Dan Kitchener AKA ‘DANK’ is a Street Artist and Illustrator from living in Essex, UK. His work has a gritty urban theme, taken the surroundings and environment he experiences daily. He looks for beauty in the most mundane of scenes and particularly loves the relationship with light, shadow and composition. He has worked with some major stars, Paul McCartney, Lenny Kravitz, Kylie and The Prodigy to name a few, and has exhibited his work and painted numerous murals world-wide. With a widely diverse and unique approach to his art, DANK has an ever growing fan base and continues to impress with epic scale walls, canvas shows and live painting events.
I was able to get in touch with DANK and send him a few questions, and below is how it went down.
Hey Dan how is it going? For people that don’t know you or your work, could you give them a little bit of background?
Well I have been doing art my whole life, it’s all I have ever done since very very early age. I started drawing and this love and passion for drawing has continued to this day. All my work, no matter what medium, or what the final result, starts with me drawing in my sketchbook, it’s vital to what I do as an artist. I went rough traditional art education. At University I did conceptual, fine art illustration, I felt it didn’t really click with what I wanted to do, so we created several underground comics, which we sold in pubs, and regularly used to do crazy stuff on walls and installations, around the area, like making a a full size Santa, filling it with guts/blood/offal we got from a butcher and then throwing it form the uni roof…. after University I got a job working in TV post production, making animations, motion graphics for TV commercials, music videos and film intros’, I was self taught on all software as Macs and this type of working, and the internet, were in their infancy, it was a great time, with some much rapid moving advances in technology and really exciting for me to see Macs and what they could do for my art!. Working in this commercial area allowed me to really explore themes such as lighting, composition, dynamic angles, theatrical impact and modelling. From this work I then went freelance, after working in Soho in London for some 10 years, and then became a full time artist within the last 5 years. Art was always something I did in my own time, at lunch times or after work I’d stalk the London streets adding small pieces to walls, with paint markers or the occasional can I’d carry to work. I love commuting in, with all the masses of people, knowing that i’d be planning a street piece or location spotting… I’d also draw on the train journey in and out of London and basically never stopped drawing, learning and creating…it was a huge release of creative pressure when I went full time as an artist….I was feeling deeply restricted by commercial working in TV, and needed to expire my own art, all the education and then 10 years of work did give me a huge knowledge base for techniques and ideas, and this allowed me to confidently try new mediums and master them, constantly adding to my divers armory of techniques, subjects and mediums…
Being an artist is not always easy, where there is little support, if any, from family and friends. How was it for you starting up?
It’s not easy, its not easy now, never has been and beer will. It’s a constant fight, and contact struggle to produce new work, keep creative, don’t stagnate or become repetitive or derivative. I feel I need to push my work every mural or painting I do, it’s vital for me to keep the spark alive, and to push myself all the time. I am very hard on myself and my work and feel like I need to push myself 100% all the time. I also need to keep constantly fit in order to paint quickly, which I am kind of known for, speed painting huge walls! So I run 6-8 miles everyday before painting, and it energizes me, gets my head clear and allows me to attack a wall! I haven’t relied on anyone apart from myself with my work, I prefer to control it myself, and control my output and sales, it does mean I work 7 day a week, up at 5am. I know other shave gallery reps, or managers, this has never appealed…
How much does your art affect or influence your everyday life and are there any role models or artists who inspired you?
Art is ALL I do, 24/7….it’s kind of insanely focused of me, literally training my body to be fit and paint walls, spending all my time painting, drawing or working out what to paint..it’s relentless, but I love it. I am so passionate about what I do, I wouldn’t have it any other way….I believe if you have the ability, you have to use it and not sit back and be lazy, or complacent, or arrogant, keeping focused and grounded is important..I am always looking for new ideas, and get them in everyday life, travelling is a passion and I am lucky to have traveled very widely, South America, Central America, Costa Rica, and North America, Canada, the all over Europe, Africa and Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia and Japan, all these places fire my passion and energy and all add to the melting pot of creativity…art is literally my whole life…
Do you like music? Is it an integral part of your creative process or just background noise?
