Saturday, July 5, 2008
Danny Heller is a Californian painter from Northbridge. He grew up in the San Fernando Valley where he studied the Los Angeles landscape.
While under the instruction of the landscape painter Hank Pitcher, Danny earned a B.A in Art with emphasis in painting at the College of Creative Studies (University of California, Santa Barbara).
Danny develops his works in his studio at Chatsworth, depicting the mid-century Los Angeles with focus on its architecture and car culture.
His paintings have been exhibited in several venues, namely at the Judith Kaufman Gallery (CA), Art Basel (FL) and L.A. Art Show (CA) .
Danny Heller has also been featured in the New American Paintings #73 and in the Atomic Ranch Magazine "Cool Stuff" feature.
The artist's paintings can be seen at the Terence Rogers Fine Art until July the 31st, under the title "Eichler's : A Modern Vision".
Danny kindly accepted to grant an interview to The Art Inquirer :
Q : After you B.A. in arts from the............., you didn't have to wait much time to start exhibiting.
Do you find that the quality of your work was already perceivable by the market ?
A: After I graduated from Santa Barbara, I wasn't too sure about what to do for work. I knew that it takes many artists years before they get a show, let alone make a living off of their artwork. The practical solution was to try to gain employment from the local film studios in their art departments. I always had an interest in how artwork and film tied together, so it was a great way to make a living while continuing my artwork. However, none of the studios I applied to liked my work and the more I learned about artists in the film industry, the more turned off I was. So, while I found a day job, I just kept painting and going to galleries to see what level of work they were showing. I eventually got confident in my skill level and thought if I apply to galleries, the worst they could say is "no." It turns out that a lot of people really liked the whole California aesthetic - palm trees and suburbs - and it reminded them of scenes from their childhood. I also think that only a few other artists had covered these scenes.
Q : In your biography you mention your formative years painting the surf landscapes of Santa Barbara, does that experience have any influence on your suburban paintings, namely in terms of technique ?
A: Absolutely. I learned a lot about lighting and painting on the spot from my studies in Santa Barbara. If you spend the whole day outdoors painting, you really begin to notice how the shifting light of the sun affects the shape and colors of the landscape. It also made me more familiar with wet on wet painting.
Q : You studied with the landscape painter Hank Pitcher, how important was that for your development ?
A: Hank played a big role in my approach to art. I was fortunate enough to get some work helping him with studio maintenance - stretching canvases, cleaning up, etc. This taught me first hand how to organize a studio, proper technique for stretching canvases, and it gave me a lot of time to see him paint. He taught me a lot in how to look at the landscape and what an artist's role is in capturing it.
Q : People are seldom featured in your works, nonetheless they are the origin of what you paint.
How important is for you to depict their lifestyle through the elements of your paintings ?
A: That's a great way to put it - that I paint everything about humans but humans themselves. Its not always a conscious decision - most of the time, the places I'm studying are deserted. However, if there are people, sometimes its more powerful to omit them and just leave the landscape to ponder. Also, people can sometimes date a picture in how they dress. While my paintings are contemporary scenes set in actual environments, I like there to be a timeless quality about them - where somebody today or years from today can look at them and have the same reaction.
Q : After your trips to Europe, where you made some scketches, are you thinking about approaching a different theme in a near future ?
A: Europe was essential in growing as an artist. It exposed me not only to all the great artwork in the museums over there, but also where all the artwork took place - the actual environments of most of the Impressionists and other painters. I think I'd like to stick with the themes of suburban imagery and Modern homes for large exhibits, but maybe in the future I'll do a small series of European studies/paintings. All the history and grandiose buildings are so captivating, especially coming from my area where nothing is more than a couple hundred years old and most of the history is bulldozed for a strip mall.
Now on to the technical details.......................
Q : Do you paint always with oil ? If so, then why ?
A: I used to paint with watercolors and acrylics, but once I started oils in college, I stuck with them. You can get so many better effects with them. I love mixing in different colors into the paint while its wet. You have to be a bit more patient with them, but I think it pays off. The pigments are much deeper than acrylics too.
Q : Do you stretch and prepare your own canvases, or do you buy them streched and eventually prepare them at your taste ?
A: I stretch all my own canvases now. It just seems a lot more thorough to be involved in the whole art process. I used to cut my own wood to stretch the canvases over too, but it became so time consuming and costly. Now I buy stretcher bars and cotton canvas and prepare a lot of canvases at one time. This lets me control the sizes of the paintings so just the right painting gets just the right size.
Q : I suppose that in most cases you make studies and finish the painting in the studio. Tell us about those studies and how they are important.
A: Actually, since leaving Santa Barbara, I really haven't done many studies in the field. I think most people would get a bit uneasy if they saw me set up my easel in front of their suburban house and start painting. I usually try to take photos (discretely) and then work from them in the studio. Its not uncommon though to do a smaller study in the studio before I try to tackle a bigger version.
Q : Are you thinking about using different approaches and techniques at this moment ?
A: I'd really like to keep consistent at this point so galleries and collectors can expect a steady quality of work. But I'm always learning new techniques that can help a painting and always interested in maturing as an artist. I'm still developing different techniques for capturing foliage and brick.
Q : To end this interview, tell us about your next exhibition "Eichler's : A Modern Vision"
A: This was a great series of paintings for me. I started about a year ago and worked pretty steadily trying to capture the mid-century tract housing developed by Joseph Eichler. He pioneered suburban tract housing that emphasized Modern design and made it affordable for the masses. But his architecture team also really shaped the California aesthetic of design. I was drawn to these striking houses and just knew I had to try to capture that feeling. The challenge was that they were so beautiful on their own, what could I bring as an artist? Studying them long enough, I eventually began painting scenes that not only celebrated their amazing designs, but also set the stage for a possible narrative - I think I really captured the mystery and intrigue that hit me when I first saw them.
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Posted by Jose Carrilho at 10:28 PM