I met Dan Withey, surrounded by his paintings at a recent Bowerbird Bazaar. He is an Adelaide Artist with roots in illustration, having studied Visual Communication at Adelaide Uni. He is originally from Birmingham, England and emigrated to Australia in 2004.
His work, for want of a better description is illustrative in style. It features dominant line and colour coupled with organic shapes. He often juxtaposes human and animal forms reminding me of tribal, totemic creatures. They have an undeniably surrealist influence and remind me of MAMBO imagery from the early 90’s. Dan’s work in a similar way is approachable and far from being pretentious. His images are an honest look at who we are as human; our humour and our frailties are combined. His images show us ourselves.
I was lucky enough to be able to ask Dan a few questions about his work.
How would you describe your work?
Strange but fun; and, colourful but dark at the same time, it’s a weird mixture.
My paintings are like looking at the world through rose tinted glasses with a crack in them. A bit like an advert on TV in a way; every body’s happy, but, you know really life is not really like that at all.
What is your favourite material to use?
I love working on wood and other found objects. Making use of the grains and imperfections that the things have and taking them into account when I’m constructing a painting.
Where does your colour inspiration come from? How do you know what colours go together and how do you select which colours you are going to use?
I’m not too sure where it (colour inspiration) came from really, I think that my sense of colour slowly came to me through practice. I mean when I first started painting I only used to used grey, black, red and white funnily enough and somebody suggested that I should use more colours and that was that. I still spend a long time staring at a painting trying to decide which colour to use on occasion but like everything if you practice it gets easier.
I usually spend a bit of time staring and thinking about what I’m going to do. I usually paint the characters in response to the colour of the background. I mostly make decisions about colour as I go along but I try and make sure I use contrasting colours for example if I have a lot of cool colours like blues and greens I might try an use a small amount of warm yellow or a pink or something like that to make the work pop out.
What message do you hope to convey through your work?
Normally, what bothers me from day to day. The stupid problems around the world that seem so simple but we never can fix because of human nature. I just like to put a sarcastic, humorous slant on serious things just to show how silly we all are
I also like to deal with things that happen around me, strange people I see on the street. For example I spotted a man walking down rundle mall shirtless with a Coles bag fall of raw meat stuffed into the back of his underwear. God knows why! Did he think that was the best place to keep meat refrigerated? Who knows? I didn’t ask him so I guess I will never know.
Also things I might be feeling at the time or things I’m going thru they seem come out in my work half the time without me even trying to.
What did your parents think of you working in Art?
Well my parents have always been very supportive and they’re the best, I love them dearly. I think it was tougher for them when I first stated because they see you struggling away with not much to show for it and that’s not what you want for your child. But after working away at it a few years on I’m making a living- which is great, so there allot happier for me.
My dad’s language towards my work has changed from “oh that interesting Dan” to” I really love this one Dan”, which is really great.
Is there anything you still wish to learn?
I would really love to learn sculpture with clay that would be amazing. I’m just so busy with painting most of the time that it leaves no time for anything else sadly.
Where is your favourite place to display your work?
Usually in a gallery on the opening night of a show, that’s the fun part of showing your work to people.
Find more of Dan’s work on his website or facebook page.