Last week I went to Pangea for dinner. As I walked into the restaurant I noticed some amazing paintings on the wall that I hadn’t seen before. I obviously haven’t been paying attention because the artist Daniel Verner had many shows around town and was even featured in last months Sneak Preview.
As I was looking at the paintings my imagination wandered. Someone who is this talented should be supported by a community… the state…. the country….. They have a real gift and they should be paid to paint.
Back to reality… when I’m a millionaire I’ll sponsor a few artists…. until then I can do an interview!
I called Daniel Verner on the phone, and the next day I was over at his house getting the full tour of his studio.
This is my favorite part about the LocalsGuide model. It’s a great opportunity to meet and speak with some really interesting people.
You should try it. Find someone interesting who you would like to meet and ask them if you can do an interview with them for submission to the LocalsGuide.
I’ve got all the templates you need to do your
interview online at www.LocalsGuide.com.
It’s a blast… I promise you’ll have a great time… and make a new friend.
Anyhow on with the interview.
Daniel, thanks for doing an interview with me today. When I first saw your paintings on the wall I really had to stop and take a closer look. You caught my attention and sparked my curiosity. Can you talk a little bit about the work you are doing and how you the process that goes into creating each piece?
Daniel Verner: First allow me to thank you for this interview and for the wonderful publication you have brought to this community.
The art process begins for me when I meet or see someone who has a quality of both inner and outer beauty and a strong life energy. At this time in my life beauty is the first source or impetus to create a painting. It was not always this way. When I began painting in my late teens I was completely taken with the surrealist mode of dream symbolism. I later did psychedelic style paintings in the sixties. About ten years ago I created a series called the Religious Series that I believe qualifies as Post-Modern. In this series I was making observations about the culture, religious behaviors, and social mores that have been a part of my life. Most importantly, the “Religious Series” series demonstrated how funny we are when we take ourselves too seriously.
The second driver to create a painting is the spirit and complex psychology of the person. I love the distinctiveness of each person. By this I am referring to our unique individual expression and response to this journey of becoming conscious beings. This is the beginning of the process.
The actual sequence of creating a painting begins with asking the selected person if they would like to pose. I then set up a simple setting in my studio for the pictures and meet with the person. I converse with the model, asking them about their passions and history. I listen to her or his life stories. I also ask them to bring something to the photo session that is important to her or him or that represents a connection to his or her life. From this I assemble objects that are visual clues about the individual, recognizing throughout the process that the final selection is about my feeling or insight about the person. I trust intuition more than conscious knowing at this stage. I like the phrase, “Be willing not to know”. I allow the composition of person and things to naturally unfold. I do at least one digital photo shoot and take many pictures, all along, allowing the interaction between me and the model to simply happen without limiting any aspect of my initial impulse. Then I study the images. Usually there is one image that I connected with during the shoot that often becomes the basis of the painting.
Meeting again with the model, we talk about his or her responses to the photos. The response of the model is probably the most informative aspect of this process. It tells me about what is growing here. It becomes a collaboration of expression. I have learned to allow and encourage this open interaction. After determining the final image, the painting becomes a production process of making the drawing, correcting the forms, building the visual composition, priming the board, transferring the image to the board and then the joy of painting the picture. The final image is still open to changes in the painting process. In my art much of the creative event happens before any paint is squished out of the tube.
One of the next things I noticed about your paintings was that many of the models were people that I recognized as being from around town. This was interesting to me because there was a sort of intimacy I felt in actually having this occur for me. Often times you really have no idea who the artist was paintings and here we see our neighbors. Can you comment on this?
Daniel Verner: I really like people and painting portraits of them is a reward in itself. I enjoy people seeing my local art shows and being surprised to see some people they know around town, exclaiming, “There’s Inna !”or “That’s Tiazza,” or “Greg”. There is a story about Velazquez, the Spanish artist, who when in Italy was not known for his work in Spain. To gain recognition he painted a very compelling portrait of his assistant and then went around Rome having his assistant hold the painting while he introduced himself, there by demonstrating his skill. I am not exactly doing that. It is a joy for me when people recognize the person in the painting, but the greatest sense of accomplishment comes when someone expresses that I have caught the spirit of the person who modeled. I also feel an almost animistic relationship with the objects selected for the paintings. For me every element, even in a still life painting without a person, is about the human connection and history of the objects selected.
People tend to be a central theme within each of your paintings.
What catches your attention when you are watching someone. Describe the moment when you go “Yes” that’s it!
