Dan Heyer is an Australian born n based artist working primarily in the mediums of illustration, comic and sculpture. His art sitting within the underground comic realm of R.Crumb, Gary Panter and Dan Clowes and the Australasian influences of people such as Murray Ball (of ‘Footrot Flats’ fame), Reg Mombassa and Norman Lindsay – It’s gloopy, smelly, wild and can veer between an almost photographic realism to complete cartoon absurdity
When asked to describe the reasons for his art, Dan states that it is an undeniable autobiographical drive:
“Inasmuch as it’s the reason I can’t live without it now, I assume I started into it as a little dingus because I’ve forever been in constant conversation with myself. If the output amounts to that same conversation for anyone receiving it, the less people I need to get around to explaining myself to.”
(Picture below of some art by Dan)
With Dan only just at the beginning of what we are sure will be a promising career, now is the perfect time to get to know the man and his art, by reading the Art Talk interview below…
Basics/Getting to Know
Name + D.O.B?
Daniel John Heyer, born 09/09/86
City, State n Country you currently call home?
Sydney, N.S.W Australia
City, State n Country your from?
Richmond, N.S.W, Australia
(Pictures below of a comic by Dan)
Describe a memory from some stages of yr life ….basically trying to piece together your pivotal moments. Concerts, art, action-figures, romance, school, crime… ANYTHING!
* age 5 – beginnings:
Just about every memory I have from this far back involves a dog.
I spent a heap of time with the family dog, a huge German Shepard called Rastas. We shared many a dish of dry Pedigree™ and I remember being kind of impressed that she could trot over bindis painlessly. I guess she was my first girlfriend.
Then there were the talking dogs. My folks were pretty young so I had (and still have) grandparents from both sides to feed me as much Golden and Silver-age animation as I could handle. Droopy was a mainstay and is still my favourite Tex Avery creation.
(Picture below of Dan as a kid)
* age 10 – continuations:
My parents had been pretty prolific procreators by this stage and I had three younger sisters to want to get away from by any means, which usually meant spazzing around with whatever junk I could get my hands on – I spent a lot of school afternoons casting a fishing line into a big leafy gum tree in the front yard and wrestling it back for hours.
I enjoyed drawing but I remember it being hugely stressful and, accordingly, not quite as appealing as setting my new Step-Dad’s toilet paper alight. In short I think I empathised with Charlie Brown but emulated Dennis the Menace.
* age 15 – getting serious:
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that all I thought about in these years was skateboarding, punk music and one girl or another. These were all pretty ideal hormone sponges to have as the hopelessly obsessive teenager I was (and still am, basically) but a concentrated effort to illustrate was completely missing.
I should have been hooking into my 10,000 hours but those preoccupations lead me to getting started on them eventually, to be sure.
(Picture below of Dan in his teens)
* age 20 – young adult:
From Taree to Newcastle… Out of the frypan and into the toilet – University. I’ll just use the usual keywords here: Alcohol, inhalants, daytime sex, MS Golf, police, blood, fire, vomit, slingshots, freak-outs, library fines.
For some reason I went in pretty invested in leaving with something like a BA in Pointing a Camera but got hooked on film theory and eventually animation history, then the revelation of trying cartoons myself.
By the end of what turned into a Film and Cultural Studies major I’d spent more time attempting (poorly) to find my bearings drawing than finishing course work. It was a pretty unsatisfying period output-wise and a lot of friends I’ve had for half of my life had moved on to Sydney so I did too.
(Picture below of Dan in his 20s)
* age 25 – adult mode:
These years have been pretty fast paced – I’ve gone around half of Europe and to the U.S twice, having had to move house between and after each trip, but it’s been an accelerated education about Sydney and what happens here.
I’ve been more pumped to move things along productivity-wise in these last couple of years having figured the place out some and have gotten a lot less precious about putting stuff out there, which I think pulls the reigns on petty perfectionism on a whole.
(Picture below of Dan now)
The whole universe is completely insane.
Favorite other artist(s)?
I’ll keep things as simple as I can here by sticking to what gets me going work-wise.
