What I really dig about Dan Huston's recent series of paintings Overload is that it is, actually, in the best way, total overload. Compositionally, your eye can't quite figure out where to land, so I find myself backing out and looking back in, trying to figure out how it and I are situated spatially, and whether I'm overwhelmed or not. I love the colors -- the thoughtful blend of pastel and jewel tone -- which makes the all-over composition feel more accessible, almost sweet. And yet still just unsettling enough, like I'm floating through outer space with a bunch of beautiful globs of paint, and I'm not sure where I'm headed or what it means. Sound interesting? Check out Dan's great Q&A below!
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YS: My first thought when I first saw your paintings was that they reminded me of piles of candy, which perhaps isn't too far off, as you describe in your statement that you're interested in the 'beauty of excess.' What are some of your influences for Overload?
DH: It’s definitely not far off! We live in an age where there’s a seemingly infinite amount of information available to us. It can be overwhelming, but I love it. I’m a millennial down to my core and growing up with such incredible access to the world is ideal for me. This idea of an overload of information (whether it be visual or otherwise) is central to my work right now. I crowd in shapes, colors, and textures into visually excessive paintings. I want people to see something new every time they look at my work.
I also look at a lot of photos of outer space for inspiration. The fact that a single photo of one small section of the cosmos actually contains billions and billions of suns and solar systems blows my mind and, to me, is the definition of beautiful excess.
Where did the interest in painting or art-making first come from?
I’ve been making art since I can remember. Throughout my entire life, no matter how my interests changed, art has always been a constant. When I was a kid my obsessions would change so frequently, but I would always be drawing. This eventually turned into compulsive abstract doodling, usually to deal with anxiety. Many of the forms in my paintings today are similar to the abstract doodles I started making in middle school.
I actually didn’t start painting with oils and acrylics until a few years ago. I focused on charcoal and ink until I took my first painting class my junior year at college. I was hooked after one assignment!
Who or what are some of your influences?
To name some artists- Kazuo Shiraga, Georgia O’Keeffe, Takashi Murakami, Marc Chagall- have all been influential to my work. I’m also influenced by traditional Japanese ink painting, which I was lucky to be able to study in Japan during a semester abroad in college.
Recently, I’ve been finding a lot of color inspiration in makeup and nail art tutorials on Youtube and Instagram. Many of the artists I watch use bright neon colors that pop so intensely. I love learning from artists who use a medium completely different from my own.
What is your studio and your process like? How much time do you spend in the studio? How do you start on a painting? Do you do much planning of each individual piece?
My process is messy to say the least. I’m generally organized, but I love chaos in art and it’s pretty easy to tell from my studio (which is also my room). Most of the planning for my pieces is just spent on deciding a color scheme. I always have a general idea of what I’m going to achieve visually, but for the most part I like to keep my work impulsive and spontaneous. I’m in between cities right now so I’ve had a somewhat erratic painting schedule recently. I try to paint for at least a few hours each day but i’d like to be doing a lot more.
As a relatively recent graduate you're still pretty fresh in the so-called "real art world" but you've had a little bit of time outside of the university setting. How has your experience been so far?
After graduating from Bates College, I moved to Portland, Oregon where I had never been before and knew no one. I moved there so I could be in a small city with a small art scene, but once I got there I realized I had no idea what I wanted to paint. It really took a full two years for me to start making art that I wanted to make rather than art I thought people wanted to see. I never really felt comfortable with my work until recently, so I didn’t push myself to get it out into the world.
What do you feel is the most exciting or fulfilling thing about being an artist?
Hands down the most fulfilling part of being an artist is seeing the change in my work and myself. Every painting I’ve made since my first class is like a single step up to the present. I can see how each work is influenced by the ones before it and it’s so nostalgic and rewarding.
What do you find to be the most challenging or daunting aspect of working as an artist?
I’m a realistic person and understand the difficulties of working as an artist. But making art is so natural and fulfilling that they never actually get to me. Nothing comes without challenges and I’m more excited than anything for the good and bad.
You mentioned that you're headed to NYC shortly; what prompted that? Do you expect it (or want it) to influence your practice?
I grew up in the suburbs of NYC and really took the city for granted most of my life. Portland was a great city for me to figure out what I wanted. Once that became a little more clear to me, NYC became the obvious next step. The energy in NYC is unlike anywhere I’ve ever been and the amount of art accessible to the public is surreal! I definitely expect it to influence my practice. There are so many different people making different types of art there and I can’t wait to see how my own art changes!
What do you need most as an artist?
Definitely an audience. My opinion on my art is always the most important to me, but It’s also important for me to hear what other people have to say.
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects?
I’m planning on going bigger! The more physical the process of art for me the better so I always want to work with huge canvases and brushes.
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Find more at danhuston.com!