With some artists it just takes a single look at their work to know you’re dealing with something very special. This was exaclty the case when we came across Dan Kitchener’s work. Dan Kitchener is a (street) artist / illustrator / animator from the UK who is all over the place, from commercial 2d / 3d animation on television to canvas and the streets. In between all those things he still knows (needs) to find the time to squeeze in a daily speed painting session, so there’s a new treat on his Flickr account every single day!
Drawing is Dan’s way to stay sane, and every aspect of his work shows his love of drawing. That’s why we are very proud to present you a CFYE feature with Dan Kitchener!
As soon as we saw your characters like the guardian and the demons, we instantly started making up stories around them. Do you make up stories/personalities around the characters you create?
Well I do yes, I have an idea of a narrative in my mind and I usually illustrate to this. It’s not something I ever write down, just an ongoing story in my head that I can develop and dip into to get inspiration for new images! I have an dark, apocalyptic world that these creatures inhabit, as well as my urban landscapes, they all come from this place. I am experimenting with some animation ideas/techniques based on these characters, so watch this space in the future!
Have you ever considered taking a few characters and use them for an animated film/cartoon/comic?
Yes, answered that above, I see these characters as moving images when I illustrate them , I try to imagine how they move and react to the landscapes they inhabit, it allows me to the give more life and depth to the illustrations and also allows me to visualize how they would look once animated, the way they move, sounds they make etc. For instance the Guardians are large and slow, purposeful movements, they slowly scan the surroundings from their perches up high, their electrical skull like neon head up displays crackling into life in the poisonous, smoke and ember filled skies, hissing sparks, steam and electricity as they spy their prey far below!
Did you watch a lot of cartoons/comics/animation when you were growing up, which ones, and did this inspire you?
Yes I watched all the cartoons I could, I loved them all to be honest, same with animations then and now. I sort of grew up with the birth of digital animation, the early days of Pixar when all they’d done was animate the lamp in the short Luxo, Jr. This type of animation was inspiring as it had never been seen before. I also used to watch closely the early computer games on the spectrum and C64 and copy the way they’d animate, kind of teaches you the fundamentals on animation like that, it was a huge influence, it’s something that could only happen from the beginning, now the games that come out are so advanced, they’re more like films, they’ve lost their home made, bedroom made feel! I also read and collected comics for years and have a huge collection still, although I don’t buy anymore. 2000 A.D was perhaps the most influential comic for me, I must have read this for over 15 years, all the artist and stories and characters were truly inspiring, especially ABC Warriors! These are my biggest influences.
In what kind of world do your characters live? (future/parallel universe, both?)
Most of my characters actually exist in the ‘real’ world, alongside us, although people don’t necessarily notice them…
A lot of your work has this epic/bigger than life futuristic kind of feeling to it, can you elaborate on that?
I really love dramatic scenes that have a sense of presence and maybe power. I try to create dynamism in my work by drawing inspiration from camera angles and compositions remembered from watching old films as a child.
In your work we see a lot of red and blue, are these simply your favorite colors or is there another reason for that?
Red and blue are colours that I associate with basic emotions. To me, red represents heat, intensity, passion and fire, while blue represents coldness, death, desolation and emptiness. I love the contrast between them, the way they react when overlaid with one another, and the interesting effects they can create with light.
Before, you told us that light and dark is something you try and explore in most of your work. We feel like you are drawn into the dark side a bit, are we right?
I’m fascinated by both of these elements and the range of subjects that they inspire. Much of my work focuses on light, but I’m also drawn towards darker places where creatures lurk in the shadows…
To continue with light: The lightning, the flares and the reflections in your work are absolutely spot on! Is it something you particularly pay much attention to?
I do try to explore and manipulate the relationship between light and dark through my work, and I’m fascinated by the effects that can be achieved. In ‘Flare’, for example, the positioning of the figure and the diffuse light bleeding around the edges create a really interesting ‘nuclear’ intensity that almost makes you want to squint when you look directly at it, although in reality it’s no brighter than a blank canvas.
In a previous interview, you’ve mentioned before you’d probably go crazy if you couldn’t draw every day. What would be the symptoms?
Vomiting, diarrhea and involuntary shaking…
We’ve read that you’ve been drawing since you could hold on to a crayon. When did you decide to bring your work to the streets, and how was that?
It was a natural progression really. I’d always liked the idea of playing with scale, and once I discovered that I could create huge pieces based on tiny sketches I was hooked. The streets are such a great platform for artists – art for all!
And when/how did you decide/realize that you could make a living out of doing what you love?
I’m not sure that I have yet…
Do you ever feel like you have to make compromises in your commercial work?
It’s not a problem as long as I’m able to explore my ideas through my own work, and the two actually sometimes crossover and feed off one another.
You reinvent and renew yourself constantly and are always on top of new techniques. What do you think will be the next big thing in 2d or 3d illustrating and animating?
I do get a lot of motivation from trying new techniques and media. I can’t predict what’s going to be the next big thing, I just hope I’m there when it happens!
Who and/or what inspires you?
Magazines, films, people, emotions… Inspiration can come from anywhere and anything!
Name a few of your favorite books, movies, music albums and comic / game / cartoon / movie characters:
Ashley Woods’ Swallow art books are amazing, as are the illustrations in the Aliens comics from the late 1980s and Simon Bisley’s ABC Warriors.
Do you have any work you call your favorite?
I don’t really have favourites. I’m into whichever piece I’m working on at the time.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I’ve got lots of ideas bubbling over in my head. I like to surprise other people and even myself – I’ll say no more than that!