Featured a few days back, we are lucky enough to have Dan Hillier answer a few questions about his work, inspiration, and process.
Anyone with even the littlest internet connection can see you sell your work at The Sunday UpMarket in London. As someone who tires from the tyranny of gallery-only artists, and the disconnect this creates for most audiences, I am really happy to see you reach out in this ‘abnormal’ fashion. Do you man the stall yourself? Are they priced within reach for average stroller-bys? What provoked you to move forward in this direction instead of selling your work entirely through higher end galleries?
I’m not there most of the time these days, especially when it’s sunny and there are parks and ponds to be lurked in, but I have manned it for the last few weeks. I try and get down there now and again to keep an eye on how it is and also it’s good to meet the folks who are buying my work. In the first instance it was just about getting my work out there in a way I thought would work for me. In the beginning I was printing stuff at home on a small scale and wasn’t ready for galleries and so on, and it’s kind of stuck with me. I like being in control of what I do and it’s nice not to hand over 50% to a gallery. That said, I do also enjoy working with galleries as all of the admin stuff is taken out of the equation and it’s a decent way to reach new people. It’s good to mix it up I think. The prints at the market go from £40 to £350 so there’s something for everyone.
You work with digital engravings, which is already a fascinating subject. I know you work with collage and ink, when necessary, but I am interested to hear more of your process from your point of view – the subjects are so ethereal, where do they come from? (Dreams?) Do you have a large storage of pre-sorted images that you draw from, or just play around as you go?
I do have a large amount of prints and pages from old Illustrated London News, source books and various bits and pieces from all over the place that I draw from. I generally start with an idea of what I want to make, which can be set off by another piece of work of my own or someone else’s, a sudden thought, music or anything, and then start to put the basics together, and by the process of seeking out other elements to put the thing together I tend to get led along by what I find and the original idea changes shape as I go. I scan bits of old prints into photoshop and then play around with them and draw into them using a digital pen, or sometimes scans of pen and ink drawings. When I draw, such as with At the Edge of the Woods, I use a dip nib pen and ink. I’m planning a lot more drawing in the next year.
Between The Louvre, Glastonbury, Saatchi and more, you’ve quite a CV. What do you personally feel is your favorite accomplishment? Any real turning points or epiphanies in your artistic career?
Probably having my work in the Louvre, because it’s the bloody Louvre! Also because the final product – a 2 metre wide praxinoscope – was such a beautiful object, and quite silly. They originally wanted me to make some work showing the life of a trunk packer but I said it would be more fun to make some weird shit popping out of boxes and they went for it.
Steampunk, Vintage, Gothic, Bestial – everyone is trying so hard to categorize your work. Where do you place your art, or do you attempt to not be defined?
I’m not that interested in definitions, though Steampunk is one I hear a lot and I’m not that keen on as it doesn’t quite fit in my mind.
5 Favorite artists, inspirations or other favorite motivational factors in your work.
Music is a big inspiration for me – Swans, Loscil, Philip Glass, Radiohead and Liars at the moment especially. Max Ernst was obviously a big influence on me visually and I went to see the Matisse show lately a the Tate which blew me away and completely sealed my long held plan to make colour work from here on in. Buddhist and Christian iconography has always fascinated and inspired me and I’m moving closer and closer to making something resembling these I think. Psychedelics and meditation have been an influence on me too, and recently I’ve been getting stuck into a lot of Terence McKenna recordings – he was a megadude and he makes for an inspiring call to arms when it comes to creativity and questioning what we think we know. I’m off to the Peruvian Amazon in a month which I expect will have quite an effect on where I go next, if I ever come back.