Thursday, June 20, 2013

Artist Interview: Danamarie Hosler

Currently living in Baltimore, MD, with dreams of Portland, ME, Danamarie Hosler has a great love of all things creative. She draws inspiration from all corners of her life, perhaps the most readily noticeable being pigeons (and the many parallels they present.) Her work spans across a great deal of mediums, ranging from small gouache illustrations, various plush creations, large-scale murals, and much, much more. Here at Light Grey, she has participated in several shows, including Macro + Micro, Smart, and our most recent You Can Do It, Put Your Back Into It.

You work in quite a variety of ways (plush dolls, accessories, murals, paintings), do you have a favorite among them? How do they overlap?
I can't choose a favorite! Are you kidding me? They're like my kids! I think its less about having a "favorite" and more about which medium I'm finding most interesting or most challenging, or even most appropriate at any given time. In general, I tend to only be able to do any one thing for a few weeks before I find myself feeling antsy and wanting/ needing to try something else (which is why being an artist is so perfect for me). I find that I learn a lot from each medium & way of working & when I get tired of one thing, the next one is waiting for me and I'm able to bring something new to that way of working. Gouache, for example, is a new medium for me--- I'm a teacher too & I realized it wasn't fair that I couldn't say anything nice about it to my students, so I made myself learn to use it and now I LOVE it. It's made me a better watercolorist & its given me a new way to think about pattern & application.

I think they all overlap when it comes to my style & my subject matter. I tend to talk about the same things, no matter how I am making the piece-- my aesthetics are the same. I just tend to choose the medium based on what will work best for my message & for the audience I'm trying to reach.

How does your family influence your work? Does your son like to make art as well?
Definitely! My husband and I met in college-- we were both Illustration majors, but we have very different styles & approaches to art making, so that's a pretty big thing-- having a partner who is also an artist. Its nice having a studio mate & a build in guest critic at home!

My son is 2.5 & yeah, he's pretty creative. We've always let him paint & draw; I think its really important for children to have opportunities to create and experience outlets with no wrong answer. He goes to an art program at a local museum I used to teach at & usually comes home from those classes very inspired. At home, he's basically living in an art gallery. Our work & our friends work is hanging on every wall. He spends a lot of time in my studio, so he's no stranger to color or texture.

My background is in Children's Book Illustration, so I was making work for kids long before I had a child of my own, but actually LIVING with your audience is a huge advantage. He's the reason I created my Under Appreciated Animals ™ series! I feel pretty proud to be able to bring things to life for my kid.

DanamarieHosler_4 Various pieces on the fabled "pretty sure this is done" wall

What is your ideal work environment?
Having my studio in my home is a big part of what I'd consider ideal. Being able to roll out of bed and walk a few yards to "work", in my pjs, and never have to get in a car or commute anywhere? That's pretty awesome. My studio is an extension of the family room-- I'm able to close off my work space if I need to really concentrate on something, but otherwise, its nice to be able to paint in the same room my son is making epic Lego awesomeness. In terms of the ideal work environment, I've pretty much got it-- great natural light, big windows, tall ceilings, lots of wall space to cover with things that inspire me, a great big desk & room for all my gadgets. I could probably use more storage for my fabric and yarn stash though.

Who is another artist you’re greatly inspired by and why?
I have a lot of favorite artists, who I look to for different reasons: John Singer Sargent is my favorite painter--- if you ever get to see one of his paintings in real life, you'll know why. The man just had the most amazing sense of color & what, to me, just seems like the most confidence I've ever seen exhibited in a brush stroke. In Illustration, I love Mary Blair (I'm a huge Disney fan… Small World!?! The colors and patterns. Ugh. Amazing), Lisbeth Zwerger & Ed Young-- their compositions and use of texture & line work. Jim Henson, because he was brilliant & his work has shaped SO much of my world view. Kermit for president, am I right? And of course John James Audubon. Oh the birds.

And then there's the murals… I could spend months just walking around Philadelphia chronicling them all. I find a lot of inspiration in art I see on a daily basis, that might not even be considered "art".

DanamarieHosler_2 Progress shot of Danamarie's piece for the Smart show "Pigeonholed #7"

What made you choose the quote you selected? Any personal attachment to it?
SO much attachment. I mean, I grew up with the Muppets-- Sesame Street was my first babysitter (I think that goes for most of my generation)-- and The Muppet Movie just gets me. The song 'The Rainbow Connection'? I have literally never been able to sing it or hear it without melting into a puddle of blubbering tears by the end; I can get through it dry eyed until the "there's something that I'm supposed to be…" part. That just wrecks me. And if I think about it too much now, I'm going to ruin my keyboard, so I'll move on…

Obviously, I wasn't going to be able to illustrate THAT song, but the reprise, at the end of the movie, with all the Muppets coming in behind Kermit & joining in, after they've all had this awesome journey, together, to create something meaningful… I dunno… its just so beautiful. When I think about wisdom I want to impart to my son, I think that's what I want him to really understand. You write your OWN ending. You're in control of you & you should never stop dreaming or pretending. None of us should. I get to spend 85% of my day dreaming and pretending… for a LIVING. That's pretty awesome. Kermit taught me that.

