Dan Lish – EgoStrippin’ Interview
Meeting Dan Lish
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 Lish, he’s our age, he loves Hip-Hop, he’s a ginge like you, and, oh, he’s a pretty good artist.” Well, with a recommendation like that, what’s not to like? It was only then that I got to know Dan and saw his artwork first-hand. I am continually blown away by just how talented and unassuming he is.
What Do Cool Dads Actually Want For Christmas
So as part of an upcoming series of features slotted under the loose theme of “What Do Dapper 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, I am going to try my hand at this interviewing malarky.
If you like Hip-Hop and amazing artwork and want to find out how one weird Brighton fella puts commuting hours to good use (he 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 is some pretty amazing handy-work coming up.
So without further ado, I give you Dan Lish aka Duce
Hi, Dan. Why don’t you start by introducing yourself?
Hello, my name is Daniel, better known 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 on my commute. I also love graphite pencil, watercolours and 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 1983. I saw snippets on the TV and heard it on the radio. It literally knocked my socks off. My father is a born and bred Brooklynite and when he took me to the American air bases in Suffolk, I saw folks dancing too.
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. If anything, I got a lot of aspirations I wanted to do out of my system. 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 a dancing injury.
There are a lot of different elements to Hip-Hop culture, how did you fully immerse yourself?
I suppose 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 a pirate radio show 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 online too.
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. 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 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 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 musically. As I mentioned before, the element of the illustration are from either their lyrics (whether literally or my take on what they meant to me) or in 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 (B-Boying, 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 given their appreciation of this image… pretty amazing really.
What’s 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, who seeks out & recruits old comrades from Cartigan senior’s war days in an attempt to become his father’s salvation. Dan Willett and I 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 a more 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. It’s been a bit strange “interviewing” you instead of having a cuppa and talking trash like we normally do. So just one last question 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.