D. White is a New York based pop artist and cartoonist whose vibrant and colourful work hints at the eternal darkness that can sometimes be modern urban life. A darkness that is also all imbued with a sense of joy, amazement and childlike wonder. Leading to highly engaging and provoking creations.
(Picture below by Danny White of ‘Birds in Boxes’)
In his Art Talk D. spills about the realities of being a artist whilst also holding down a 9to5 job, his early artistic development, submersion in the art hustle, his love of music, upcoming projects and much more.
Read the Art Talk with Danny in full, below…
Basics/Getting to Know
Name + D.O.B?
City, State n Country you’re Repping?
New York City USA
Describe a memory from three stages of yr life ….basically trying to piece together Mr. White’s pivotal moments. Concerts, art, action-figures, women, school, crime… ANYTHING man.
* age 10 – beginnings:
I’m trying to answer this question but it’s just a blur of trash culture and Christmas mornings. I don’t know how to pin point something from that time.
I was drawing already and consuming comics, movies, toys, music…everything.
There’s tons of memories that I associate with any of those things and then there’s memories that are darker. The ones that might actually better help to understand me at that age are the ones that I’m less likely to share.
(Picture below of Danny as a child)
* age 15 – getting serious:
When I was 15 I was going to the doctor because my mom thought I had an ulcer. I was angry. I was lonely. I would walk all over the place and day dream.
I beat up a kid in the middle of Italian class because I was investigating a violence that I felt inside. I’ve never been in a fight since and I prob went home that night and cried.
* age 20 – adult mode:
There are aspects of 20 being Adult mode for me but in reality it was more of a regression. Or making up for lost time perhaps.
Those late teens where full of big decisions at home. My dad died when I was 14 and the pressure I had put on myself immediately after that had started to subside by 20.
I was having fun. I was surrounded by people that I looked up to. I was learning to live and I’m grateful that I got the chance too.
Also I was playing the guitar and drowning myself in distortion.
(Picture below of Danny is his early 20’s)
Don’t think I have one, but if I could choose one I would say “no regrets”.
I’m gonna have to earn that motto.
Jaymay, Fugazi, the Who, Cousins, the Replacements, Pearl Jam, Father John Misty, LEFT LEFT, Junkyard.
(Picture below of some pen and ink art by Danny)
Favorite TV show(s)?
Doctor Who, Broad City, Colbert, it’s always sunny.
Favorite sport(s) + teams?
Contempt by Godard, Le Samouraï by Melville, Star Wars, Step Brothers, Unforgiven.
Favorite books and comics?
Read this book about Nashville Tennessee ounce that I loved, otherwise it’s mostly comics.
My favs are anything made by Tom Scioli, Saga, Deadly Class, Planetary, This One Summer.
Favorite other artist(s)?
Jim Rugg, Chris Samnee, Tom Scioli, Mike Allred, Jarelle Dampier.
Worst aspect of the contemporary art-hustle?
I’ve had some different issues over the years…but at this point I’ll narrow the worst thing down to not being able to wake up every morning and just do what I want.
I try to maintain a high output but I’m still doing a 9to5.
Best aspect of the contemporary art-hustle?
Meeting new people that respond to what I do.
It’s amazing when someone reaches out and let’s ya know that what I’m doing means something and is felt.
I notice lots of artists don’t really engage people and I realize that is probably more than anything a lack of time to do so.
But I try to respond always…sitting at a desk alone for so much of the day makes those interactions a welcome distraction and speaks to a larger community that I’m proud to be a part of.
(Picture below of a cartoon by Danny)
Do you consider what you are making to be ‘art’, ‘design’, re-hashed crap?
Man I used to despise the word ‘art’.
I went to a party about 15 years ago, the guy was an “artist” and he’s in this loft with all his friends and his paintings are all over the walls. As if it wasn’t enough to just have these good people around him he decides to start like throwing all these books into a pile on the floor and do some weird prance around it just begging for even more attention and it just made me sick. It was the dumbest thing I had ever seen. If that was what it took to be an artist I didn’t want anything to do with it.
Flash forward all these years and the word has just become a descriptor and doesn’t accomplish much more than that.
