Anyone who has seen a copy of the mag over the past four years will be familiar with delightful cover designs of our resident artist Dan, but there is much more to his talent than providing the cover artwork and page design for The Beestonian Magazine. 

This feature is a little different from the usual format, because… well, Dan’s an incredibly busy man and it was pretty damn hard to pin him down. So here’s a little interview we put together instead. It was fun finding out more about my Beestonian buddy, I hope you enjoy it too!

How did you first get involved with this illustrious magazine? And which bits can be attributed to you?

Hello! So, I got involved with the mag through the Beest of Beeston comic strip. I drew the first couple (showing how he became the Beest) and posted them in through the old Guitar Spot on Chilwell Road (which used to be the Beestonian postal address). Matt Turpin was editor at the time, and he published them in the next edition (issue no. 26) – which was a real thrill! It was then a bit of a panic as he’d published both of them and wanted more for the next issue.

So that was that: I was cartoonist for the magazine. But then the previous designer left and I was promoted to magazine designer. I still draw the Beest comic strip and also provide artwork for the front covers.

The Beest of Beeston denies all responsibility...

How is this different from what you do for your ‘real’ job? 

Ha! It isn’t really! I run a design agency called The Big Idea; we build apps and websites, as well as traditional design. But to be honest, most of the technical stuff is done by my business partner and others so I tend to focus on design and illustration. Which means I spend most days working in my garden office (The Shack) drawing pictures and drinking coffee. It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it!

Tell us how you got into art? 

My mum was an art student at the London Royal College of Art when I was still a baby. She managed to stay there for 9 years, so I kind of grew up in and around the college – the smell of paint and wood glue is still a huge nostalgia kick! She would sit and teach me how to draw until it just became a part of who I was. I’d draw spaceships and make them have huge laser battles; I’ve still got some of my old art books, which are just pages and pages of carefully drawn spaceships, barely visible beneath multiple felt-tip explosions!

How has your style changed over the years?

Actually, I still draw felt-tip spaceships. But yes, it has evolved – I went through a period of working in charcoal on massive sheets, which was great, but messy. Now I tend to work much more with pen and ink or digitally – sketching out pictures on a drawing tablet – especially for my commercial work.

What techniques were used to create the piece of art we feature in the summer issue of the magazine?

Pencil drawing to get the picture right, then I add pen and ink. The pic is then scanned into the computer and coloured in photoshop. This gives me the freedom to try different colours and ideas without ruining the pic if I go wrong. Once complete I supply to a printer in Nottingham that produces limited edition, high-end Giclée art prints. These are then signed and numbered.

How do you overcome the dreaded ‘creative block’?

I don’t really get creative block – I’ve got a dozen notebooks full of ideas, plus I also like to write in my spare time, so it’s more a case of just wishing I had more time! Unfortunately – work…

Do you have favourite tools or mediums that you like to work with?

I love working with charcoal on a massive sheet of paper. But it’s very messy and tends to dominate the house. Also, I emerge looking like an insane coalminer, leaving dirty handprints all over everything! So, I’ve had to pack that away for a bit – especially now my son uses the front bedroom to study for GCSEs. I do like the freedom of working digitally – it allows me scope to experiment and mess about with colours.

How many cups of coffee are consumed in an average working day?

4-5, plus a crumpet with peanut butter and chocolate spread!

What do you hate drawing?

Animals. Furry bastards!

Who/what are your artistic inspirations and why?

Gilbert Shelton, Dave Sheridan & Robert Crumb – three amazing artists who all got their start in American underground comics (Shelton is the creator of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers – a huge inspiration for The Beest of Beeston – and a co-founder of Rip Off Press.  Because my mum was an art student when I was little, I grew up on their comics. They got me into pen and ink, which gradually evolved into the work I produce now. Also: Edward Hopper – I had a book of his work growing up and always thought his work was just magical; Mervyn Peake (see below); Hergé – I read all the TinTin books over and over and loved the artwork; and Francis Bacon, because he was cool.

Can you discuss a piece of art that changed your perspective or approach?

It was actually a book: The Drawings of Mervyn Peake. Peake was an incredible illustrator (look up his pics for Treasure Island to see what I mean) and it was seeing his work that made me realise what I wanted to do. I always thought there was a difference between artists and illustrators, and that I should aspire to the former; Peake made me realise that they’re one and the same. On a second note; he was also an amazing writer – the Gormenghast Trilogy is just a jaw-dropping piece of gothic literature – and I loved that he could be both writer and artist.

(It’s worth noting here that Dan is now also both a writer and an artist!)

If you could invent a new colour, what would it be like and what would you call it?

Yorkshire. There’s an amazing warmth to the Yorkshire landscape – as soon as you cross the county line, everything becomes a slightly different hue. I love that.

If you could make a piece of art that comes to life, what would it be?

Giant robot, obviously. Has anyone ever not said giant robot? Because they’re wrong.

Is there anything else you would like to add?  

Nope – I’m spent. Thanks loads, bye!

A huge thanks to Dan for his good humour and creativity, without which the magazine would be a lot less colourful!

You can find more of Dan’s fabulous artwork here

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