As someone who appreciates the art of screen printing and landscapes, you can imagine my excitement when I stumbled on the work of Dan McCarthy last year.
The 30-something artist has quickly earned a large fan base thanks to his stunning prints covering everything from the abstract to the mysterious. A dark village with only one lit window, a mirror-still lake studded with stars, a lone traveler walking through the woods carrying a flashlight, skeletons of humans (and dinosaurs) providing life to plants and trees above.
Beyond these beautiful scenes, what also makes his work so appealing is that it's easy to purchase. In addition to his work for clients and art galleries, McCarthy started a Print Club several years ago for which he personally designs and produces a limited-edition piece for members each month. For those who can't afford the $350 fee (a bargain for 12 incredible prints), McCarthy also offers individual pricing ($40) for monthly prints. Needless to say, everything tends to sell out quickly.
MNN: Give us a little background, when did you first develop an interest in art?
Dan McCarthy: I started making art at a very early age ... probably as early as I can remember. My mother is an artist/musician, and we were always doing something creative in the household. I continued to be creative throughout my teenage years and attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston after high school.
While at school, making art really became a part of my everyday life, and I experimented with all sorts of printmaking and other forms of making art. I really enjoyed screen printing and I took what I learned at school to continue to make prints from my home studio. Ten years later, I've continued printing and feel really lucky that I can make a living doing something that I really love.
Some of your work is as haunting as it is beautiful. What I love about each piece is that there appears to be a larger story at play — a man walking alone through the woods, a lone campfire lighting up a pine forest. Do you approach each piece with a story? What draws you to the natural element?
Yes, exactly ... I love creating a subtle story within a piece. From a distance, I want it to look just like a simple landscape ... but, when you take a closer look, you can see there is something funny or dramatic going on. I think I'm drawn to nature because I love being out in the woods and like to try to capture that feeling in my art. Being out in nature is something that we all can relate to, and it can stir up so many different feelings: fear, wonder, beauty. When you are standing in the woods, you are seeing the earth in it's purest form, just as it looked 200 years ago or 2 million.
What do dinosaurs represent in your work?
I think I'm drawn to dinosaurs because I like trying to connect the present time with the past. We all learn about dinos at an early age, but it still blows my mind that they really roamed the same earth as us. I try to find similarities between us and dinos, and in doing so, I feel like it ties us together making me feel like our time on this earth is small.
Does your work carry an environmental message?
I've never intentionally made a print with an environmental message. I am supportive of all environmentalists, but I try to avoid sending any kind of political message with my work.
Can you tell me how the "Star Wars" "Hoth" piece came about?
The person who curated it asked me to do it, and my head exploded. "Star Wars" is huge for me ... it was really one of the most important things from my childhood, and I was really happy to do this piece.
How long does one print take from imagination to final product ready for duplication?
The drawing usually takes about two to three days (maybe 20 hours). Then I have to get the screens ready and exposed for printing, which usually doesn't take too long, maybe an hour or less per screen (the number of screens I use depends on the number of colors the drawing is). Then I print one color at a time which usually takes me about three hours per color (doing about 500-600 prints). Then I trim them (about an hour), and then I have to sign and number them, which takes forever.
Are there landscapes you're looking forward to exploring in art later this year? Any future art showings coming up?
I have a few ideas I'm working on ... but nothing I'm ready to talk about :)
I have a show next August at Gallery 1988 in L.A. It's going to be myself and Jay Ryan (one of my favorite artists). I'm really excited for this show.