I don’t think I need to convince anyone of the excellence of M.C Escher, or to pretend I think Dali was genius.
Going back, I’m a huge sucker for all of the old screwball ‘toonists but Milt Gross fucking kills me – that stuff is untamed in a much more special way than anything considered offensive these days could hope to be.
You can’t beat E.C Segar, Basil Wolverton or Robert Storm Peterson for whacky perfection either.
I could look at anything of Will Eisner’s all day, especially his really inky later work. I really love Jack Davis for the same reason; every one of his panels are a lesson in brushwork.
You’re crazy if you can’t get into the EC dudes.
Bernie Krigstein is exemplary also.
Crumb, Justin Green, Gary Dumm, Shary Flenniken and Spain Rodriguez are my favourites of the original undergrounders.
Who am I kidding? R. Crumb is my favourite artist altogether. All I’ll say about that is that when your handwritten correspondences are better categorised as a cartoon than literature, you’re the best.
Gary Panter is incredible – Each of his strokes deserves its own storyline. I love Aline Kominsky-Crumb for the same reason, for some reason.
In recent stuff, for a while I’ve been hooked on Aaron Lange. The guy must have one of the most confident, penetrative (no pun intended, fans) approaches in comics history, let alone alternative comix. He’s got the uncensored, “I don’t give a fuck” autonomy of a mini-comix hero and the effortless line of a silver-age legend – a combination that gets him away with so much more than would the typically ineloquent underground aesthetic. His online sketchbook posts alone keep a fire under my ass. Lange or die!
I’m always knocked over by Josh Bayer’s comics too – each of his pages looks like it weighs as much as a whole graphic novel. It’s very cerebral stuff.
Tim Hensley’s style is adorable.
I knew I’d get out of hand with this answer.
Special mention has to go to Ed Repka, Vince Lockke, Namio Harukawa, Tom Bunk and Wesley Willis (have you seen his drawings?!)
Oh yeah – all hale Dan Clowes.
(Picture below of a comic by Dan)
Worst aspect of the contemporary art-hustle?
I don’t think there’s a faster way to feel like a dickhead than to try to convince people you’re special. I ended up being asked to pitch a logo design to AJ Maddah a couple of years ago – he took one look at this ‘toon I’d drawn up and said “That’s fuckin’ gay,” and left the room.
I already knew it sucked, I didn’t need that cunt to remind me!
Best aspect of the contemporary art-hustle?
Refining your schtick with every deadline, self-imposed or otherwise.
(Picture below of George Carl by Dan)
Do you consider what you are making to be ‘art’, ‘design’, re-hashed crap?
All of those things, probably. ‘Art’ because that’s what people tell me it is; ‘Design’ because I’m not Jackson fucking Pollock; and ‘Re-hashed Crap’ because I’m still figuring out how to make anything else.
When and why did you first start making ‘art’ (drawings, paintings, anything)?
Inasmuch as it’s the reason I can’t live without it now, I assume I started into it as a little dingus because I’ve forever been in constant conversation with myself. If the output amounts to that same conversation for anyone receiving it, the less people I need to get around to explaining myself to.
(Picture below of Shane MacGowen by Dan)
What did you draw and make as a pre-teen child?
Earlier on I was very interested in re-creating some visual or another. The drawings I remember being really satisfied with as a kid were one of Superman (my grandparents let my sister colour it and I’ve never forgiven either of them), a portrait of Mr. Bean, and about 1,000 different Homer Simpsons.
Getting older I actually put a lot of work into drafting, which counts I guess.
I was completely fixed on becoming a scientist at around age 10 and filled an exercise book with detailed blueprints for experiments involving sparkler-bombs and Happy Meal toys. This of course terrified my family and I never proved my hypothesis that a plastic Grimace would go from purple to black in about a minute with the right amount of lighter fluid but it had gotten me drawing at least.
I attempted a comic strip called “Very Stupid Man” around the same time, consisting mainly of gags about a dopey, big-chinned guy getting into trouble after mishearing people over the phone. That dried up quickly, of course.
Maybe I’ll bring him back.
