An interview with Dan Baldwin

We sat down with contemporary artist Dan Baldwin to discuss how his passion for art started, how important colour and narrative are in his work, and the artists that have influenced his own career.
Dan Baldwin's 'Love and Light' 2019, in Lilac and Blush Pink

Dan Baldwin, 'Love and Light 2019


AR: Where do you take your inspiration from? What or who are your biggest influences?

Dan: The continuous progression forwards. I'm a big believer in the law of attraction, the magic of energy. I try to not look at the clock, not watch any news, or radio, and just focus on positive mindset and painting and new sculptures and large pots - that leads to new things. You never know what the day may bring, but as an artist you have to create it. By making it, something will come…that is my inspiration.

AR: Is there any particular artwork or artist that has changed the way you view creative expression, or was developmental to your artistic journey? 

Dan: So many artists. The first artist I found was Joseph Cornell, who made 3D cabinets and intricate glass fronted boxes. He collected elements from the streets of NYC and arranged them. Then Peter Blake, who also worked in 3D mixed media. I had no money for canvas, I just began making 3D assembled works like they did, and collage from old magazines like the National Geographic. 

I’ve learnt about Hockney, Warhol, Rauschenberg,Tom Wessleman, Roy Lichtenstein and Damien Hirst - many artists. I went out and made hundreds of photo-collages like Hockney did so I’m very much a sponge for what I like at that time, and my art reflected  their influence to an extent. Like Basquiat, I had been making works on paper. Ten a day, in oil stick, very primitive and with text. I'd never seen his art before, but when I saw his work I was messed up, as I worked in a similar way to him without knowing it, so that pushed me to move away from this type of art. 

My work has been through many chapters to this point but it’s all a continuous flow forwards. The big Pop Art show at the Tate in the 1990’s was massively influential for me. A particular Rauschenberg painting with silkscreen made me want to silkscreen on canvas, but when I got into Bacon I painted on raw linen. It's easy to be influenced by other art. Lichtenstein's sculptures have, in part, influenced my new sculptures, but they are still very ‘me’.


Dan Baldwin's 'Vapour'
Dan Baldwin, 'Vapour'

AR: Your career has spanned decades, how has your style developed over the years?

Dan: I was 17 when I started at art college and I am 49 now. I worked in 3D mixed media for years with real elements and collage, and then on canvas that had mixed media applied to it. I used meaningful things like crucifixes, bullets, dollar bills: the ‘real’ with the painted. Elements from war, or religion, or currency from Iraq or Mexico, or vintage childish things. One piece always leads to another. My art is forever progressing forwards. As I develop, it does too; it is an expression of me, an extension of my mind or how I see it at that moment. The last time I had lunch with Sir Peter Blake he said to me “simple simple simple” and these words stay with me still. I’m trying to let my art breathe and be more simplified now. It has  matured as I have.

AR: When did you realise you wanted to become an artist? 

Dan: I was a creative child. Drumming was my first obsession at 11 or 12, then skateboarding from 12 to 16 and then my vintage VW Beetle, which I restored myself. I had no idea what my future was going to be. My old art teacher Mr Everett was the only person who spoke to me about future options. He suggested art college which was probably totally obvious, but hit me like a lightning bolt. I had a few months to create some work and then he made a call to get me an interview, and I got in.


Dan Baldwin, 'This is the Big City Baby'

AR: What is the driving force behind your art?

Dan: I think it's been my perfect outlet. I was in a band and I love drumming as a coping mechanism, channeling all my energy into something productive rather than destructive. It is the unknown that's exciting to me - and I want that to continue. So, it’s a process of thinking, making, letting it out into the world and then the cycle begins again. I invest it all back into the art, and have never had any financial help; I’ve funded everything myself for 31 years.

AR: The pandemic-induced lockdowns disrupted the routine of many artists. How did your routine alter, and what does a typical day look like for you now?

