Monday, January 22, 2007

Art Space Talk: Jason Daniels

I recently interviewed artist Jason Daniels. Mr. Daniels is known for his works on paper and his puppet animation films. The world he has created is one of strange beings in everyday (often amusingly disturbing) settings. Something as simple as a figure taking a drag off a cigarette or a woman walking her dog transports the viewer to the gritty world that Mr. Daniels has created. His work seems to have a strange likeness to the work of Francis Bacon and there is an obvious Chet Zar influence.

Q. When did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?

A. "It was about 4 years ago. I mean I had always had an interest in art and I had been drawing and making things since I was a kid, but it wasn’t until I was about 23 that I really accepted it as a genuine possibility.

The art world had always seemed so inaccessible and alien to me; then in 2003 I won the regional award for undergraduate animator of the year for the Royal Television Society, and it challenged a lot of my assumptions and beliefs about my work and the art world. It was a very strange experience; I only entered it because my tutor (at the time I was on a foundation art course) wouldn’t stop bugging me about filling out the forms, the possibility that I would win it was impossible for me to consider.

I think after that I realised that I knew nothing about my work or the art world, I had just been obsessively creating things with no consideration as to why or what I should be doing with my work, a lot of my stuff was just getting thrown away when I moved house or to make room for me to create more.

For some reason that was the time I realised that I had to treat my work with respect and that being an artist was the thing for me."

Q. How has society influenced your art? Are there any social implications in your art?

A. "I am deeply dissatisfied with society; I would say that has quite an influence on my work. I guess that I have tried to construct a reality within my work that is separate to the one in which we exist, whilst at the same time reflecting certain aspects of it. I try to draw from my personal experiences which are obviously influenced by society, but I don’t think I actively try to address it."

Q. On average, how long does it take you to create a piece?

A." Probably about 3 days from pencil sketch to finished piece. If it’s an animation I am working on it takes a lot longer, for instance, the new project I am working on I am expecting to take about 6 months. There is so much involved in the production of a puppet animation, it is such a complex art-form and everything needs to be made from scratch for each film."

Q. Has your art ever been published?

A. "I have done illustrations for a few magazines and a few interviews. My most recent one was with The Swallow’s Tail (, I also produced the cover art for that issue.

I have just completed work on a book cover for two guys called Jason Earls and Jason Rogers (, and I think that is being published this month, well worth checking out. There are a few other things with my work kicking around.

Self publishing is something I am very interested in, one of my goals for 2007 is to write and illustrate a graphic novel, and currently I am putting together a scrap book of work that doesn’t have homes and I intend to publish that myself by the end of January."

Q. Do you have any 'studio rituals'? As in, do you listen to certain types of music while working? What helps to get you in the mood for working?

A. "I do listen to music whilst I work, there’s particular albums that remind me of a state of mind which I try to express within my work, I am not sure I would call it a ritual though. Recently I have found it difficult to work to music, so I stick a DVD on, just to provide some background noise.

The only ritual that springs to mind is if I am having trouble getting anything to come out, you know when you are just sat staring at the paper or canvas of whatever and there is just nothing in your head, well if I find myself in that situation I try a different creative outlet, music, writing etc. I find that if one thing isn’t working one of the others probably is, and if I still can’t get anything to flow then I take it as a sign to go and spend some time in the real world."

Q. Do you have a degree or do you plan to attend school for art? If so, how did it help you as an artist? What can you tell us about the art department that you attended?

A. "I do have a degree in animation, I graduated last year. I never intended to attend university, the "education" system that is in place is not something that I agree with, it seems to be more about control then growth. However going to university did provide me with three years in which to try and sort my life out, something I desperately needed back then, but as far as encouragement and inspiration goes, I do not think that art school is the place to get it.

The art department itself seemed very constricted by the experiences of the individuals running it and the success of previous students, the possibility of a student having a different idea of what constitutes art, or animation for that matter, or that an individual intends to construct a life around art different to the one that the tutor or lecturer has experienced or witnessed at some point in their career seemed to offend them greatly. I am certain that a lot of potential is crushed at art school due to the constrictions of the system and what is perceived to be of value to the art industry.

