September 3, 2015

It’s about to get weird up in here. This week’s art hit is brought to you from the pen of illustrator Daniel David Freeman, fresh from his solo show at Urban Outfitters collaborator Beach London. And it’s not pulling any punches.

Built on a love of comic book culture, tight pencil craft and a fascination with the grotesque, Dan’s universe is a place where beauty and ugliness mix into souped-up monstrous creations. Veins bulge. Fangs abound. Fishnet body stockings ooze orbs of grey, rolling flesh. Things that seem alluring turn out to be appalling.

The artist describes his ideal reaction to his work as a comic double-take; the viewer is grabbed back to the gory details that he might not have first noticed. Warm up your neck muscles.

UO: What’s your story so far- How did you first get into art and then how have you become an artist?

I always drew when I was a kid and then took an active interest in fantasy and comic book artists as a teenager. Same as a lot of people of my generation – first Dennis the Menace, then Turtles, then Bart Simpson, then Batman, then Judge Dredd, then all the standard sci-fi movies. I’m pretty sure I didn’t see the Simpsons till I was 13. I pretended I’d seen it and reminisce through episodes with the rich kids at my school that had Sky. I pulled the wool over their eyes with my Bart Lunchbox.

Drawing is just what I did. I didn’t do anything else at school then went on to do it at University and just kept at it. I’m used to the ups and downs I suppose, however, I don’t consider myself an artist. I’ll be an artist when I don’t have to work for anyone, when I’m able to wake up every day and do exactly what I want. It’s as much about having no one telling me what to do as it is about creating work. I went to a talk with Gilbert and George after their White Cube show and they really are what they make. I want to be like that.

UO: What ideas are you most excited about sharing?

I had a conversation with a friend about my recent show and he said that it was very ‘finished.’ The difficulty with doing a neat drawing of something is that no matter what it’s of, it will always look like that something. My drawings aren’t expressive; they are the way they are. The moment the pen leaves the paper that idea is resolved. So I’m excited about asking questions with my work, it’s something I haven’t done before.

UO: Do you think art should be beautiful?

I am more interested in the grotesque than the beautiful, but I am a believer in the craft. I like well executed and beautifully crafted ugly things.

UO: What do you look for in a subject for a piece?

In my self-initiated work I mix things that turn people on, through association or flesh, with things that make it hard to look at.

I’d like to think if a drawing of mine was on a wall alone it would require a double take, the classic double look – if someone did that in true comedy style I’d be satisfied. But as I say – I don’t often get to just draw exactly what I want!

UO: Which artists do you look up to?

Brian Bolland, Boris Vallejo, Eric Yankher, Rob McNally, Chapman Brothers (sometimes), Jiro Bevis, Tom of Finland, Cheri Samba, I dunno… Giger, Dali. All sorts.

UO: What’s inspiring you outside of art at the moment?

I am big into music. But at the moment a very specific sound, I spend a lot of time trying to find records that fit in this bracket- probably more so than I do drawing! It’s a mix of dub, world beat and new wave. A lot of 80s Island Records material comes under it. Their house band The Compass Point All Stars played that style on so many different records. At the moment I’m seeking out the lesser known, offshoot artists, people who were influenced by it or influenced it, B-sides and people who worked on the engineering side of things. Real nerd stuff.