Pierre: Hey Dan!
Dan Grzeca: Hey Bro. Hows it going?
Not too bad, you?
Good. Just put Ella(Dan's daughter) to bed, the stew is on simmer, and I'm goofing off before I get to work in my studio.
Is your studio in your house? Whats the set-up like
My studio is in the basement of our 2 flat in Chicago. Its pretty nice. 7 ft ceilings, pretty spacious. There's a studio for my wife Kristen, who paints, then there is a large studio space that I use for printing and fine art. At this point, all my screen-printing is done on a hand press, pretty DIY. I'm looking into getting an auto-press in the near future, although that is going to probably dovetail into moving the studio, as a Cameo is too damn big to get into my basement space.
You'll be saving your wrists and back a lot of stress and pain if you get the auto. What materials do you use when drawing a poster up? Whats the process you go through?
Yeah, that's for sure. I've been fortunate so far. Ibuprofen, stretching, and wearing braces to prevent injury is helping. I wish Bourbon helped! As far as my process for working on a poster or a print, its heavily drawing based. 99% of the time I am drawing out the key-line with ink and scratch-board or pencil,ink and paper- with the augmentation of my good friend the litho crayon. Each layer is then hand drawn on Vellum or inked on acetate. If it's Vellum, then I am making film of that layer on the OCE machine at Kinkos. I strive to get as much visceral junk as I can on the layers to get it to have as much relation to a drawing or litho as possible. As far as palette, I only determine that after I have finished the drawing, generally.
It comes off pretty unique, The colors and things blend together so well, did this process evolve over a long period of time? A lot of experimentation?
I'd say it all came together and gelled over the last 5 years. I've been painting and drawing continually throughout, so the effect of each medium has definitely rubbed off on each other. When I first started making posters it was from the perspective of "designing" it and having Steve Walters and later Jay Ryan printing them. When I started printing them myself, I really understood the possibilities of how wide-ranging the medium is.
At the moment I'm working on a new body of work titled "the new world" which is a library of images that can work for me as screen-prints or mixed media drawings. 2I tried out a few of these as images on posters, such as the Low poster from April(the coyote). It seems easier for me to switch back and forth between mediums, essentially.Where does your imagery come from? Just from doodling or are they forgotten gods?
Man, I have a huge interest in mythology, for sure. I'm not quite sure exactly where some of the images come from , beyond being some kind of fun I'm having with automatic drawing , which in turn brings out themes that I'm probably thinking about quite a bit (nature replaced by constructs, artificial replacing authentic). I like the "forgotten gods " term. I might have to steal that.I think it would be fair to list the things that excite me and in all fairness influence my work whether I like it or not:
You're more than welcome to it. Yes a list!
American Indian mythology, Runic imagery, All that insane heraldry (although its easy to ripoff- I see that A LOT lately, especially in posters) from the middle ages, architectural and symbol dictionaries are a wealth of inspiration..... I think the example of trying to be true to having some sort of idiosyncratic or original vision means not just "sticking " to some sort of notion of originality, but really searching and being curious about any number of things that make up what YOU are as an artist and person. Some of my favorite artists are ( in no order and from many different fields) Philip Guston, James Quiqley, Pablo Picasso (his prints are fucking amazing. We have a book of them that speaks to my 2 year old very well. Its amazing to see), Seripop, Max Ernst, Mat Daly, Jeff Soto, Jacob Lawrence , Francis Bacon, Robert Motherwell, Diane Arbus, Lee Bontecou, John Porcellino, Chris Ware, Paul Nitsche, Michael DeForge, Tyler Stout, George Grosz, Max Beckmann, Kurt Schwitters, too freaking many.
Well being in Chicago must be very favorable to your ears then?
Absolutely. My first posters were for Ken Vandermark and the jazz series at the Empty Bottle that he and John Corbett curated. Becoming friends with them and the many other musicians here was a huge thing in my life and helped inform my questions as an artist.
It seems like theres something in the water that has so many great artists coming out of there. Be it visual or music or literary.
Yes, Chicago is really great right now; its always changing, and it keeps on getting more and more interesting. On the visual front I'm really happy with the crew of people involved in screen-printing and poster-making. Its a "scene" or camaraderie that is genuine and inspirational. Mat Daly, Nick Butcher and Nadine Nakanishi, Jay Ryan, Steve Walters, Billy and Jason Delicious, so many good people and great artists. Its been fun to watch everyone grow and to see the various studios take form.