I mean yeah I make art cause in truth I’m not making microwaves or razor blades but beyond that I’m just going home at night and making a glass of bourbon and spending my time doing something that I love, which is drawing and writing.
When and why did you first start making ‘art’ (drawings, paintings, anything)?
Very very young and all my life but there are gigantic gaps in there.
There was a guitar when I wanted to run from art cause of my aforementioned disgust or my own personal fear to make something that was truthful.
But I’ve had the pedal to the floor on drawing for the last three years or so.
At first it was medicine and now it’s passion through and through.
What did you draw as a pre-teen child?
I love comic books.
(Picture below of Batman by Danny)
What did you draw as a teen?
Any pivotal artistic moment/influence?
I could fit what I know about art into a baby jar.
I know what has influenced me certainly but I have trouble engaging in art conversations.
I have an idea about lineage but I’ve never wanted to know details when it comes to art.
Far more of my pivotal moments were influenced by music.
Why + when did you decide to go in on the art hustle?
Three years ago I got robbed and dumped on the same day and realized that I had absolutely nothing to call my own and the only thing I had ever been remotely good at, drawing, I never ever did. So I started drawing again as a way to prove to myself that I had an ounce of personal worth.
As far as the hustle part…that just kinda happened on it’s own.
It’s pretty amazing what a person can do when they are making something true and their proud of.
It’s maybe misunderstood that some of my sappy, emotional pieces are me wallowing. It’s a bit the opposite…far be it of me to claim that I’m teaching anything but I am definitely trying to show people that it’s ok to get it out. It’s ok to say what ya want. It’s ok to dedicate time to the dark things that maybe upset ya a bit, especially when you can turn those moments into a positive simply by releasing it out into the open.
Describe the method of making a Daniel White work? (dot point all o.k.)
• light cigarette
• sip bourbon
• draw what I see
(Pictures below of Danny getting his drink on)
Please describe your experiences growing up in the USA?
Beyond our political system being run on influential money and archaic religious beliefs I’d say America kicks ass.
Sure there are issues but what people forget is that in this country we actually can change things if we really want to. It just requires us to be alert, informed and willing to coalesce around sound principles and good judgment.
I’m a liberal and I’m fully aware that someone on the other side is gonna have a totally different consideration of principles and judgment.
But our government is kinda like this Frankenstein monster that is off the gurney and rampaging through the village.
That just makes it harder for the opposing points of view in this country to come together and find common ground.
You also release apparel such as patches and t-shirts – any desire to transform this into a full brand, or just the occasional releases?
Part of me would love to create this BIRDS IN BOXES brand that encompasses all sorts of things and fosters a community.
But…I also have only so many hours in a day to draw and business things have a way of eating that time up by the mouthful.
So for the time being it’s nice to say to someone that maybe can’t spend 100 bucks on an original drawing that they can spend 15 bucks and get a cool tee.
(Pictures below of some ‘Birds In Boxes’ patches and a t-shirt co-released with ‘Huff Dust‘)
What is it like living and working in the Rotten Apple aka New York?
It’s fucking amazing.
Constant inspiration being here.
I’d like to expand on some of your comments in the interview you did with ‘Amadeus Mag’ back in September 2014…
* what does punk mean to you – both as a subculture and musical genre?
Embracing fear. That can be takin literally…first few times I heard punk rock it scared the shit out of me.
I remember seeing a poster of the Sex Pistols and looking at the singer made me feel strange.
And musically it’s about embracing fear, cause in most cases their not singing about lollipops and flowers. Their singing about the dirt and the ease at which they have been cast aside and forgotten. They sing about rallying and sticking to your guns and at a certain age you don’t even know what kind of weapon you are.
Now this isn’t always true, the Ramones had a song about ‘wanting you around’ and I’m not sure that was political. But looking past the words it’s just that sound that inspires me.
We’ve grown so far past all that at this point but there was a day when the sound of distortion and anger was an entirely new thing for most music listeners. Speed, aggression, disaster, decay…there’s a true marker there that separates punk from pop and I kinda admire it. As much as I can at least.
And for the record I am not a punk. I’m not a poster boy for that movement. I listen to all kinda of music. But when it came time to use songs in my drawings as a way to express what I felt, early punk rock to me is the most unforgiving way of doing that. It’s true.
