When we first moved down to Brighton, a mate of mine mentioned that I should meet an old friend of his. His words were, “His name’s Dan, he’s our age, he loves Hip-Hop and he’s a Ginge like you, and oh he is a pretty good artist.” Well, with a recommendation like that what’s not to like eh? It was only when I got to know Dan and have I seen his artwork first hand and that I am continually blown away by just how talented and unassuming he actually is..
So as part of an upcoming series of features slotted under the loose theme of “What Do Cool Dads Actually Want For Christmas” – I am going to be trying to do something a bit different rather than just writing a list of products that you can find anywhere for this post, I am going to try my hand at this interviewing malarky.
If you like Hip-Hop, amazing artwork and want to find out how one weird Brighton fella puts his hours spent commuting to and from London to good use ( Yes, he actually draws this stuff on the train freehand and Twitter has been going mad for it! ) then read on; If you don’t well, read on anyway as there some pretty amazing handy-work coming up.
So without further ado I give you I give you Dan Lish aka Duce.
Hi Dan, why don’t you start by introducing yourself.
Hello, my name is Daniel, better know as Dan. I’m a Human from planet Earth . . . ahem, I currently live in Brighton on the south coast of England. I draw, illustrate, paint, and doodle for my occupation, my well being, and for my creative expression. I’m a senior concept artist in the video game industry, and have been for the past 14 years.I very rarely play video games… I just help to create them. I was born in Bury St.Edmunds, Suffolk.
Sounds like most of your time is spent drawing – what’s your weapon of choice?
I love ink pen, as in Fibre tip pens or old dip pens to draw with. This is partly down to convenience due to my commute. I also love graphite pencil, Watercolour, Oil painting. Although I haven’t been able to traditionally paint for a number of years due to Family commitments.
When working digitally I work in Photoshop 98% of the time, and a little bit in illustrator.
Beatboxing Legends By Dan Lish
There’s a clear attraction to Hip-Hop in your artwork, when did you first discover this love?
I first fell in love with Hip-Hop in around the year of 1983. I saw snippets on TV and on the radio. It literally knocked my socks off.
My father is a born and bred Brooklynite, so when taking me to American air bases in Suffolk, I also saw folks dancing.
So you’ve spent a lot of time in the States – do you think that this has had an influence on your style of illustration?
I can’t say NYC specifically influenced my art style, as I’ve always created art my whole life. If anything, I got a lot of aspirations I wanted to do out of my system, but it was more about fully immersing myself in the Hip-Hop culture.
If anything, I think my artwork output and consistency suffered, as I spread myself too thin. I’ve gained a deeper appreciation for the roots and the people involved, and the generation after generational knowledge and respect for the culture.
Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever painted ?
When ‘writing Graffiti’, I’ve painted in plenty of places, usually secluded. But none have been too strange. I’ve painted in the Middle of Great Yarmouth town centre by concealing myself in a makeshift canopy in the early morning.
My Wife and I painted on the side of a Bingo hall in the middle of the day, pretending to create a community Mural. I’ve painted a 150 foot mural in a latin pastoral centre in the Bronx. The last half of the piece was on crutches, as I had knee surgery that week from dancing.
There are a lot of different elements to Hip-Hop culture, how did you fully immerse yourself?
I s’pose being a more visual person I was initially captivated by the dance – B-Boying and Popping – then the music. At that time it was the Electro funk style of Hip-Hop music. It hit me with a huge impact. The art, the music, the dance, the competitiveness; the whole expressiveness pulled me in.
A couple of years later, with the money from various crap jobs (butcher boy, paper round etc), i’d started spraying on walls and collecting vinyl. Once I had enough records, I began DJing, doing pirate radio in Portsmouth called the ‘Infamous Rap show’ with like minded folks; then I moved on to night clubs and eventually ran my own night.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m currently creating the ‘Ego Strip’ collection of illustrations, based on intriguing and inspirational Hip-Hop folks, predominantly MC’s and DJ’s.My limited edition prints are available here
Why EgoStrip and why now?
I picked up on what inspired me about these folks; whether it be a certain lyric from a classic tune, or my perception of what may be going through their mind at their moment of creation. And without having to cater to the B-Boy machismo, ego, front; I could explore these themes without the fear of having to cater to a certain audience or the artist. As an Artist, putting my voice and perception to their persona is very fascinating.
How do you pick who you’re going draw and where do the idea details come from, for example, including Scott La Rock in the sky on the KRS-One piece?
I commute to my regular occupation in London and whilst on the train I like to draw.
I’ve been creating drawings on my train journeys for about four years. This is the time when my mind can wander. My imagination kicks in and things happen. I love crafting a vision – a thought in lines. The inspiration for these images comes from who inspired me me musically. As I mentioned before, the element of the illustration are from iether their lyrics (whether literally or my take on what they meant to me) or adding imaginative solutions to what may be hidden whilst these folks are deep in thought.
As we know, the origins and foundation of all the elements of the Hip-Hop culture are partly based on competition and the ‘battle’ mentality. So after having shed a slight ego imbalance myself over the years (BBoying, Graffiti and DJ’ing), starting a family and stepping out of the scene for a while, I could approach the subject matter with more honesty, creativity and maturity.
What feedback from the artists themselves have you had?
The feedback has been amazing! It started with my illustration for my good friend Break DJ Leacy, who passed in 2004. I created an LP cover for his breakbeat series ‘Breaksploitaion’, an LP where DJ’s could cut up funk and soul breaks featured on his record. Thanks to the help of Christie Z-Pabon of NYC’s ‘tools of war’, I started to get lots of Hip-Hop pioneers posting the artwork. This is 10 years after creating the illustration!
Biz Markie, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, Lord Finesse, Pete Rock, Crazy Legs (RSC), Bambaataa, Grand Wizard Theodore, and Paradise Grey of the X Clan, have all gave their appreciation of this image… pretty amazing really.
Whats next for Dan Lish ?
I’m in the process of completing my own novel entitled ‘Cartigan’. I’m currently working on Book 2, which will be available in English. Based on an alternative Earth and set over a period of twenty days, the story follows the adventures of Cartigan’s son.
As he seeks out & recruits old comrades from Cartigan senior’s war days in his attempt to (hopefully!) become his father’s salvation. Myself and Dan Willett will hopefully put the UK version out as a kick-starter campaign in 2015
I’ll continue as a Concept Artist for the Video game biz, as long as I enjoy it. I’d like to be more of an autonomous Artist, than work for hire. So getting Gallery shows and creating prints is a good way to go, to make that happen.
Thanks for your time Dan, been a bit strange “interviewing” you as opposed to have a cuppa and talking trash like we normally do – So just one last questions before I let you go.
Best album to listen to whilst drawing ?
Nowadays I listen to a spotify playlist for convenience whilst I’m drawing. An eclectic range of music really, mainly instrumental for the mood. When creating the Ego strip illustrations, I always listen to the specific artist. If Pete Rock, then his first LP ‘Mecca and the soul Brother’ or Pete Rock and CL Smooth’s first E.P. If Q-Tip, then the Low End Theory for me. If Big Daddy Kane, then his first LP.
More Hip Hop related goodies here >