It’s vital. When I paint, I like to listen to fast paced techno / trance, film soundtracks are also good to listen to, allowing my mind to almost daydream and immerse myself in the universe I am creating. My work is very filmic and theatrically composed and lit, and I think this type of music fits with my work….. I do like the fast energy of painting, the physical and mental challenge, I literally dance to this and almost have a workout at the wall. I kind of zone out to this kind of music and use the energy to translate into gestural stokers and fluid sweeps of the and, to create energetic work, it allows me to paint huge walls quickly….i love listening to music as I can escape into my world, and the music come out into the art….I love it! I have recently begun picking out songs from techno mixes and then using them repeated over and over, makes that song into the wall, so when I hear that song I remember painting in Berlin, or Ayia Napa or Stockholm, or Hong Kong….etc
Do you think that street art is somehow dominated by men, while some claim the physical danger of workings outdoors makes women reluctant to participate?
I don’t think so, some amazing female street artists and artists! perhaps graffiti was male dominated, but street art has allowed many more to try out painting large on walls, using brush and roller, and I think perhaps this aspect has allowed more females to get into it, it’s all great!
Street Art in some countries is still considered vandalism, how is it for you to go out and paint in the street? Did you ever have any problems with the law?
Yes of course, even no…even spending 2-3 days painting legal large spots, I get stopped, I understand they need to check me out to make sure I am not being naughty! It’s cool though, mainly the pock are really good and don’t hassle at all, I think they are so used to seeing it nowadays…
In your opinion, what is the difference between graffiti and street art?
Graffiti is letters and characters and 100% spray paint, street art is more art based and not aerosol based, so it’s more like painting and illustration on walls. I love to use spray paint for my street art as I feel it’s the logical tool for larger areas and allows such amazing gestural and fluid marks that no other medium allows, I don’t really feel brush it suited to large walls, it’s more of a acne’s medium….graffiti uses spray paint for this reason, quick large areas covered and lovely blends and effects, so use that tool and translate it to street art / art / illustration, for me I keep the brush work to canvas….I love spray paint so much, it opened up a whole whole new world to me…
What are your thoughts on the way the internet is influencing the artworld?
it’s great in a way that people can share their art and get huge exposure…something that was impossible before, or berry hard..but it does make images disposable and like fast food…4 days painting a huge mural in Canada, physically and mentally exhausting, with other people helping with equipment and at financial cost, is just one image on Facebook, and swiped away to the next…so it feels difficult sometimes to rise above, and be seen….
Do you travel to do street art or do you do street art when you travel?
What are your thoughts about what’s going on in the world: Brexit, The Middle East, Ukraine, The refugee crisis, The USA elections…
Have you painted in the USA? If so, how was your experience like?
No yet, hoping to very soon!
(This question was asked before he came to paint in Pittsburgh, PA)
What do you do when you are not creating art? What are your hobbies?
I run, I do marathons, 16 so far since last January, I am a bit mad like that, I also swim and gym, basically train myself to be fit to paint quickly and large walls! Don’t have much other time, apart form drawing and studio work!
What is next for you? What collaborations, shows or projects do you have planned?
I have 4 foresight commissions coming up, so busy until late September,then hopefully some new projects will arouse and I can go in different directions, I love that aspect of street art, you never know what will happen, sits very dynamic and organic…I love it.
Any words of advice for aspiring new artists?
Think big, be confident, and don’t be afraid to try new things. Don’t feel restricted at all, try all techniques and try and master them, make them work for you, even if they aren’t an area you move into again, it’s stored in your creative armory and will all help to form you as an artist. Don’t underestimate the value of traditional skills, like drawing, life drawing and painting, it’s all valuable observational skills that really all artists should have! Draw everyday, create everyday, be passionate about art, and love what you do! Accept criticism and use it to improve your art and yourself and always move forward….
That is all for now, thank you DANK for your time!