Dan: I built a studio that joins onto my home as I'm always working. I don't like mainstream media and I try to not let it affect me - I don't like to live in fear. I try to find daily happiness through meditation and a positive mindset. I discovered great walks up the South Downs, as we live on the edge of the South Downs National Park.

Typically I drive my son to school at 8am through the woodland where we see deer every day. I return to do a breath-work meditation then have a cold shower. I then go to the studio to paint until late. I may spend a few hours on the computer or pottering about  looking at the works in progress. I stay up working until 1 or 2am, as my studio is part of my home and I can’t really switch off from it.

AR: Can you tell us more about your creative process?

Dan: I make studies on paper first, playing with colour and compositions, movement and feeling, relying on pure instinct. I draw too, but mainly straight onto paper. Nothing is very planned and my work grows as I make it. If I try something, and it doesn't feel right I’ll paint it out and rework it until I love it, so often there's many layers unseen on my canvas. I see myself as a DJ surrounded by hundreds of records. I’m surrounded by imagery, and I’m always adding photographic elements. I take my own photographs and use and manipulate as much imagery as I can find. A tree silhouette, a branch, the texture of a pond - I've always taken photos.


Dan Baldwin's 'The Marriage'

Dan Baldwin, 'The Marriage'

AR: Do your works carry their own narrative? How important is meaning and storytelling to you as an artist?

Dan: There's always a narrative in the work, and often a balance of contradictions. It’s about how the artwork makes you feel and how the elements work together. This harmony is the main aspect as well as the flow. I think it's more based on feeling and emotion and energy. It’s the cycle of life. Death, decay, rebirth, the power of nature and man's influence on it, new ways of seeing, new ways of making pictures. I want my work to be beautiful as well as grab your attention.

AR: You use such rich layers of colour in your work, is colour an integral part of your process?

Dan: Massively. I always knew I was good with colour. In my six years at art school we learned all about colour and the colour wheel. My works can start off totally abstract, before adding the figurative elements. I love how colour works with other colour. Colour is the driving force of harmony and balance, and it’s all connected to nature.

AR: How do you see your art developing in the future? -

Dan: What is inspiring to me is how my works on paper look next to my work on canvas, along with the big pots and sculptures i've been making. When you see them together, it's very inspirational for me. I love the idea of making larger sculptures as the pots I’m making at the moment are custom made at 95 cm tall. I work on 4 things at once - I definitely need a larger studio so that's something I'm working on. Perhaps relocating to the west and starting a new chapter. Hopefully I’ll be in more international shows in places like Miami, Paris and NYC.

Dan Baldwin's 'Capture'

Dan Baldwin, 'Capture'

AR: If you could give one tip to new art collectors, what would it be?

Dan: Go for it, buy it. Money comes, money goes, but that print or art work will be yours forever. Like a classic car or a drum kit or a certain skateboard, these are limited editions and only so many exist. I have many prints. I almost bought a Robert Crumb drawing and a Grayson Perry pot, but walked away. I’m glad I own a Keith Haring print, and a chair by Martin Baas and work by the Chapman brothers and Obey. I traded my own art to get these and that is a great feeling. Art enriches our life.

AR: What’s next for you?

Dan: I was commissioned to make a pot to commemorate the bicentennial of the poet Keats. This is going on display at Keats House in London and then on to America where it will tour prestigious venues. I worked with the Poet Laureate Simon Armitage on this, and the poet Scarlett Sabet, so my inspiration was their two poems. It is to be featured on the next cover of the Arion Journal that is published by Boston Uni. I made a set of works which is headed over to a gallery in Paris, and I have not shown in that city since 2004. There's a new book in production, new prints being made soon, and I'm making a piece for the Rock musician Pete Townsend from The Who for ’The Age Of Anxiety’ project. This is a book he wrote, and 12 artists are each illustrating one piece for a section of text, which also goes with a piece of music. There also may be an NFT coming…

If you're intrigued by Dan and his work, make sure to take a look at his variety of artworks on his artist collection page, found here.