It’s our great pleasure to introduce Dan Stirling, 25, Brighton based blader and artist. One of the advantages of social media is sharing work amongst friends and therefore coming across people such as Dan, which we may never have done before if it wasn’t for my Facebook news feed. Oh wow are we glad to have found this ridiculously talented artist.
Dan works primarily with pen and ink on heavy duty watercolour paper. What we find mesmerising is his attention to detail, especially in the smallest of sections which you can see in some of his photos where he places a penny next to them to really understand just how INSANE his drawings are.
We love the subject matter of his pieces, space, moon, stars, skeletons and shapes. They are majestic, historic, futuristic all in one.
Without a doubt my favourite piece of Dan’s I’ve seen so far. Down to the position of the skeleton, the drop of white and the rings of Saturn. It just speaks volumes to me, and I find the balance incredibly aesthetically pleasing.
Still perplexed by just how Dan actually creates these haunting images, we were fortunate enough to interview and him answer some questions just to clear up a few things…
What age did you start drawing? Did you ever study illustration/art?
According to mum, 2…
I had quite a few detentions for doodling on my books at school. I did a B-TEC Fine Art at college with distinctions and a Foundation which brought me to Brighton. Unashamedly uni hasn’t been necessary yet, I might go when I’m old and grey.
How are finding the quest of being a freelance illustrator?
I hope I’ve never been naive about how easy the journey can be to “Make it” and although I don’t believe most things I read or see online, the more social media about art I see the more I realise it’s a lot like winning the lottery sometimes, which I guess is quite frustrating yet exiting and motivating for an artist. My direction now is good old fashioned hard work creating good affordable products and friendly customer service online selling my prints, welcoming commissions etc to enable me to draw the big personally inspired pieces to hopefully inspire you and to keep drawing until I feel contentment with my portfolio.
Fortunately I live with another freelance illustrator whose style couldn’t be further from mine. We’re learning more and more about the amount of work and budget companies / clients have to offer depending on your style of work. For example my friend would have finished 3 commissions by the time it takes me to draw 3 inches but its swings and roundabouts as my pieces cost more.
Check out and share Ryan Gillet’s work, it’s awesome!
The most exiting job to date was an album cover for singer songwriter Marika Hackman who’s blowing up right now! I learnt a few professional ins and outs of the trade and gained some great advice on this project. To see my drawings not only on Spotify, I-Tunes etc but on vinyl sleeves you can hold and keep is a very rewarding feeling and would love to do more work in music. I’ve been working hard creating digitally reproduced prints as close as possible to the originals of my fine line drawings and watercolour birds (coming soon) and I’m very happy with the outcomes. Prints are available now on my new site, they’re signed & numbered and there they’re limited and cheap so make sure you get in quick!
What motivates or inspires you, do you need to be in certain headspace to create?
Most ideas I have for my personal drawings (the blk&whte ones) come to me in the night, I have crazy intense nightmares to which I’ve come to use and embrace and now wake up feeling almost disappointed after a normal dream, not sure how healthy that is! I think its a cliché for an artist but I’m always inspired and driven by painful experiences, heartache, sadness, failure, love, happiness, success etc its all motivation to live a full life. Although saying that I think I’ve been blessed with a great imagination (thanks mum&dad) so i don’t necessarily have to go looking for those things to get inspired, instead I can use my art as an outlet for when they do happen which is a blessing.
There’s a lot of astronomy and mythology and out of this world super futuristic yet ancient ideas floating around in my head, the preliminary ideas are usually more visual than meaningful in my head until the drawing starts coming to life and my mind fills with metaphors and explanations of the imagery. Kinda backwards but the beautiful thing is I know exactly how they should look in my mind and its actually quite close on paper sometimes which is incredibly stressful during the process but uplifting / relieving when its pulled off. I think I’ll always allow myself to be nervous drawing my personal work, it makes me think about every mark I make because once its down, that’s it! Imagine getting to the end of a perfect drawing and whoops, it happens! haha
I think my mindset is very eclectic or erratic maybe? For example I’ve already distanced those thoughts and ideas from the last few drawings I’ve done. I hate the thought of being a one trick pony or being known for one thing and will always try and bring something new at least, trying to keep whatever style I have along the way.
I don’t tend to look at much art, but do plan to go to see more museums and galleries, like everyone else I’m inspired by film styles and music too.
What music do you usually listen to when drawing?