* what, if anything, did you learn from the “heartbreak” you mention?
Cynically? Never to trust or believe in anyone but yourself because people change and hide what they really want in order to attain physical objects regardless of the fact that you will die some day alone in your own skin and take nothing with you to the other side.
So why not try to be happy with yourself before you try to be made happy by someone else.
Optimistically? I suppose I better understand what it means to love someone.
But that’s a case by case right? I can’t just give a private love to someone without trust.
So maybe I better understand what trust means as opposed to love. Might be one in the same or part and parcel…
…ask me again when I’m willing to say those words to someone. I will prob have a different answer. Or not.
* You state: “I’ve given some explanations about certain pieces but I also want the viewer to a join their own life to what they see.”
… what are your thoughts on artistic meaning and it’s formation?
It’s internal to the max so even if I explained all the nuances about a certain piece and the varying levels of thought it’s pretty moot when a viewer looks at it and sees none of that. And I love that.
If I wanted to be 100% blatant I would just straight up pen a memoir but gosh that’s never been my intention.
I can only hope that when someone looks at something I’ve done I’m the last person they are thinking about.
(Picture below of some pen and ink work by Danny)
* you hint at a love of comics – specifically classic superheroes – what role did comics play in your artistic and personal development and why?
Comics are and have always been huge for me.
They are fun and endlessly inventive.
It’s movie making without all the distractions and financiers.
Comics allow me to either disappear when I read one or take complete control when I create one.
I’m trying to find some balance between comic books and gallery art. It’s taking a single image and adding to it so I can say more…as much as I want. Or as little as I want.
I love how comics are either completely fucking disposable or completely cherished and poly bagged with a cardboard backing for eternity.
Imagine if that same aesthetic applied to the Mona Lisa or to the Constitution. It’s either a holy artifact or something folded up and molded behind a couch somewhere. That divergent degree of opinion is kinda comforting to me.
Odds n Ends
What role did toys play in your childhood?
A gigantic role. I love toys. Action figures are aces.
Toys are like one of the few things that aren’t emotional to me, their just cool as fuck.
(Pictures below of a painting of a Boba Fett action-figure, painted by Danny)
Who was your 1st crush and why?
Probably all the women in lingerie that would run around with Benny Hill on his show.
Does sex change everything?
If it does your doing something wrong. Or ok, it’s an important moment between people but I would much rather sit around and share a laugh after sex than say “I wuv youuu” and other such nonsense.
I just think it should be fun and natural and part of life, not this monumental statement about what you stand for.
Life is short, enjoy it.
Please describe your latest dream in detail…
I don’t generally remember my dreams but when I was younger I would always dream about merry go rounds. Like a lot.
Have you ever tried psychedelics of any sort? And what was the experience like?
Sure I have and it was great.
It’s like stepping into an imagination machine and charting a corse for the stars.
It’s different every time but I’ll say this, taking a hit of acid and leaning against a speaker cabinet blasting James Brown will absolutely correct your universal timing. It’s like making time.
Of everything you have done what would you most like to be remembered for and why?
Just for having been a good son and friend. Not much else really matters.
(Picture below of some panel art by Danny)
Drugs – waste of time or gateway to the universe?
All depends on what you bring with you when ya try shit like that.
If your a positive person you may just be able to galvanize what you find and use it to better yourself.
Escape is fantastic but if you can’t deal with reality at all you could get lost.
Please describe what you think the American Psyche/Zeitgeist is today?
I maybe had a better handle on this when I watched the news and cared about the charts.
Any collaborations on the horizon?
Yes! Working on a book right now with the fine folks at Super Classy Publishing that should be finished early next year.
I’m really pulling for a collaboration with this exquisite silk screening company that I won’t name in case it jinxes it.
And an incredible gallery called the Cotton Candy Machine in Brooklyn may be selling my tee shirt.
Any major projects you want to hype man?
My book ‘1976’ is my main goal and project.
I’m breaking it down into four smaller books, the first of which will be available very shortly.
Other than that I hope folks on Instagram check out @birdsinboxes
Most every new thing I do goes up there and i really do appreciate the folks that stick around and take the time to comment.
(Picture below of a panel from Danny’s upcoming project ‘1976’)