Dan Kitchener or DANK is one busy man. Resisting categorization, his art incorporates several branches of technology, from digital paintings to stop frame animation, music videos to AV displays, video games to commercials, graphic novels to graffiti; there doesn’t appear to be one avenue of artistic engagement which Kitchener hasn’t exhausted. An enduring interest in the urban landscape and a desire to turn the city itself into a giant graphic novel, sets the tone for Kitchener’s latest works.
This interview was written by Global Street Art contributor James Buxton
From Dan to Dank
DANK is simply my name abbreviated. I was called Dan K in primary school as well as Dekay and DK, but I didn’t want to make up a tag, I just preferred to use my name! As my work is strictly on the legal side of the street art and graffiti world, I am open with who I am and the work I do, as I also do a large amount of commercial work. I don’t feel the need to do illegal work.
I have been making art ever since I was able to hold a pen. I used to fill sketchbook after sketchbook in primary school, WW2 planes and tanks, as well as a fair share of monsters. I basically used to draw all the time. I’ve continued this throughout my life and still draw whenever I have a clear minute to whip out the sketchbook or now the iPad as well, it’s just something I do naturally, without thinking really.
For me walls have only really come around in a big way in the last 5 to 6 years. I discovered spray paint and saw that I could turn my paintings and drawings into huge street based illustrations, something that still really excites me creatively. I love the way painting at a large scale is possible, the impact these large pieces have really suits the subject matter too, I can’t see me ever getting tired of doing this.
I’m an Essex boy, born and bred, lived here all my life and love it. As well as its proximity to London, Essex is a great place, it seems to spawn some serious talent. I went to school and college in Essex, then did an Illustration degree at Portsmouth Uni. GCSE art, A Level art, a Foundation in art, BA Hons in Illustration, these all set a good basis for my career, but you never stop learning and experimenting.
I have painted using brush and paper etc. since I was probably 2. I did some walls when I was younger, a few naughty underpasses when I was really young with Halfords car spray paint; it never really gelled with me and how I was at the time. I painted the sixth form common room with large surrealist type pieces when I was 17, kind of my first large public wall, this definitely ignited something in me, but I never returned to painting large scale until I was in my 30’s.
As I do so many diverse things, I think with my sketching, painting and wall work, I try and convey an emotion, or an emotional response. I may have an image in my head of a sunset or a lighting effect and I try and get this across in the painting. Light and the use of it, how it can affect the scene, the image, is key to my work. I absolutely love the use of light, getting it right can totally transform the atmosphere of a piece; it really is amazing what light can do.
Subconsciously I put a lot of my own emotions into what I paint. Last year I went through a particularly dark period when my mum was seriously ill. My art was kind of haunted by dark imagery, something that really echoed through all I was creating. Animations had dark undertones, walls and illustrations had tormented creatures, sombre, ghostly apparitions. I’m kind of moving away from that darker side and now looking into more areas of light. Looking at how light affects a scene and the moods different lighting can create.
I’ve been influenced by a huge amount of sources over the years. As a kid I used to avidly read and collect comics, 2000AD to name one. I also loved Sci-fi movies and monster films, as well as the old black and white and 60’s war films. I basically try and absorb so many different things, it kind of creates a visual memory bank that you can dip into, take what you need, add it to an image and create something unique and fresh.
I like a variety of artists, James Jean, Ashley Wood, John Martin, Paul Delvaux, Mr Jago, Georgio de Chirico, Simon Bisley, there are so many great artists out there. I think I am inspired by artists that can draw well, something I rate very highly. I feel it’s vital for an artist in any field or medium to have drawing as a basic skill. For me, everything I do starts in the sketchbook, no matter what the final outcome, it’s sketches in my sketchbook, I draw at every spare moment I have, it’s my first language!
Before I start, the subject usually dictates to me the medium, I guess having experience in a diverse range of mediums and techniques allows me to make intuitive decisions, without really thinking, I can play through in my head which will work best and then adopt that approach.
I guess my art has developed over my lifetime and brought me to this point. It’s strange when people asked how I got into art, it’s not something I ever consciously got into, it’s just something I have always done, ever since I can remember, it’s such a part of me, who I am and my life, I don’t see it as a standalone hobby or pastime, it’s just what I do. Today, I am pleased with my work as I feel I am progressing in terms of diversity, I am also pleased with some of the more major projects that I have got involved in, such as Kylie and Paul McCartney’s stage visuals. Having some of my stop frame animations played out behind Paul McCartney at the Queen’s Jubilee concert outside Buckingham palace was a really proud moment for me and a definite highlight of my career.
Painting outdoors doesn’t affect the way I paint really. I like to adapt to different surroundings and environments and that’s why I choose pure spray paint for outdoor work, it’s essentially allowing me to be responsive to unforeseen circumstances or situations, it allows for total creative flexibility, unlike stencils for example.
Painting at Upfest this year was quite memorable, I managed to paint 40ft boards and one huge set of doors as well as some shop shutters, so for the amount of painting alone, this was quite memorable, but I think it was the reactions of the people who were at the event that was the best thing, so much enthusiasm and positive comments, it really does make it all worthwhile, when someone stops and has a chat about you and your work.
Painting with my new found crew, IM Crew, alongside Noir and Flem, two real talented old school writers, has also been really memorable, we all seem to work really well together, and all love to paint HUGE! Myself and Noir just painted at the Chelmsford gas works, covering a 60ft x 7ft wall in one session, a top days painting!
I paint in London a lot, it has some great spots, and also has great public exposure for my work, I love the vibe of London in particular, and the way people have really embraced street art here, I always get such positive comments from people. A few haters, even from other ‘artists’, but that goes with the territory! I only paint legal spots, so have no issues with the police.
I have painted in Amsterdam, at Villa Friekens, a cool traveller type community just outside Amsterdam. This was a great experience with some really laid back and open minded people. I have also painted in Barcelona, but not really painted that much outside the UK, definitely something I’d like to do more, getting time to travel is few and far between, I have so many projects on the go all the time, I just don’t have the time!
I’d like to continue with what I’m doing and see what happens, I am quite a strong believer that good things happen to those that wait, and are persistent. I would however, like to have some form of book or published work for my illustrations, maybe this illusive graphic novel or comic that keeps not happening! And my wall works, I’d like some bigger walls to paint, to a wider audience.
- Portfolio: www.dankitchener.co.uk
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DanKitchenerART
- Showreel: http://www.dankitchener.co.uk/showreel_autumn2011.mov
- Shop: http://dankitchener.bigcartel.com/
- Paintings / Canvas work: http://www.saatchionline.com/dankitchener
- Murals and large scale artwork: http://www.epicscaleproductions.co.uk/