His paintings are dreamlike visions: imaginary castles, fanciful animals, theatrical masks, and split figures: they’re a jump into a virtual world which swings between the psychedelic and surreal.
That said, Daniel Merriam is not fond of his work being classified with any specific names, because everything originates from his mind and his life. And he wants his paintings to be experienced without much explanation: like a magician who doesn’t want to reveal what lies behind his tricks, in order to keep the aura of mystique intact for his viewers.
Read the full interview on Tattoo Life Magazine (May/June issue).
Daniel, how have you developed your style, which brings to mind gentle childhood tales?
When I was a kid, “The Great American Illustrators” (Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish, N.C. Wyeth, Winslow Homer) were becoming collectable. This gave me the courage to approach whimsy within fine art, in stark contrast to my counterparts who followed the prescribed academic, modern art approach. Since I was a really good illustrator, I was advised even by modern art curators to not give up my style in an effort to be taken seriously. Regardless of fashion, I had a unique vision and ability that needed to be revealed. Art isn’t just about snobbery.
What evolutions have occurred in your work, also from a technical standpoint?
For many years, I worked primarily in watercolor. When the mills stopped making the good paper, I switched to other mediums. That did affect the subject and style of my paintings but I was ready for that change. Although pop culture’s trends and growing older influence my style, it’s still pretty esoteric and belongs exclusively to me and the planet from which it came.
What techniques do you use today? Do you like to experiment, or have you chosen a well-defined path?
I always like to take a different way home. There’s an excitement in trying new methods, so I’m constantly mixing it up. My studio is full of experiments, lots of sculpture projects and every type of paint or tool you can imagine. Hard work seems to be the one constant formula I’ve adhered to.
All of your works are quite complex and brimming with detail. Some have naturalistic landscapes, while others have very fairytale-like architectural elements. Could you explain the procedure you go through to create your works? Which part of the design’s structure do you start with?
Well, you hit the nail on the head. I like to start with the structure first. I usually use something architectural as the armature for the composition. I sketch out a quick schematic and begin painting over that. Now, quick doesn’t mean simple. I’ve learned to draw quite fast, but I still articulate a plethora of subjects and details.
You give life to characters that include elegantly dressed animals and women who appear in a variety of pieces wearing different clothing but sharing a similar look: upswept hair, big eyes, and doll-like silhouettes. What inspires you?
I was already in the scene before there was lowbrow, steam punk or wide-eyed painting. I started to spread a few eyes apart and realized that fad would pass, as did Rubenesque figures. Although I fit into the fray of these new movements, I’m standing on some older building blocks. Particularly, I’m intrigued by art movements from the Baroque and Art Nouveau, and let’s not forget Hieronymus Bosch, a Renaissance painter, wildly depicting the moral concerns of the medieval.
Are preparing anything in particular at the moment?
My next exhibition will be unveiled at my Bubble Street Gallery in Sausalito the first week of December 2019. For more information, you can visit my website at: www.bubblestreetgallery.com