What did you draw and make as a teen?
Just about all I got around to drawing as a snotty Ramones-adicted teenager were a whole lot of obnoxious scribblings throughout my school exercise books.
Given my infatuation with everything skateboard-related then, I was mainly excited to film and edit, but I really loved storyboarding so I wasn’t altogether slacking off… not that I want any of that trash to resurface!
Any pivotal artistic moment/influence?
Discovering American Splendor was huge.
The catalogue of artists Harvey Pekar evolved through in that series has priceless introductory value of course, but his writing ethic – that comics are a kind of wall of pigeonholes in which to organise experience, and that this organisation is uniquely poetic – showed me that the medium is one that an author doesn’t choose but needs over another, and that I’d needed it too.
(Picture below of some art by Dan)
Why + when did you decide to go in on the art hustle?
If I had to pinpoint the moment I threw myself into this thing completely it’d be about the time my old man kicked the bucket in 2012. I was in the U.S for a couple of months not long after the fact and picked up a tonne of comics I’d never been exposed to, which, combined with the death, lead to the typical “what the fuck am I doing with myself?” meditation.
By the time I’d come back to Sydney I was utterly, restlessly horny about cartooning and miraculously The Sydney Fringe Festival took me on full-time after I volunteered for a few months drawing up signage and postcards.
The Fringe gave me the ideal outlet and affirmation to get moving with my drawing finally (thanks Amanda and Lew!) and I’d accidentally worked out what I wanted to do.
Describe the process and materials used to create your art – dot point all o.k…
* Your drawings?
Readers should look away at this point.
My process is absolutely atrocious but I’m refining it, gradually.
I usually make as much of an analogue effort as possible to start with, which often involves sketching up an outline with a cheap, blunt pencil on some low-quality art-diary paper; erasing the smudged mess into something legible enough to ink over; applying said ink by way of whatever Staedler fine-tip is in reach; and erasing left over pencil and liquid-papering imperfections.
I’m having more fun with cleaner lines at the moment, so lately I’ll trace over the whole piece again using a lightbox and a fresh sheet of whatever.
In the end I’ll scan ‘er into the ol’ laptop, treat it with whatever effect a xerox would be capable of and sometimes Photoshop in some colour in a way that simulates a manual method.
(Picture below of Dan’s room and sometimes studio.)
* Your sculptures?
I usually just start with a slab of paper clay or terracotta, lay out a bunch of kitchen utensils and just go for it.
Sometimes I’ll work from a sketched idea.
As it comes into form and hardens slightly I’ll attempt some texture, which usually calls on whatever strokes I’d use to draw the same creation.
I like ceramics as a kind of productive procrastination – most of the impulses that go into my drawing get a workout here, except instead of refining by erasure I get to physically squash and tear away the errors.
(Pictures below of some sculptures by Dan)
Odds n Ends
Please describe your experiences growing up in Australia?
Outside of the micro-chosm of my circus of a home, for my money, growing up here was kind of depressing.
I spent most of my upbringing in rural N.S.W in this really backwards place called Taree, which you might call a miniature model of Trump’s America. The core Aboriginal population of the area is housed behind a grotesque wall on the other side of the bridge into town.
The local kingpin entrepreneur, owner of several chicken shops, ended up as Mayor and the knob-end’s first move was to pull down the Aboriginal flag flying in front of council chambers. Progressive, right?
Most people you’d ask in that area about that situation would genuinely think it’s a rational one, and from what I’ve learned about what makes the typical Australian happy, I feel like the general population would too.
Race relations aside, I think I mean that growing up Australian can be really confusing – good-natured, approachable character abounds but it’s exclusivities are disturbing.
(Picture below of Vincent Price by Dan)
Favorite TV show(s)?
Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares.
