Posted // 2014-01-23 -
Over the course of 2013, street art and graffiti really picked up in the streets of SLC, especially with local businesses looking for something besides a shade of yellow for their building's sidewalls. Almost cropping up overnight during the summer, artists and crews started hitting every back alley and “cool” business in town, decorating inside and out with unique displays that would get even the most jaded art fan to take a second look, and breathed some new color into areas that were drab this time last year.
One of the more interesting names that rose to prominence was Daniel Overstreet, who was already established in the art community for his massive murals and colorful designs, earned massive attention with his works appearing on Broadway as well as in The Shred Shed during their first year running. Today we chat with Overstreet about his artwork and career so far, thoughts on the recent boom of street art and the art scene in general, and a few other topics. (All pictures courtesy of Overstreet.
Gavin: Hey Daniel, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Daniel: Well, primarily I’m made up of oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen, but I’d like to think that there’s a little bit of art in there too. I'm a man of many hats. I'm a father, a brother, a packaging designer, downtown inhabitant, an artist, yogi, city biker, skateboarder, general life enthusiast and a busy body. I’m always on the move and I go stir crazy too often.
Gavin: What got you interested in art and what were some early influences on you?
Daniel: An early cognition of mine was the lack of art in our house growing up. When I was brought to my first gallery as a child, for some distant relative’s affair, I remember that I couldn't understand why every place wouldn't want to operate like this. Art on all the walls, installments in every room, locked cases with decorative trinkets inside and lively people all around. I guess my eyes were opened. Since childhood, I've always had a penchant for art and design; from architecture to symmetry in nature, to punk rock album covers. In nearly every year of grade school, the other kids would ask me for help with their art assignments, and I guess I liked that bit of attention, you could say.
Gavin: Did you seek out any education in art or are you mainly self-taught?
Daniel: In school my primary focuses were in design, multimedia, and commercial arts. I'm inspired by nearly everything around me, though. You can learn so much from your peers, school is great in that aspect, but you've got to carry it over and apply it into your daily life. We’re all constantly learning and taking a grain of salt from our experiences. If you’re lucky, you learn to apply that to your innate talents.
Gavin: What got you interested in murals and street art and what was it like learning how to create them?
Daniel: I've had a lot of fun making smaller pieces for my friends over the years, but there's always been that drive, not only to refine my process but to push my own limits. I felt that I was becoming stagnant with my daily art routines, so I started researching art books in the library, and reading a lot of design blogs and magazines online. Since I had already been doing some small street art projects around the city by this point, I decided to take the leap one day. It has definitely been a trial and error process, but therein lays half the fun.
Gavin: Early on, where would you go create pieces around the city and what did you like creating?
Daniel: All sorts of stuff, you name it. A specific project that comes to mind was with a girlfriend of mine at the time, Kristen; we created our own homemade versions of tarot cards, used epoxy to seal them to tiles, and then went out to cement them like plaques around the city. They’re all gone by this point, but some of the cement still remains on the walls. I’m waiting for the day to stumble upon one on a bookshelf at a get-together or being used to hold a hot pot in a kitchen by a stranger at a dinner party; unlikely, but how great would that be?
Gavin: What was it like for you breaking out into the local art scene and getting your work noticed?
Daniel: I suppose I never really sought out to be recognized. I didn't sign my name or write a moniker on my pieces for the longest while. I just enjoyed the process and excitement of doing it; art for the sake of art, you know? I do appreciate the recognition, though. It’s gotten me a few beers of the years.
Gavin: What's the process like for you in creating a new piece, from concept to final design?
Daniel: It usually starts with a pot of coffee, a lull in my current book and a few aimless laps around the house to get me started. It really varies. A lot of my projects comprise moments in life for me. I‘ll be reminded of a poignant memory or a milestones and have the urge to document it in some way. I usually start with a rough sketch, play around with some symmetry and composition, color schemes and unnecessary limbs or mustaches which hardly ever make it to fruition in the final cut. Most of my stencils are done on thick mat or corrugated paper; mainly because I need that rigidity when I’m 15 ft. up on a ladder. It sometimes makes for an arduous night with a Xacto knife, but it’s worth it in the end.
Gavin: Considering the way you work, do you play around with your designs often or do you stick to what you created from the start?
Daniel: Oh, there's always room for interpretation. As I mentioned, I love to play around with symmetry and mirror imaging. I think there is a dichotomy to each of us; two parts to make us whole. The portion that we project with volubility to the outside world and then the part we reserve for our private selves. Generally when it comes time to paint, the only thing I’ll vary with is final color and background pattering. So much goes into the actual task of prep work ahead of time, that by the time I’m painting, I’m excited for the end result.
Gavin: Your works vary in logistics, some are very simple and done quickly, others are massive scale and require a bit of work going in. How do you decide how complex you want each piece to be?
Daniel: It really depends on the subject matter. On any given night, I’m working on a few projects simultaneously. This helps keep things fresh and in perspective for me. For example: if I've been hammering away at a single-layer on a complex piece, rounding the sixth hour, it almost becomes hypnotic; my brain starts to mush and I lose focus. There's a fine line between cathartic and catatonic. That’s usually when I’ll move to an easier, not as concentrative project.
