Fine art and real life collide on the regular for Dan May (HF vol. 9). The artist takes a few moments to share his thoughts on enticing new ideas, pursuing a balanced existence and his latest solo exhibit, “Into the Wild” that opens in Los Angeles next week. Nathan Spoor sits down with Dan May for few quick questions here on Hi-Fructose.
So Dan, it’s been a while since the readers have had a glimpse into your world. We’re very curious as to what you have been up to and where has your work evolved to at this point. You have a show coming up in Los Angeles, so let’s begin with that. Is this work an all-new series of work, or does it stem from a continuation in your narrative?
Yes, my latest show titled ‘Into the Wild’ is set to open June 8 at Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles. I’m really excited to be showing again in LA. This new body of work is very much a continuation of previous themes. However, I think the work is a bit more complex and refined. The creatures in my paintings have always maintained a certain level of humanity, and I feel that this new series of work continues to expand upon this and delves into a deeper emotional level. My paintings are very much an extension of what’s going on in my life. Elements of my thoughts, dreams, and hopes have always directed my paintings. As far as details go, I really tried to bring the landscape to life in these paintings. Living here in Florida we have quite a lush and diverse ecosystem. I gave special attention to our current natural surroundings and tried to incorporate it into the work. One major difference in this work is the size. I have a handful of larger pieces in this show, including one of my largest to date a 30” X 40” piece.
What do you find is the most exciting moment of being an artist, or a painter?
When a particular painting inspires an emotional connection with a viewer it is very satisfying to me. I always enjoy hearing the stories that my work evokes. Also, seeing a recently completed body of work hanging in the gallery is one of the most exciting moments. There is just something about seeing my pieces finished and presented together, as opposed to stacked in the corner of the studio!
How important is non-gallery work for you? Does illustration or commission work expand your view on the fine art aspects of what you create?
I find myself taking on less and less illustration work these days. I’m not opposed to it; I just think the personal work is where my heart is. While working within specific guidelines can be quite challenging, I think it has had a positive impact on my work. In some ways “wearing two hats”, so to speak, keeps the work fresh. It gives me a break from my personal work, yet keeps me painting and problem solving. Of coarse, I’m always really excited to get back to painting for myself!
Does reading or research affect you? What besides sketching and painting do you find most helpful in stretching out your brain?
Oh absolutely. Honestly, I wish I had more time for reading and research. I think as an artist you have to be plugged into other things besides creating art. I spend my time traveling, going to museums, exercising, and just getting out of the studio in general. Listening to music and podcasts are also part of my daily routine.
What do you feel has been an indispensable tool or thought process for you to create your work?
For me it’s all about emptying my inner thoughts and visions out onto the canvas. I create work that speaks to me… and hopefully it does the same for the viewers.
When you arrive at a new idea, one that you’re certain you should paint; does it come to you by itself or in a grouping?
I’d say that each new idea comes to me separately, but builds upon previous ideas. Ideas come all the time throughout the day, but I find the most lucid moments happen just before heading to bed. I have had moments where I’ll envision a series of paintings, but rarely do I ever stay true to it. My ideas have a way of unfolding as they are being created.
How important is exercise or your living atmosphere to your work and life?
It’s funny, up until this year I would go in and out of exercise routines, never having “enough time” to keep it going. I had no idea how much this was affecting me. Not only physically, but mentally. I now work out daily and I feel that it’s an essential part of my life and has had such a positive impact on my work. It allows me to clear my head and maintain a positive lifestyle. What do you feel was the most challenging aspect of creating your past works or bodies of work? Life is always full of challenges. I recently had to deal with some serious family issues, presenting quite a problem for my work. It came to a point where I found it extremely difficult to pick up the brush. I had not experienced anything like this before, however I found ways to take a tough situation and turn it into something positive. If anything, I think it has only strengthened my work. Taking things one day at a time and trying not to get too overwhelmed has been key for me.
There is definitely an immediate appeal to your work, especially from that inner child spectrum of wonder and otherworldly playfulness that you accomplish in your paintings. Do you ever think about creating your own narrative printed piece, a book perhaps?
Definitely. I’d like to think that a book would come to life at some point in my career. Nothing is planned yet, but I hope to one day sit down and get the ball rolling!
Thanks for your time sir; do you have any parting words for the readers?
No problem, thanks for interviewing me and for supporting my work. And thank you to all who have taken the time to read my ramblings and view my art!