Interviewed in April of 2013
Hometown: South Berwick, ME
Current town: Somerville, MA
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1.) It’s safe to say Dan, your one of our personal favorites to be featured here. You’re known for prolifically performing throughout the seacoast regions north of Boston both as a musician and an exhibiting illustrator. Tell us a little about where you’re from or where you grew up… and how that influences the type of art you’ve found yourself making?
I grew up on a farm in South Berwick, Maine in a rural section of town surrounded by trees and rivers. I moved down to Somerville, MA in 1995 and have been back and forth ever since. My earlier work was less detailed and a little barren and it's funny to think with living in the city now it's more packed with action!
2.) Are there any specific locations here in New England that have had a profound meaning to you and your art? ie; Your schooling? A place of major inspiration or childhood memory?
Inspiration started early on when I was at the farm, you could lay in the field look at the sky and dream... you gotta look out for cow patties though. My parents sold the farm many years ago... I always think fondly about it.
3.) Dan you were born in Maine but you received your formal training as an artist down at the Maryland Institute College of Art. You’ve clearly come home and set some firm roots back here in New England. What is it about this area that continues to inspire your music and hundreds upon hundreds of gig posters?
Living here I get inspiration a-plenty. Just taking the redline train across the Charles River bridge is enough to provide years of inspiration. I visit antique shops constantly and seeing all the time someone put into their craft lights a spark in me. I also love overhearing peoples conversations at a cafe which sometimes gets directly to ink and paper... watch out!
4.) Workplace or studio; a disaster or super organized?
My workplace is a corner of my bedroom and a portion of the basement (though sometimes I take it over completely). It looks a little disastrous but I especially like the cluttered walls from all my friends art hanging... hey a Michael Crockett number is right in front of me!
5.) What medium is your sweet spot? Even down to the brand name, color, materials, found or purchased?
If you absolutely must know I am crazy, problematically, indubitably fond of scratchboard! Ink too! Instead of using felt tip pens I go for india ink and a quill pen. The black is more rich and permanent. There is nothing worse than erasing your pencil marks and it takes away the ink... except drinking your ink instead of your coffee.
6.) Music while working? - Anything your listening to now that is pushing you or inspiring you. Give us the goods.
This question is crazy! I go for all genres while making art. It helps having a record player and taking a trip to the thrift store. On a daily basis I listen to old country, psychedelic, punk, calls of the loon, gritty folk, jazz, cha-cha, sha-na-na ( actually that was a typo)... you get the point.
7.) As a musician and an illustrator you have a unique balance of always letting one craft complement the other. It seems its almost every night your playing out with your very own, hand drawn, original show poster…Your clearly the hardest working man in show business these days. Do you ever separate the two? Your music and illustrations? Or is just the life of an artist?
For years I was doing both side by side, during the day I would make art at night playing music. I finally had to choose between the two because I never felt I could get far enough ahead with one or the other. This round it's music as my focus. I am still making art just less of it. Though I do get a lot of art made if you count the show posters... which I do!
7.) What’s been the most challenging part of building and sustaining your career as an artist? ie; family, $$$, time, inspiration, networking, etc….
The challenge for me is trying to spend time away from art/music projects and doing other things. I get so consumed at times and weeks go by, days roll into one another. It's wonderful to take break and catch up with friends and family. Taking walks is wonderful too but that always leads to inspiration (the danger zone) Ha! As far as $$$ is concerned... it seems to take alot of breaks from seeing me.
8.) You can have one of your pieces displayed in/at anywhere of your choice….where does it go?
The Fogg Museum in Cambridge, MA (Harvard Square). I used to go there on a weekly basis for inspiration. The cost to get in was within an artists budget. A wonderful and diverse collection. Magical surroundings.
9.) Who was the most important person in your life guiding your direction as an artist & musician?
Artwise Hal Kenyon who was my teacher when I was 8 years old filled my little brain with dreamy ideas of an artful life. My father Dave Blakeslee nurtured and inspired me heavily. He is a jazz musician was always practicing at home with his band and coming home at 2 am from gigs. I don't remember if there was a day at that farmhouse without music.
10.) Looking at all your posters and even commercial illustrations your love of creative fonts and typography always shines through. Every piece seems to have almost an entire paragraph that is actually hand-drawn.
I like to intertwine the type with the art. I have always been hooked on typography. I remember my first show in NYC at C.B.G.B's the club booker said she couldn't read my name on the poster. I was just having fun with the type and got carried away (I can barely read it!)
11.) You’ve worked with a lot of different artists over the years, anyone out there still at the top of your list you’d like to collaborate with? A dream client or musical collaboration? Anyone, Anywhere. Go.
Michael Hurley!!!! Michael Hurley!!! He is an artist and musician who I have been a fan of for countless years. His album "Blueberry Wine" was my first introduction to him and I was charmed by the first note!
12.) What’s next for you? Any future project or client?
I have always wanted to come out with a book of rock posters. I have made over 600 through the years. Someone approached me about it so I hope it comes to fruition!
13.) Most underrated artist out there right now ready to take over the world.
William Schaff, though not underrated, more eyes need to see what legendary work he is making. I went to art school with him, I was his resident assistant. He brought an actual graveyard into his new apartment at the art school dorm. He is a charming character without question! **