Yeah, it seems like its really community based there. Theres a few little gangs (Bird Machine) but everyone is really good friends with everyone else. OR that's how it seems from someone who has never been to the city.
It really is like that. We have all grown out of printing at Jay's or Steve's shop , for the most part. The Chicago Reader had a nice article this summer on the scene and that was the overall vibe- there is no backbiting here, people care about each other, with no bullshit. I think it is somewhat unique, although it shouldn't be! Friends in other cities tell me some silly stories in that regard. I think if you are already part of a minority (art vs. say , uh, accounting) its smart to be in good stead with likeminded people.
Totally, shared resources totally makes it easier for everyone involved and having a place to go get started makes it so much more inviting and easier for people to get into it.
Totally true. Plus, there's someone to drink with!
Hahah. Absolutely! What were you doing before you got into making posters?
I was making paintings. I was showing some art at what used to be a huge and cool festival in Wicker Park called Around the Coyote - all the artists showed in these cool old warehouses (that are of course now condos and dental offices). Bob Hartzell was showing there as well and invited me to start making some posters. He was working with Steve Walters over at the old Screwball Press Loft on Western Ave. So that's how it all started. The first one I made was for the Vandermark Five. It was ridiculous, like 6 colors or something. SUPER CLEAN.
I remember the first thing I saw by you was the Godspeed! You Black Emperor poster you did. It was really puzzling and intriguing. I came across it later in person at Chloe and Yannick's pile of posters when I was doing an internship with them. It was really nice to see it in person. Your style sure has evolved, where would you like to take it from here?
At this point I just want to see where the imagery and technique will let me go. I'm making a bunch of huge art prints and large drawings in the next few months- the screen-printing is a huge part of it. As far as posters, I'm making more improvised music stuff again, which is great. Its funny, the project I just finished is unusual, its a drawing , full color , that I scanned in and sent to a promoter in Krakow Poland for the Resonance Music event, a Jazz concert with US, Ukrainian, Polish and Swedish musicians. I'll send you a jpg later. I almost never make a poster that way. It was financially impossible to print them here and send them over, they wanted 2000 of them.
Woah, that is a pretty awesome job! I'm excited to see how it came out.
It looks crazy. Montreal seems to have a great scene of artists of all sorts as well. I'd like to visit there. I made a Besnard Lakes/Handsome Furs poster and that was fun.
Yeah, Montreal has a lot going on creatively. Everytime I go there I get pretty excited. Working with Seripop has opened my eyes/ears to so many amazing things.
Its really great to see where they have gone/evolved in the last few years. Chloe and Yannick were next to me at Flatstock 2 in 2003 , which seems like a million years ago now. Thinking about posters, I think I would really like to make another poster for The EX someday. I fucking love that band.
What other dream jobs do you have if time/money wasn't an issue.
Really all I want to do is make my work. I want to make these bodies of work to show- I feel a sense of urgency for sure. Maybe because I'm getting older; the birth of my daughter Ella 2 1/2 years ago was a huge event, obviously. I feel about 1000% more creative since she has arrived. I just want to look at the world with more curiousity- which is impossible to do without the temperance of fury at the total mess humanity has made of the planet. Its impossible to reconcile the beauty and ugliness that contrast each other. My main mission right now is to be as true to my vision of creativity as I can and figure out how to bring it to a financial and practical level that can enable me to fully support my family with it. Insurance in the US is fucked (newsflash!), so that alone is terrifying. We are fortunate to own our home, I just want to build on that. I would really like to curate some shows this year. I am talking to venue now about a print show in Chicago. I also would like to publish an art anthology again. I did one in college called Chop Fold and Grind. Id like to resurrect it and fill it with Dale Flattum, Seripop and the like. I should also add that I'm going to be doing some special stuff with Bongout in Berlin in an exhibition capacity at some point in the future. I'm excited about that.
Seriously, its a small world now! Any final words?
I have to check on my stew!
To see more of Dan's work, including awesome process photos check out http://dangrzecaart.blogspot.com/.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Pierre: Hey Dan!