Punk visual art with a touch of detailed minimalism – An interview with Dan Morison
Dan Morison is a London based illustrator. His body of works include artwork, concept art, comics, storyboards for commercials and music videos, album covers and flyers. My first encounter with his works was through his Primarchs Series, a set of 19 illustrations of science fiction demigods which were done in a very punk like style that reminded me of some of the stuff Jamie Hewlett has done. [Hewlett has been responsible for drawing comics such as Tank Girl and designing The Gorillaz]
I originally did this interview for OngeKUNSTeld, a Dutch publication. Reason I’m posting the interview here is that the article on OngeKUNSTeld is in Dutch.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What made you decide to become an artist, and what is your background?
For me, it’s draw or die, I have no other skill and no particular desire to do anything else. I love art, and I love doing it, and I look forward to doing it ‘till I’m 70 or 80 years old. If I had any interest in the lottery and bothered to buy a ticket, and won, I still would carry on being an artist, just maybe dressed better. Transformers, and old kids cartoons from back in the 80’s were the real inspiration for me: robots, dinosaurs, things with guns, I used to try and draw them all, for years. And I used to be really bad at it for years as well! But loved doing it nevertheless.
My background is pretty standard: school, college and so on. However, I soon realised that I wasn’t very good at anything else other than art. I studied at the Arts Institute in Bournemouth, back when it was cool, and after that moved to London to pursue a career and got stuck being a bartender instead, so now I do both!
With which artists did you grow up with, and how did their works influence your development as an artist?
The Games Workshop artists used to be my main influence and heroes back then, so Adrian Smith, John Blanche, Mark Gibbons. Also, there were a lot of old science fiction book covers that my Dad had that were a real influence on me, like Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. I basically loved anything science fiction and fantasy and found anything else even remotely removed from that tremendously boring. Can you imagine what its like to be in school for five years? After that college for two more, then foundation for another year. Imagine never being fucking challenged, to never have anyone ask you “why don’t you just draw what you want today?”. That basically really spurred me to become what I am today.
What project did you enjoy doing most, and what can you tell us about it?
Projects I enjoy are the ones where I get a bit of creative freedom, but also a boundary to push against. Or someone else who is working with me to tell me what could be better and to push me. I find the best work comes from that; it’s easy as an artist to get really self involved with your work and to start thinking that your way is the best way. So it’s a good way to keep an open mind and to argue for your ideas. I fear the day when someone tells me “just do what you want” because a blank canvas is much more foreboding than a strict brief.
I’m quite curious about your methods. What can you tell us about the techniques (and software) you use to create your works?
Everything I do is hand drawn then the rest is Photoshop, usually colouring, tidying up and a few things here and there that I think will enhance the piece, simple as that really! For the bigger pieces I will have a few stages of roughs, to get so used to the picture and idea that I lose any fear or trepidation about making mistakes. Thats the only problem I have so far, being too precious about some drawings that they lose their spontaneity.
Do you keep a sketchbook or something along those lines?
I don’t really, I’m generally quite busy, which is fucking fantastic, so the time I get to just sit and doodle has been reduced to zero. I will occasionally do some warm-up drawings to get my brain and hand synced up, but I basically just draw on command. It’s a shame because my entire life was spent doodling, but I feel I need to be more focused on my jobs rather than walking round drawing trees. Trees are hard anyway. Somewhere in my room there are two big boxes full of loose paper, that’s where all my roughs go, basically a big fire hazard in the corner of my room.
Looking into the future, what would you want your biggest success to be? As in, what would be your dream project to do or company to work for?
Right now, my dream is to be able to support myself with my art, to live off it completely and not having to work a shitty part time job for less than £100 a week. I’ve been juggling both jobs now for years and years, I never see my girlfriend, my friends or family. I just go to work, come back home and continue working from there. Even though its a necessity, I sometimes fear for future self’s mental sanity. I would love to work on computer games, or fantasy tabletop games, things like that. Comics interest me but I fear people will just call me a Mike Mignola rip off, more than they do already! [Mike Mignola is most known for creating Hellboy]
What project are you working on now, and what can you tell us about it?
I’m currently working on a card game, called The Agency, a game about factions of secret agents pitted against each other in a dark, cyberpunk future. I think it’s the first time, and also the first job, that I’ve had where I can actually draw things I like! It’s a lot of science fiction character design, which is right up my alley. It’s going to be a Kickstarter in a few months, so come and check it out!
What do you have planned for the (near) future?
I’m playing with the idea of doing my own versions of my favourite author, Iain M. Banks’ science-fiction novel front covers, because they changed them a few years ago to be this generic, Photoshopped-filtered coloured smears that apparently make science fiction ok to read on public transport. Book covers used to be the things that inspired me, so it would be nice to come full circle and pay homage to them. [Iain M. Banks also writes mainstream fiction, which he does under the name Iain Banks, without the ‘M’]
Do you have any last words for the readers?
Don’t be afraid to do what you want, just make sure you do it a whole lot better than anybody else.
To learn more about Dan Morison and his works, visit his website or Facebook page.
UPDATE (July 16th, 2013): The Agents crowdfunding campaign has been active for a few days and they’ve already hit the $70k marker! If you are interested in contributing, please check out their Kickstarter.
UPDATE NUMERO DOS! (August 19th, 2013): The Agents’ Kickstarter is going really successful, almost hitting the $200k mark! Quite awesome, especially since their original goal was a mere $6000!