Danny has been a friend of mine for a long time. I met him playing in bands when he was a senior in High School and after 10 years I have seen him work a variety of jobs and juggle a whole host of hobbies. If you looked up renaissance man in the dictionary, Dan is the man they are referring to. Despite being an amazing designer (Working with Dice Magazine, Prism Supply Company, The Congregation Motorcycle Show and a whole host of other projects), he’s a great drummer, he writes for Heddels ( a massive site about quality clothing and goods,) he builds motorcycles, he does leather work, and he probably knows a little bit about anything else cool you could think of. I have been wanting to talk to Dan on here about his work on here for a long time, but with his wedding coming up and with our professional lives being crazy it has taken a while. Finally, I got time to catch up with him and hit him with some hard-hitting questions.
25 / Dude / Connecticut
When did you realize you wanted to do illustrating/design?
I grew up drawing with my dad all the time for fun. It was mostly goofy stuff…aliens on skateboards, monster trucks, and lots of skulls (go figure). He would draw these great cartoons inspired by the Mad Magazines he had growing up, those always stuck with me. I enjoyed learning how to write cursive and my drawings would usually have some sort of text on them, even if it was just figuring out a cool way to write my initials.
I never really understood that drawing or design could be a career path, so I originally went to college for music business. I was playing in a hardcore band with my friends (including The Empty Earth himself) and that is around the same time I learned about traditional tattoos. That old school style captured me and I spent a lot of time exploring weird imagery and trying to get my head around that style. I never really had intentions to be a tattooer, I really was just having fun drawing. As I realized more and more how much I did not want to pursue a career in the music industry, my friend finally suggested I look into graphic design classes. I transferred and switched majors the next semester.
Going to school for art was something else. It was a great way for me to figure out a bunch of stuff I didn’t want to do, but it also forced me to try things I would never have done otherwise that I am still gaining from today. At the end of the day I still had the most fun with pen and ink drawings, and I started throwing them into the computer and learning how to manipulate them digitally. I started making shirt designs and album art for my band, and soon enough I had friends asking for designs for their bands, and things grew from there. That was about six years ago, but I would say I realized that I wanted to give freelance design a concerted effort about two years ago and I’ve been doing that since.
You love motorcycles and your work lately has been heavy in the motorcycle world. Is there a similarity between the process of working on bikes and working on design?
I’ve realized over the years that when it comes down to it, I just really enjoy working with my hands and it isn’t necessarily limited to just one medium. For instance, I got into leatherworking for a bit and loved the process of turning a flat piece of hide into a functioning wallet. It’s that sort of stereotypical “starting with nothing, ending with something” thing that I really dig. I get the same enjoyment when working on a motorcycle, and believe me I’m far from a mechanic. If I’m working on my bike chances are it’s trying to fix an idiot mistake I made previously, but it’s always fun to learn as I go and I have plenty of friends to help me figure things out when I get in over my head.
All of my design work is hand drawn starting with rough conceptual pencil sketches and refined until I create a final version in ink to be scanned into the computer and traced. I’ve tried to be that super clean, minimalist designer and it just doesn’t work out or make me feel the same as drawing up something by hand, so I tend to stick to what I know. Sometimes I’ll work on an idea for days, with tons of rounds of revisions and redraws, only to decide it isn’t really what I thought it would be, so it gets scrapped. And sometimes the bike still won’t start after a full weekend spent in the garage. I guess there are similarities.
How are you balancing your day job, building your bike, planning a wedding, planning getting a new house, making time for all the weeknight drop ins from friends, and spending time with your family? How do you prioritize your creative life?
To be honest, I’m still working on my prioritizing skills because when I get something in my mind, it rules my brain until I finish it and get it right while everything else tends to get put aside. It’s been busier than ever lately, but I think that’s a good thing because I can’t remember the last time I was bored. I like it that way too--one minute I can be drawing or sending emails and the next I can be messing around in the garage or playing drums or whatever else. Hanging with friends and family is the best way to break all of it up.
You did all of the branding for The Congregation Vintage Motorcycle Show recently that Prism Supply and Dice Magazine put on. What was it like seeing you work on such a large scale?
In one word, crazy. There’s nothing more humbling than having people you look up to reach out and ask to work together. It was a lot of work and we definitely hustled near the end but everything came together so great and I’m pumped I was able to get down there to see it all in person.
What is your favorite project you’ve done?
Maybe this is a cliché answer, but I really enjoy every project that I take on. Doing this kind of work has helped me meet so many people that I can now call friends, with projects that continually blow me away just from the point of conception. The variety of subject matter always keeps things interesting, and I’m challenged now more than ever to find ways to keep learning and trying new things whether it be from drawing a t-shirt to branding a company.
Kill one, F*$% one, Marry one- Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Merle Haggard
Does it mean I get to go back in time and see them all play live?
You have a pretty eclectic taste in music, what are you listening to lately?
I’m all over the place with music. I will literally go from listening to Leadbelly one minute to Bongzilla the next. I recently found out about this dude Colter Wall from Canada when his new album came on one of my Spotify playlists. That’s been on heavy rotation ever since. And of course ‘Chattahoochie’ by Alan Jackson.
Why is everyone always trying to get you drunk?
They want to hear me sing ‘Chattahoochie’ by Alan Jackson.
What else should people know about you?
Be careful when challenging me to a ping pong match.
We’re good right?
:-) <3 - DAN