Music has played a huge roll role in my life and without sounding too romantic has surely shaped my life in its style, thoughts, ideas, feelings and definitely my drawings etc. I spend at least 8 hours a day listening to music so monotony forced me to have a mega eclectic taste to the point where my friends and family get confused about what I’m into sometimes haha.
I usually look out for in-between genres and stuff that makes me physically feel something, its out there and worth the search,. It’s usually older stuff i enjoy more which saddens me sometimes until I see the crap on Tv, then I’m laughing, I love a dumbass racket if it’s entertaining.
I love classical. I listen to a lot of film scores, huge fan of Hans Zimmer, Cliff Martinez, Ludovico Einaudi, Geinoh Yamashirogumi, Thomas Newman. I guess my friends know me for hip hop which without sounding like too much of a G is a huge part of my roots and good hip hop will always influence me. Dj Shadows Endtroducing was a life changer when I was a kid. Listening to a lot of prog / psych rock when I’m drawing recently because the tracks are like 20 minutes long and it makes time stand still! Bands like Electric Moon, Electric Wizard, Sleep, Earthless, Om etc, some heavy metal, 50’s 60’s, some garage, grime, some dance, – Hybrid. Classics like Pink Floyd, Radiohead, Fleetwood Mac etc. I was Born in Bristol so Massive Attack were huge for me growing up. I tend to listen to quite depressive music when I’m drawing for long periods, very long emotional droney ambient instrumental stuff that makes other people miserable around you if they’re exposed to it for too long, haha. Burial has been a huge influence. The last year I’ve grown an obsession for early 90’s Memphis rap,. Some of the most interesting almost forgotten diverse rap tapes you could say were, and are still original in there their style. Listen to crossover stuff like Deathgrips, Health Check out Marika Hackman’s stuff who I worked for, she has a really special voice and Esbenandthewitch who I also drew for are pretty deep too. I could go on and on, it’s endless, and that’s the beauty. Ill Always keep an open mind. I-tunes radio is a god send FYI.
What supplies do you predominately use?
I basically just need a pen and paper, but to go into a bit more detail – For a normal drawing I’d need a good quality sheet of usually Bockingford paper and UNI Pin fine line pen (0.05), a pencil, a sharp surgical knife and a rubber to scratch bits out and add texture if need be. I’ve also started drawing with creepy surgical gloves. and trying to keep the workspace OCD clean as my works so minute and delicate, Next it’ll be a mask.
What or who would be your dream client?
It would be amazing to draw something for a massive internationally recognised corporation like the BBC would be amazing, to be associated with an iconic and legendary series/documentary/film. Something like Rolling Stone’s tongue, Pink Floyds prism, Clockwork Orange’s one eye & bowler hat, to draw an image that symbolises an idea. There’s a list of museums I’d love to work for, to have a drawing hung in a place where people can appreciate the importance of original hand drawn art that should last hundreds of years! Any film or music I love – album and film artwork can be so strong, stronger than the title because its what people use to describe it to their friends when they can’t remember the title haha. Imagine people saying the LP with the wavey lines and everyone instantly knowing they meant Joy Division, or talking about a neon pink 80s font in the credits and we all think Drive. Ive always imagined drawing a portrait of Jay Z and him calling my phone and asking if he could use it for his next album cover haha maybe I should just draw it!
How long does a piece/commission usually take you?
It totally depends. Definitely a long time! To put it simply the more black you see the longer it takes. Although that’s not entirely true as one of the new portraits I’ve just finished has no black background and it only took a little less time than the pieces I’ve filled in black as I was learning a new technique as I drew. I think my last drawing Descent took around 3 to 4 weeks sometimes working through the night Monday to Friday. I draw a lot of commissioned greetings cards and family pets etc which usually take around 5 hours at a normal card size but again it depends on scale, the more detail the longer, the more photo realistic the longer etc
Lastly, can you tell us a little about Cidy Life?
Im a sponsored rollerblader on the side, and most of my friends happen to blade also. Cidy Life is a bunch of mates, all quite interesting dudes not taking life too seriously street skating where we can, (Barcelona most recently) We bought a few cheap VHS-ish cameras to basically document some funny shit that we can watch back when were old and grey, and try and push ourselves as skaters too if we can. Its having a really positive response! If you haven’t tried blading before, you should! Its too fun.
DAN STIRLING’S WEBSITE / PRINTS FOR SALE | CIDY LIFE | VALO – DAN’S NEW SPONSOR
Emilie & Jen