Do you have any words of encouragement for the world?
Listen up, world. You've got this. Ask for help if you need it. We're all in this together. Be kind to yourself.

When you’re having a bad day, is there something that never fails to lift your spirits? A favorite comfort food?
My kid has a pretty incredible gift for saying something so unbelievably cute & perfect, at JUST the right time. These days, he's pretty much the spirit lifter. Even when he's wrecked something and then had a tantrum and screamed in my face about it, he manages to remind me what really matters, just by virtue of existing.

And when that fails, watching Gordon Ramsay yell at people, with some jalapeƱo Cheetos or pizza & a frozen Kit-Kat bar will usually do the trick.

I also have a special place in my heart for Space Unicorn, by Parry Gripp. I share this with all my Seniors before they graduate, because I think you need to have a go to song to snap you back into place, especially if you're going to be a creative person for a living. Bad days can be really tough. Anyway, if you aren't familiar, you need to google it. Immediately.

DanamarieHosler_1 Daily Pigeon #122

As they are generally under-appreciated creatures, why are pigeons special to you? I mean this with *all* the sincerity in the world-- I could talk about pigeons for DAYS. You don't have the data allowance to upload everything I could say about pigeons. I promise you. Hmmm… let me summarize. Give me a sec.


Basically, pigeons *should* be special to everyone, because they are intrinsically linked to humans and are, in a LOT of ways, very like humans…And, because if you take any amount of time to actually look at a pigeon (really look at them), you will realize how much information they hold. I seriously think that the world would be a better place if more people appreciated pigeons.

They're hugely misunderstood (but so many people perpetuate stereotypes & negative falsehoods about them). They operate in family units, with both mom & dad (monogamous partners) raising the young. They're actually quite smart & have been at the center of tons of research, holding the key to questions about magnetic fields, sonar, the extreme possibilities in areas of memory & genetics. Heck! Darwin used pigeons to uncover the mysteries of natural selection. They've saved lives in times of war, doing things that human soldiers couldn't do. AND pigeons are doves. Everyone loves the pretty, solid white dove-- symbol of peace and whatnot. I could go on… But they're proud history & scientific contributions aside, I'm most fascinated by them as a parallel to/ stand in for, human society. You could easily look at a pigeon and say they all look the same, but each one has a unique & special coloration & feather pattern-- even if the difference is slight. Most people, I think, look at a group of pigeons in the city and see one big nameless, faceless mass-- not the individual birds that make up the group. And those birds all have families & special skill sets & unique features. I've lived in an urban environment my entire life, and no matter what city I'm in, I've experienced people looking at & dismissing groups of PEOPLE with the same nasty assumptions they'd place on those birds. I don't think anyone should be written off based solely on where they live or what they look like, or what someone told you might be true about them. Pigeons have a bad reputation for being dirty (they really aren't), for spreading disease (they really don't), for being dumb (totally false) and for being expendable (no living thing is expendable). And what's more, I see pigeons as a mirror for humanity. For example, people despise pigeons for pooping everywhere (where *should* they poop, by the way?) and the damage it does to our property, but did you know that if WE didn't litter & make OUR food available to them, if they were able to just eat the food nature intended them to, their poop would rinse away with rain, and damage nothing? So that part fascinates me too, because what we really don't like about them seem to be things we've either caused them to do/ be, or things that we don't like about ourselves.

I could go on. But seriously, if anyone is interested, I invite you to follow my tumblr & my Daily Pigeon project. I have already heard from dozens of people who've told me I've converted them & they look at pigeons totally differently now. Mission beginning to be accomplished!

DanamarieHosler_5 Daily Pigeon #127

Where do you find inspiration for your Daily Pigeon project, and how long do they usually take you?
Inspiration comes from all over the place-- sometimes I go out on pigeon "meeting" trips (where I walk around the city looking for them & when I find one I always say "Hello, my name is Danamarie. May I take your picture?" and then I take their picture, because that's the polite thing to do…. Totally not kidding). Other times I draw them from my head (which I've gotten pretty good at by now). I try not to over think the Daily Pigeons too much-- I want them to have whatever feeling the day had for me. In my bigger works I can get more cerebral, but these are really just trying to pique peoples' interests; give me a way to use different tags on my blog, find new followers, get them seen more. I might explore pattern or text. It might just be a doodle. They can take anywhere from 30 seconds to 8 hours. A few of them so far have been much bigger pieces, which are obviously not completed in one day, but on the day I finish them, they are that day's Daily Pigeon. I like being able to "reward" people with something more substantial every now and again. Really, this project is a way to get people to see beauty in them, the way I do & hopefully get them looking at real pigeons with the same kind of enthusiasm as they do my renderings of them.

Thanks, Danamarie!

To see more of her work, check out her website, and be sure to take a peek at her piece for the You Can Do It, Put Your Back Into It show.


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