I’m a big fan of totally pretentious toss as much as I am of low-brow schlock so I’ll try to make this quick and as disorganised as possible – Some of the best movies I’ve seen are Welcome to the Dollhouse, Vertigo, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Funky Forest, Bad Boy Bubby, The Seventh Continent, Le Notte, Blow-Up, Deep Red, Stalker, Gates of Heaven, The SIlence, Naked, Chinatown, Kes, Maniac, Martin, A Lonely Place, Wild at Heart, Hiroshima Mon Amour, Night of the Hunter, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Ran, Vagabond, El Topo, Barry Lyndon, My Son My Son What Have Ye Done, The Devil’s Daughter, Jiri Trnka’s Alice in Wonderland, Vengeance for Mr. Sympathy, Shirin, Once Upon a Time in the West, Singin’ in the Rain, Baker 3, Repo Man, Trash Humpers, Adventures in Babysitting…
(Pictures below of some art by Dan)
Favorite books and comics?
I’ve read nowhere enough classic literature to announce any preferences amongst the canon and sound legitimate so let’s just call my favourite prose fiction ‘The Twits’ by Roald Dahl. It would make a better movie than anything of his that’s been adapted but I hope it never is.
‘Weirdo’ rules as an anthology series (photo-funnies forever); Will Eisner’s ‘A Contract with God’ is a close-to-perfect graphic novel; ‘Thimble Theatre’ is my favourite strip; Jim Woodring’s ‘Jim’ is the best whatever-the-fuck-it-is; I don’t mind ‘Swamp Thing’ if I have to name a DC product; and an anomaly I’m pretty consumed by right now is this collection of Joe Shuster’s pulp-erotica illustrations called ‘Secret Identity’.
Who was your 1st crush and why?
Natalya Simonova as seen in 007: Goldeneye.
I really don’t know how that happened but it’s a precedent that dictates my tastes to this day.
(Pictures below of Dan’s first crush – Izabella Scorupco as Natalya Simonova in ‘007: Goldeneye’ – including a drawing of her by Dan)
Does sex change everything?
It does if you let it, which I tend to do.
It’s the the most significant detail to consider about your circumstances when it seems like everything needs to change, right?
Please describe your latest dream in detail…
I think I was at a mall and all the lights were out. Everybody was shopping normally, no looting or anything.
Some twerpy fashionista chick asked me if she could touch my hair and before I could say anything a hoard of her sassy friends rushed me, kissing me on the cheek and passing me on. At one point in the mayhem an Ex of mine gave me a peck.
You’ve had that one, haven’t you?
(Picture below of Dustin Dollin by Dan)
Drugs – waste of time or gateway to the universe?
That depends on how much of a waste of time a gateway to the universe may or may not be.
Have you ever tried psychedelics of any sort? And what was the experience like?
Yep. Acid is good fun.
I’d call the experience something like putting on an outfit that makes you feel like you’re attractive to every object you can see, to the point where the wheelbarrow in the backyard seems to want to have a conversation with you.
Sometimes the outfit wears you, though.
(Picture below of a comic by Dan)
Of everything you have done what would you most like to be remembered for and why?
Eating two Subway meatball foot-longs consecutively; Because it was hard work.
Please describe what you think the Australian Psyche/Zeitgeist is today?
To show off.
We have to be one of the least humble peoples on the planet!
“Our coffee is the best! Our animals are the scariest! We beat a third world nation in a stupid game of cricket!”
Which 1990’s era cartoon, would you most like to see in a tribute sex toy, and why?
I’d love a blow-up doll of Cow from Cow and Chicken.
The potentially for depravity there seems endless.
(Picture below of Dan’s tribute ‘Cow and Chicken‘ sex toy art.)
Who would win in a fight and why: A 20 year old Women’s Studies major Vs. A drunk Shane Warne in full horn dog mode?
The Women’s Studies major.
Warney’s advances would validate the WSM’s politics so there’s an intellectual victory, plus I’d venture to guess that hell hath no fury like a feminist’s slap.
(Picture below of the epic battle as drawn by Dan.)
Any collaborations on the horizon?
I’ve been talking to a few pals in the Sydney area about pulling together an anthology issue of comics a-la Zap, which with some proactivity could work out by the end of the year.
Any major projects you want to hype?
I’ll have a solo issue of comix out for you all in time for my birthday in September if it kills me.
(Picture below of a comic by Dan)