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Darren Haper

Darren Haper

Tell me a little bit about you!

I currently work and live in Dayton, Ohio and have a BFA in painting from Miami University. I have been splitting time between working for another local artist and working on my own personal work. There were no art classes at the schools I attended as a kid. One school was so small there about 10 students and 6 grades. There was no pre-school, kindergarten, or first grade so I started as a second grader with my mom as the teacher.

When did you first discover art, or realize you wanted to make it yourself?

I was pretty young when I realized I had this passion. I was never really exposed to anything art related early on but the desire to draw and doodle was always there. By the time I got to the 6th grade, my Mom realized I had this ability and did what she could to provide materials for me. I remember being obsessed with this Walter Foster cartoon drawing book and would copy the images and then create my own characters.

What ideas are you exploring in your practice?

Currently I'm exploring the ideas of appropriation and art as well as this sort of fun, whimsical cartoonish quality that I've always been a fan of. One idea I had was to pull iconic or well known cartoon characters directly off an internet search and then convert them to a paint by number. Something interesting happens when an image is stripped of color and becomes just lines and numbers. On the one hand, the image is still recognizable but on the other it becomes a bit more abstract and random. I like playing with this idea.

What is your process like?

For my current body of work I spend a fair amount of time researching images online that could be used. From there I begin to piece together a composition in photoshop. Before having the imaged printed on my canvas I will apply acrylic paint in varying thicknesses along with spray paint. I like to build up textured elements in certain areas which when printed over created an interesting illusion of space. After the image is printed I continue to paint within the printed image or over parts of it to conceal it. More textured elements created from polymer are attached to the painting as well.

When you search for images online, how do you go about this? What kind of 'filters' do you use, if any?

Sometimes it's just a random search for patterns. What usually happens is I could start by searching say spiral patterns. The search result returns hundreds of different images. Sometimes mixed in with those images are images of something else which will trigger a search for a new image. Or maybe there is an image within an image that sends me down a different path. I'm interested in both random, everyday images, patterns, cartoon characters I remember as a child and even images from famous artists like Hirst's dot paintings. Part of what I find fascinating is the fact that anyone can find anything they want with very little effort. There is so much information available today and that does play into what I'm trying to communicate.

Do you have a mentor, or a piece of advice (or both), which has influenced your practice?

There will always be someone better than you. Focus on your work not their noise.

Describe your studio.

My studio is on the 3rd floor of an old brick building named Front Street Warehouse. It's about 500 sqft. and has amazing windows on the north and west side. Along with a stunning view of downtown and sunsets.

What do you find most daunting, challenging, or frustrating about pursuing art?

Probably the marketing of my work and trying to break into a larger art market. And of course not having the funds to bee able to continually produce or experiment the way I really want to.

If you could sit down for dinner or a drink with anyone, who would it be and what would you chat about?

Probably Robert Rauschenberg. I would love to know what it was like to be an artist during that pivotal time in history and the conversations he had with all the greats of that era.

What is the balance like when you're working for another artist, and trying to do your own work? Does this influence your practice in any way?

The style of the artist I work for is totally different than my own. It is highly process oriented. The outcome isn't what drives his work it's the process. After spending the day working with him it does take a little while to transition my thoughts and creative energy over to my work. One thing that has been a bonus is learning the business side of art which a lot of artists fall short in. 

What do you love most about your medium? What challenges or surprises you most about it?

The versatility of it. I can use it in thin washes or really thick impasto and because I work fast i like the drying time.

Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio that get you into the mode to create?

I typically will choose 3 acrylic colors and 3 different cans of spray paint, lay out some paper and randomly apply color to it very quickly without thinking about it. This helps clear my mind so I can work on major pieces and many times the paper works become realized paintings down the road. 

What keeps you creating?

I'm not sure it's just something internal that I can't explain

What are you working on right now?

I'm continuing the printing/painting series but with more appropriated images. A couple of new paintings include the monopoly man and an image of Warhol's banana that I gave a beak and bird legs. I call it banana bird.

Find more at darrenhaper.com and on Instagram @darrenhaper!

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