Hyperrealist painter Daniel Dust, speaks with Sparks Gallery about his artistic process and solo show “Dark Heavens”, on view at the gallery from Aug 27th – Oct 23.
Sparks Gallery: You previously stated “I paint what I see.” How do you see your paintings progressing/evolving in relation to societal trends in the next 10 years?
Daniel Dust: My paintings will evolve in tandem with my own evolution. Looking out ten years is overwhelming due to the amount of change that will take place. The change will be so fast that the next ten years is likely to feel like thirty years condensed. I expect my art will continue to mirror the challenges we face as a species, a culture, and a collective consciousness, and I will continue to immortalize the beauty I see in the world.
Sparks: Who/what is your most influential creative inspiration?
Dust: I endlessly seek out novelty. I like free thinkers and I largely ignore credentials and authority; I care only about the quality of one’s thought. Some of my biggest influences include Joe Rogan, Duncan Trussell, Aubrey Marcus, Tim Ferris, Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Jeff Bezos, and Elon Musk. They are all worth a google.
The first artist who made me want to paint in a hyperrealist style was Simon Hennessey, one of the greatest. I’ve also been hugely inspired by Banksy, Jason DeGraaf, Tom Martin, Alex Gross, and Chuck Close, to name a few.
Sparks: How did you teach yourself to paint in a photo-realist style? Please describe your technical and creative process.
Dust: Trial and error has been my teacher. Also, I used to ask general questions on art forums on how to accomplish certain effects. I found that a lot of my favorite artists painted in acrylic and some of them used an often overlooked tool – the airbrush. My style is a fusion of airbrush and paintbrush with many alternating layers to create a blended look full of subtly sharp details. I want the macro to be blended and convincing, and the micro to be full of abstract details and marks that in isolation stand up in their own right.
Sparks: What advice would you give aspiring artists?
Dust: Figure out what you want to be able to do and do it. Don’t worry about the “right path” (art school, fundamentals, babysteps, etc). Just dive into the work. You’ll suck at first — this is normal – everyone sucks. Skills are built, not born into. You’ll be surprised how far you can go just by pure immersion.
Invite criticism – literally ask for it. You don’t have to ask for it publicly, just get it from a source you can trust. Ask how you can improve, where you’re weakest artistically. If you seek out constructive criticism, and are open to it without letting your ego interfere, you will learn much faster. You don’t want to think you have nothing to improve because then you never will. I see myself as barely leaving one end of the proficiency spectrum, inching my way toward the other end, and I can see that it is an endless spectrum that disappears behind clouds, and I like it that way.
Sparks: What was your inspiration and significance of “Dark Heavens”? How would you want the viewer to address the artworks and their context?
Dust: I titled the show Dark Heavens because it is a fitting term for how I see the world; in the light exists darkness, in the darkness exists light. It is not about good versus evil – it is about love, and fear, and impulse, and nature as it seems to me in my subjective experience. They are all self-portraits in a way – that might be an artist cliché but it’s true. The world is formed by infinite variables and my art tries to combine some of them in a way that makes sense to me, so in painting I am trying to make sense of the world.
Sparks: What is your favorite museum/gallery in San Diego?
Dust: I have two favorite galleries in San Diego – Sparks Gallery and La Bodega Gallery. Both are run by genuinely kind people and both are very prolific in their exhibition cycle. They focus on displaying local artists, a hugely important aspect of any community. You get to experience the voices immediately around you that might not be otherwise heard.
Sparks: What do you like to do when you are not painting?
Dust: Absorb others’ creations, be around the people I love, experience novelty, dance freely at EDM shows, ponder the universe and the unknown, cuddle my Great Dane puppy, explore my inner mind. I am an introvert and have a tendency towards reclusion. I am an observer. This is one reason painting and my other creative pursuits have worked so well for me, I can do them in an environment that fits my makeup.
Sparks:What was the hardest lesson to learn as a rising artist?
Dust: It can be hard to be taken seriously until you have exhibition history and a full portfolio. When I started to develop my skill set, I could feel the fire inside and I knew I could paint consistently better pieces but people want proof, and unfortunately accolades still matter.
Being an artist is more than just making art. There’s a “business” side to art that you can’t overlook and takes a good portion of your time. But it’s well worth it because the point of art is to be seen and heard, to share your experiences with others in a vulnerable way so that they can take down their own walls and relate to them.
Sparks: Do you work with media other than painting?
Dust: I’ve always been pulled toward creation and have been making things since I was very young. I don’t believe in singular pursuits but I do believe in passion. I am passionate about expressing myself, and I do so in many ways. My main form of expression is painting, and I’ll be painting long into old age; If I painted every idea I’ve already come up with, I’d be busy painting them for decades. Not all of them are good and not all of them I will end up painting, but I have a lot to say and I know that my voice will become sharpened in time – sharpened because I don’t allow much in the way of self-satisfaction. I am always hungry, looking for improvement, searching out my own weaknesses and making conscious efforts to rise above them. I have some truly epic ideas in the works, so stay tuned.