Dan Beard

Dan Beard

I'm just obsessed with Dan Beard's paintings. It's like looking through a contemporary kaleidoscope, where the patterns and shapes fluctuate in a way that doesn't quite add up, but is all the more interesting for it. I was immediately drawn to the lovely neutral tones and pinks that he pairs with rich blues and greys. He spent six years in Finalnd, is currently in London, and he's shortly on his way to Los Angeles to start the the next phase of What Happens Next. Thrilled that he shared some thoughts with me about his practice, and what he hopes the move to LA will bring!

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Hi Dan! Tell me a bit about yourself. Are you from London originally?

No, I grew up in a village called Sunninghill, a commuter's distance west of London. A quiet, safe place to grow up, but not what I want as an adult. After studying painting in Newcastle and a short stint in London, I relocated to Finland for six years. There, the landscape, culture, weather and physical and mental space was hugely influential in shaping my practice and how I thought of myself as an artist.

What first interested you in making art? 

It's hard to think of a particular moment or event that first got me into art. Most probably it was the influence of my older cousin. He wanted to be a cartoonist so I decided I did too and he would write me letters filled with sketches and drawing advice. My father is very good at drawing too and this fascinated and encouraged me from a very young age. I got really into sci-fi comics like 2000AD and I would copy the characters in those. I do remember in an art class as a kid of about 9 or 10  making my first drawing from life of a garden wall with a doorway and ivy growing all over it. I remember something happened in my head during the making of it, an understanding that the more I looked at that wall the more I saw and the more I wanted to record and communicate what I saw.

Have you always been drawn to painting specifically?

Yes, painting is the medium I best express myself with.

Can you describe your process? How do you get started on a piece? Do you use any particular source materials or inspiration?

My source materials vary depending on the particular series I am working on, as does the process by which I get started on a piece. For example, this year I have been making a series of paintings called “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever”, whose starting points as source material have been screen grabs I have taken from Google Earth. I had been thinking about Gerhard Richter's large square format paintings from the 60’s of aerial street views of Paris and Madrid. The angle of viewpoint interested me and I decided Google Earth could help provide me with something similar. What I wasn’t expecting to discover was, in my opinion, the painterly quality of the graphics and the cubist logic in the way the program, often charmingly clunky, rendered three dimensionality. Over the series I became interested in repetition of forms and architecture in the images and so started to cut areas out and repeat them creating a kind of collage and layering. This in turn has led me to start a new series which I have just begun.

In general though, inspiration comes from anywhere and is normally unexpected. However, using this year's series as an example, I can trace the initial inspiration for the paintings that followed. Richter’s aerial series, a particular conversation with a friend, the Google Earth program and a song that I have had going round in my head for far too long!

Do you have any significant influences or mentors who have had an impact on your work?

There are too many artists to list here that have had an impact on how I think about painting and therefore on my work but I do not think I work under any direct influence.

In terms of impact on my work from contact with others…anyone who offers me constructive criticism will make me think harder about that aspect of the work they are commenting on so is useful and welcome.

I also belong to a group of artists in London called the Undead Painters who meet a few times a year to discuss their work in a gallery setting and the day long discussions throw up useful conversations that can result in further impact back in the studio.

What is your favorite thing about working with oil?

For me oil paint has a life or energy inherent in it that acrylic paint does not. Accidents and unexpected effects in application are important to me and oil can be encouraged to do this in the way that satisfies this. It also comes down to drying time. I need to be able to manipulate the paint throughout the session and mix colours on the canvas and sometimes work wet in wet. Of course, acrylic paint has its own advantages and can be used to incredible effect. I was really blown away by Peter Saul’s acrylic paintings at his recent show in London at Michael Werner.

What is your studio or workspace currently like?

London studio prices are steep, so my studio is compact, about 200sq ft. I have painted two opposite walls grey after seeing the walls in the Museé d’Orsay painted grey for their Impressionist collection and I find this a good colour to paint against. 

My studio is based in East London in the same building as a gallery called Cell Projects. Along the long outside passageway to the gallery they have a jungle of giant potted plants to walk through and their forms create a false paradise outside my window. Which is nice on a grey, urban London day.

A studio is a three dimensional space that is a projection of the artist’s mind, and I love visiting other studios as it is often a crash course in knowing that person better.

What do you need most or wish you had more of as an artist?

Time is my most valuable asset. 

Is there anything that you find is the most challenging or difficult aspect of pursuing a career as an artist?

Making enough time to paint.

What do you consider to be the most exciting or rewarding part? 

There are rewards in the studio and out of the studio.

In the studio, the process of making a painting is the most exciting and rewarding part. I learn new things each time I paint. About, gesture, colour, line, composition etc. All the stuff that makes up painting. Even when the painting fails I have learnt something. It is rewarding to surprise myself by new thoughts and produce unexpected results on the canvas. The kind of painting I really like is that which I can see the artist has continually taken risks and is pushing their painting forward. 

Outside of the studio, rewards come from the opportunity to meet other artists and those really interested in art. At exhibitions or studio visits, and inevitably the pub afterwards. 

Ultimately painting is a purpose, and that is rewarding.

You're moving to LA in a couple of months; is it a career-related move? If so, what led you to that decision?

Yes, in January I am relocating to LA. There are various reasons for the move, and yes, definitely career related but mostly driven by the desire for new experience. On previous trips to the US I have been smitten by landscapes of mountains, plains and endless panoramic desert skies. I would like more access to this landscape. I also really like Americans. I married one! The LA art scene, like London, is buzzing with talent and ideas and I see an energy and devil may care attitude in the painting being made there that I am looking really forward to working amongst. Maybe I can shed some of my English repressions and develop a WHOOP! whilst I’m there. A warm studio throughout the year will be welcome too and I'm looking forward to being able to play my part against Trump politics.

Anything else you would like to add?

Any of you lovely LA artists reading this who know of a studio becoming available in February drop me a line please!

Find more at danjbeard.com!

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