Daniel Verner: Someone once recommended to beginning writers that they write about what they know. For me, I paint what is in my world view. I see many people that would be very interesting for a painting, maybe everyone. Everyone I meet has an intriguing story and beauty of some kind. I could paint everyone if there were enough time. So in reality I have to select based not only on who is available and willing, but who also evokes an emotional response in me that inspires. The people that I approach about modeling for a painting have some combination of appearance, bearing, and, most importantly, a vibrant life energy that is both compelling and attractive to me. This is not a gender specific draw. This encompasses not only people who catch my attention, but also the many varied objects that amaze me with their shapes, colors and functions. I gravitate to old and unusual props. The objects are always things that have had some life to them. By that I mean, they have been pre-owned and served a function in someone’s life.
Daniel, You’ve been doing art all of your life. You had shared with me in our interview that growing up poor had given you an opportunity to be creative. Can you say more about this?
Daniel Verner: In the early years of my childhood there were five of us children at home. I slept in a small bedroom with my older three brothers in two sets of bunk beds and my little sister slept in my parents’ bedroom. We learned how to entertain and amuse ourselves without spending money. When I started making art I had few resources. Sometimes I would get canvases from thrift stores, reverse them, prime them with gesso and paint on the other side. Some of my early work still has these paintings started by others on the back side. I also learned to apply the paint in very thin layers as it was expensive and precious.
You also had mentioned that sometimes you paint at 3 am in the morning, or between quick lunch breaks from your job. Do you have a ritual or routine for painting?
Daniel Verner: Good question. My wife, Carolyn, says that I am one of the most focused and driven people she knows. I just really enjoy what I’m doing. I often do what I call “stealing time”, which can mean middle of the night drawing/painting sessions . To have a full time job, play music several times a week, do all the things that modern life requires, have a fulfilling marriage and make large, detailed paintings it takes at least two of me. I do let a lot of the life maintenance things go and no TV, except movies.
You also play many instruments and can often be seen at many of the local restaurants playing. How long has music been a part of your life and where does this inspiration come from?
Daniel Verner: Music is the other passion that has been with me all my life. The music I now play is mostly international folk. I play songs and dances that are very old and in a traditional style. I perform on the Spanish Guitar, Russian Balalaika, Greek Bouzouki, Turkish Oud, and several other stringed instruments. I now perform two nights a week at Pasta Piatti and often perform with the Sunday morning group at the Key of C coffee house in Ashland. Performing music is a more instant gratification for me than painting. The people are there and the sharing is in the moment of doing it. I love perfoming live and especially for small children, who just can’t sit still as they have not yet been convinced to sit still and be quite. They are a real joy.
Do you paint in your sleep?
Daniel Verner: Interesting question, I actually do my best work while sleeping. It goes very fast and is always extremely successful. Then the alarm goes off, the masterpiece vanishes and it’s back to work.
Currently you have a show at Pangea in Ashland. Another thing I was drawn to was the frames that you used to display you work. Can you tell me more about these frames?
Daniel Verner: I generally find my frames at yard sales or thrift stores. I have an inventory of them in my studio. When I begin a painting I already have the frame for it. As the painting progresses I often put the canvas or board into the frame, so the two merge together and complement each other. The frame is a part of the finished work from the beginning.
Can you talk about humanity in reference to your current series of paintings titled The Call?
Daniel Verner: The Call series is about people and the objects we create and utilize. It started with a 1920’s telephone. I picked it up because of its shape and design. While holding this solid object with weight, mass, and function, I began thinking of all the life that had gone through it in its time of service. I thought of the people who received birth and death notices; the couples who fell in love talking for hours; the important life messages, emergency calls, all the human life over time. This understanding of the connection between people and objects has expanded to many other objects, mostly older items; things that were made to last.
Earlier I referred to my 2001 series “The Religious Series” as Post-Modern. For me it was basically about art referencing art, which is typical of much contemporary art. Images are appropriated, changed, or transformed from pre-existing work, all adding to the ever growing art conversation. This was a fun way to share thoughts on our culture and behaviors. “The Religious Series” was art speaking to the viewer. What has changed for me in the current “The Call” series is that the art listens, asks questions and, my hope is, creates a conversation with the viewer. I enjoy a wide range of creative painting styles. My personal style of painting would be called representational narrative, defined as an artistic image or likeness that has a story. It is my hope that the viewers of my art work create their own stories while enjoying the painting that is offered.
Any last comments or messages to the community?
Daniel Verner: Maybe just to encourage all of us to breath deeper, give more love, understanding, and compassion to one another, the same requirements for any relationship to be successful.