Having said that, my experience of university was very worthwhile, it certainly helped me to develop the confidence to take my work seriously, to understand the validity of my output. Like I said it also gave me the time I needed to sort out my life a bit more, all in all I think it was a very valuable three years."

Q. Why did you choose the medium(s) that you use?

A. "The spontaneity that pencils provide is something I value greatly; I love to get things done as quickly as possible. If I leave work half completed with the intention of coming back to it, it just doesn’t feel right when I return. I consider art to be a physical manifestation of energy, a kind of documentation of being alive, not just existing but actually being a productive, thinking entity, and trying to return to a previous state is sort of impossible.

Richness of image is also something I consider, different textures, lines, etc. It’s easy to overload an image, to over saturate it with different things, I think the key is finding a balance in the composition and with the mediums used."

Q. Where can we see more of your art?

A. "My website would be the best place: I have several gallery pages, and I try and add new work as often as I can, some of my animated films are on there also."

Q. Are you represented by a gallery? Do you have any upcoming exhibits?
A. "Currently I am not represented by a gallery, I am looking into things and hopefully I can make something happen this year. I am open to offers."

Q. What trends do you see in the 'art world'?

A. "Control, manipulation and exploitation. That’s probably not what you meant though. I think that digital video art is really taking off, the tools to produce it are so accessible now, I think that some really interesting things could come from it. It is something I am playing around with at the moment, I am intending to put out a DVD of my own experimental videos later this year."

Q. Any tips for emerging artists?

A." Don’t be afraid to make your own path. There is no set way to do things, either within the production of art or how you promote your work. Everything is valid."

Q. Has your work ever been censored? If so, how did you deal with it?

A. "Not as far as I know. Art should never be censored in my opinion, I imagine I would react very strongly if any of my work ever is."

Q. What was the toughest point in your career as an artist? Have you ever hit rock-bottom?

A. "The term career is not one I like to use. Life is life, you only get one and you should spend it doing what feels right for you. As far as hitting rock-bottom, there is always more down, hitting the bottom is impossible. I have been troubled with mental health issues since my teens, and I feel I have been down far enough, emotionally, financially etc to understand that the search for "rock-bottom" is fruitless, and there is nothing to be gained from it. Unless you consider the journey back up to be of value, but I think there are better ways to achieve similar results, and the ascent is by no means guaranteed, the further down you go, the harder everything is. Rock-bottom is not a place I ever want to be near again."

Q. Has politics ever entered your art?

A."I consider the fact that my art exists to be a political statement. Other than that I try to avoid politics, it is not a state of mind I feel comfortable with, and it interferes with creativity."

Q. Does religion, faith, or the lack thereof play a part in your art?

A. "There is definitely a spiritual aspect to my work, but I don’t think this has anything to do with religion. I consider spirituality to be a very important aspect of life, an aspect that is often ignored, refused or neglected.

For instance, when I stumble across a piece of art that I really like, it tickles a certain part of my brain, I can feel it exciting something within me, providing me with some sort of confirmation almost, and its not just art that can do this. I definitely feel there is a part of us, as a species, that needs feeding in this way, I kind of hope my work provides sustenance for some people."

Q. Do you have an account on If so, what is it?

A. "I actually had no idea existed until I was asked to do this interview. However, now that I do know I definitely intend to make an account. The internet is such a valuable tool when it comes to promoting work, it’s really cool that sites like exist, providing opportunities for creative individuals."
I hope that you have enjoyed my interview with Jason Daniels. Feel free to critique or discuss his work.
Take care, Stay true,
Brian Sherwin


Unknown said...

i love you so much man...xx

Anonymous said...

I believe you will succeed my friend across the water.


Anonymous said...

Your art work is amazing!! I love the colors!!

Truth Secret said...

love these images there so soft yet strong good job