experiment with different techniques, styles, and colors. Often times I do not know if an idea or concept will work so this is a great practice to throw things against the wall and see what sticks. I have done a similar project for the last few years. In addition to the 30/30 Project I have done a daily blogging challenge and a daily postcard challenge. As Aristotle has said, “You are what you repeatedly do.” Exercising the creative muscle is important for growth. A project of this nature is a great boot camp to foster the practice of creativity.
When did you start incorporating photography and found objects with your paintings? (The “Resplendent Remnants” are really incredible! ) Was there a particular event that inspired that?
While in college, my emphasis was on painting. As part of the curriculum we were required to take a class in each of the disciplines. It was during my photography class that I really became enamored with the endless possibilities of photography. There were so many different techniques and points in the process that allowed for experimentation. I enjoyed experimenting in the dark room. One of the things that I really enjoyed doing was using brushes and pouring developer over my prints to get a sense of movement and haziness. I then started including some of these photographs and found objects into some mixed media pieces.
After college, there were a few years where I did not do very many of these pieces. When I got married I made about thirty wood boxes that were used as centerpieces at our reception. After the wedding I had all of these boxes left over and began incorporating them into my art more. So for the last few years I have been creating more of these mixed media assemblages. Another impetus for working in this manner is trying to find a unique way to display my photography and paintings. I love the raw natural edges of wood and prefer this rustic feel over the overly gloss or ornate frames. I think it contributes to the narrative of the artwork.
Many artists say they spend 50% of their time creating art and the other 50% marketing themselves. If you could break up your work day into percentages based off of how much time you spend marketing your business and creating – how would that look?
I think it is important to spend as much time on running the business, as it is to create the art. It is important to be planning and searching for upcoming exhibitions and sales opportunities. I also think it is something that you have to be intentional about. I always try to set a goal for myself regarding how many applications and proposals I send out each year. Most galleries or exhibition sites plan months or years in advance so it is important to be constantly pursuing the next opportunity.
I have also found that people are not likely to be just promoting your work so it is important that you are putting yourself out into the community and social media so that patrons can become aware of your work. I believe that it is very hard to get discovered, you have to make people discover you.
What advice do you have for those who want to pursue a career in the arts? What do you wish you had known before you got started?
I would recommend taking some basic business and marketing classes. I remember graduating from college and having respectable art making skills but not entirely sure how to make a living with those skills. I also think that trying to make a living as an artist has as much to do with entrepreneurship as it does with mastery of the craft. The required skills may differ depending on if you are going to be focusing more on the gallery/museum path or the commercial/sales route. Either way it would be helpful to learn how to operate your business.
What’s the nicest thing anyone has ever told you about your work?
When people ask where my landscape paintings come from I often tell them that they are based on a true story, but rarely depict a particular place. For this reason it is always fun to hear about places that the viewers connect the depicted scene to their own past.
What’s your advice on how to handle criticism?
I think the best advice is to receive every thing through a filter. There are always going to be people who may not like your work and there are people who will love your work. Art is a very subjective field. I think the key is to listen to critics whose opinion you can trust. I try to listen to everything that people say about my art and then try and take an objective view of my work. If I find truth in what they are saying I am more likely to listen. You have to filter criticism through the vision you have for yourself as an artist.
What do you think is the hardest thing about being a painter?
I think this relates closely to the criticism question. I believe that self-criticism can be one of the biggest challenges to face. It can be a stifling force to recon with. I would recommend reading Steven Pressfield’s short book entitled, “The War of Art”. I think he does a great job of addressing many of the struggles that creatives face and how to overcome them.
Keep up with Daniel!
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Hi friends! Welcome to the blog! I'm Mandy and I'm an artist, blogger & founder of the "Artists to Know" interview series. Here you'll find photos of my latest art adventures, furniture makeover projects & advice from successful artists!
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