Gavin: You've had your art all over the city, very prominent at the Shred Shed, displays at the Utah Arts Fest, a lot of street murals. How is it for you seeing your work gain so much exposure?
Daniel: It's very humbling. I don't like to revel too much and I love anonymous compliments. There is a Seinfeld episode where Jerry talks about getting bathroom reviews after his stand-up routines. He waits in the stall to listen with high hopes to unaltered audience commentary as they wash their hands. Since I live downtown, I'm close to my art often. Sometimes I'll cruise by to visit and I'll hear that same honest chatter. Usually positive, but everyone's a critic. Jesse from the Shred Shed is a great friend of mine. He asked a number of us to paint his venue before the grand opening. That was a really fun project. I have a lot of appreciation for the hurdles that my friends go through to be able to accomplish their dreams, and If I can throw a little bit of paint on the wall to help, I‘m all about it.
Gavin: I know sometimes you work with your brother David on projects. How is it collaborating with him on pieces and what does each of you bring to the table when you do a piece?
Daniel: I love doing artwork with my twin brother. We work with great cadence. Lately, it's few and far between because we've both been caught up in our own ventures, but when we do paint together, it's seamless. I'm sure we look like a choreographed Rockettes dance routine; handing paint to each other without needing to ask, hoisting a ladder, taping down corners, using razorblades uncomfortably close to each other’s hands. It’s almost like we both get into the moment and communicate without using words. On second thought, maybe a circus sideshow would be a more appropriate analogy.
Gavin: What are some of the projects you've been working on lately and what do you hope to showcase during 2014?
Daniel: I don't always like to give away what I'm working on in the early steps because it can make the finished product seem lackluster, but that's not the case for everything. With that being said, let's do the exact opposite. I'm working on a 4ft personal project, a snail, for my home. I’ve always admired logarithmic spirals, and I like the idea of making where ever it is you are a home. Aside from that, I'm also in the works of putting together a Buddha mural with a flower of life and some Sanskrit that I‘d like to paint this coming spring. Ideally, I'd like to paint this on something like a yoga studio downtown or in Sugarhouse for class or workshop trade work. Looking forward even more, generally speaking, I want to do collaboration pieces and small, subtle installment projects that take people out of their daily grind.
Gavin: Going local, what's your take on the Utah art scene?
Daniel: Utah has a fantastic local art scene. I'd argue that one could find an art related outing any night of the week, if they put them self to task. There are many influences from all walks in our artist community and they’re largely very willing to work together to support one another.
Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?
Daniel: I'd like to see more local business being open to the notion of letting their buildings be painted; inside or out. Designate a small portion of your wall to rotate artists’ works, and get on board with the gallery stroll art walks. It really benefits everyone, and aids the community that we all live in to flourish.
Gavin: What do you think about the work coming out of local festivals like UAF, Craft Lake City, Urban Arts Fest and more?
Daniel: I think they all do great work and their heads are in the right place. It’s gatherings like these that bring the public out of the woodwork for networking. You can always find a few hidden gems there. Salt lake seems to have a great festival culture. That’s one of the things I love about living here.
Gavin: What's your take on local galleries and how they're helping promote the art scene?
Daniel: My favorite part about our galleries is that they showcase group art shows. Everyone promotes and supports each other. If you bring ten of your friends, and I bring ten of mine, then all twenty might see something new. When it comes down to it, though, there is an underlying ecosystem to the whole ceremony. The galleries need fresh blood to not go stale and the artists need money for supplies -- and, the carousal keeps spinning.
Gavin: How is it for you to see graffiti and street art finding a home in local galleries more frequent over the past few years?
Daniel: I think It helps to dissolve the negative connotation that graffiti tends to have around it. I wouldn’t necessarily classify myself as a graffiti artist, but I oft get lumped into the same group. I like the rawness and spontaneity of street art. By moving it into a gallery it makes it visually available to crowds to whom it would have otherwise gone unnoticed.
Gavin: Who are some people you believe people should be checking out right now?
Daniel: If we’re talking local, you can always count on great stuff from: Sril, Josh Tai Taeoalii, Phillip Lambert, Jon Lang, Jared Knight, Ben Wiemeyer, The Oyster Pirates and my brother David Overstreet, to name a few. On a more broad-spectrum, some people I’m Intrigued with now, off the top of my head are: El Mac, Alex Pardee, Audrey Kawasaki, Christian Guemy, Lango Oliveira, Nychos, Smug One, and Logan Hicks.
Gavin: What can we expect from you over the rest of the year?
Daniel: This year I'd like to change focus over to charcoals. Rediscover a few things there to polish my process and maybe incorporate that back to mural projects. I'm looking into a few out of state painting prospects too. Possibly even visit some friends that have relocated and paint in their new cities.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
An exciting annual show is coming up this spring. It’s called Submerged In Art. There is so much talent in one building and a huge portion of all proceeds go to charity. I look forward to that every year. I don't claim to have much of an established internet presence but I do like to post progress shots and photos to my Instagram
. I started using my online handle on some of my newer works around town. A few people have caught on but this is the perfect platform to tell the rest. You can follow me there if you’d like.
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