Daniel Chen was an angry young man with a self destructive streak and he wanted his art to reflect that. What we end up with is an almost (to a fault) honest, tell-you-how-you-see-it artist with enormous talent. We are lucky to sit down with Daniel and talk about his work, as he opens up about a variety of topics. Read below for the full Q&A…
Looking over your profile, within the first 60 seconds I noticed you had a bunch of identity issues and struggles with how people perceive you and what your loved ones expect out of you. Obviously, you’re here with us now because you’ve bucked the system and kept focused. If creativity requires confidence, how did you overcome your obstacles?
Daniel: I think the hardest part about becoming an artist was having to tell my hard-ass conservative Taiwanese parents. It wasn’t a Sunday stroll through the park. It isn’t really the dream of many asian parents for their first born son to become an artist. I’ve had my struggles with it. After that it was really just about honing my technical skills and finding a voice. I went back to art school, did shows at cafes and bars, and just slowly worked my way from the bottom up. I believe in myself, in my work ethic, in my abilities, and that’s all I really know. I definitely have room to improve and to grow as both a human being and an artist, so I wouldn’t say that I’ve overcome all my obstacles just quite yet.
Do you feel drugs help or hinder an artists creativity?
Daniel: No, I feel like it’s just up to the individual. I know artists who are zonked out all the time, cats who are straight edge, and everything in between. I like to have fun, but I try to keep it on the up and up when I’m working.
You kind of have this Choe vibe about you, where I don’t think formal education would have been for you. But you seemed to enjoy the experience. Could you tell us a bit about your formal years and how it helped mold you into the creative you are now?
Daniel: David Choe is one of my heroes and I definitely take it as a huge compliment to even be mentioned in the same sentence. Going to school definitely took my technicals skills to the next level. I’m still not the best painter by any sense, but I’m glad I went through with it. I’ve met some great painters and friends along the way and it wouldn’t have been possible without school.
But overall I hated being at school, I just don’t really liked being told what to do so I painted whatever I wanted and didn’t get into any school shows and pissed off the directors. I guess I just like going against the grain.
That’s cool. What else did you learn about yourself?
Daniel: I learned that I should never date other artists, especially a painter.
[Laughs] How has Cali treated you as an artist? Does it provide a good environment to participate in galleries and freelance at your leisure?
Daniel: California is my home. San Francisco is a great place to be and to be an artist. I’m constantly surrounded by other creative professionals and it’s easy to collaborate and participate in group shows. I’m definitely am on the look out for galleries in LA and NY. Call me.
What are some of your favorite Asian films?
Daniel: I grew up flying in between the states and Taiwan so I grew up watching watching a lot of Hong Kong Cinema. Young and Dangerous Series, Infernal Affairs were among my favorites. I’m a big fan of early Jackie stuff, but I’d say I’m pretty out of the loop with anything popular nowadays.
Has 2013 been a more fruitful year for you in terms of finances? Obviously it rude to ask, but we want to know if it impacts your decision to be an artist. Are you motivated by how much a piece of art can bring in that you create?
Daniel: If you’re looking to be an artist so that you can be famous and make millions you’re a fucking idiot. I definitely don’t make shit doing this, I cover costs for my studio and my materials, but I do work other jobs to keep this dream afloat. If this was only about money I would have cut my losses and quit this bullshit a long time ago.
The finances have steadily increased throughout the years, but I won’t be buying a Porsche any time soon. It’s always nice to sell a painting for a fat paycheck or a sweaty wad of cash, but at the end of the day I just like being in the studio. More than anything I’m still trying to put in more work, hone my skills, pick up new ones, and keep experimenting.
And how did photography come into the picture?
Daniel: It’s an easy way to trick girls into giving you free modeling sessions.
So how do you balance being a multi-disciplined artist? Do you tend to focus more on one aspect versus the other? Or do you just create in a medium based on what mood you might be in that day?
Daniel: I tend to get a bit obsessive with whatever I’m caught up in. If I’m painting in the studio, usually I won’t be writing or sketching as much. When I’m writing quite a bit, I won’t be painting as much. I tend to jump from project to project dependent on deadlines and what my current obsession happens to be.
What’s ahead for you in 2013/2014?
Daniel: I’m looking to release a short graphic novel, do some pop up shows, travel through South America, get some fucking respect, and lastly find a wife so my mom can stop pestering me about settling down.
Lastly, real, honest, advice for anyone out there?
Daniel: Hold fast to your dreams. If a no-name, talentless, loser like me can do it, you’ve sure as hell have got a shot too.
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