Interview: An artist or a graphic designer, or both?

On the heels of releasing his new collection, Explorer, we sat down with Lisbon-based artist/graphic designer Danny Ivan to hear his story about growing up in Portugal, discovering his identity as an artist, and his thoughts on the beauty of digital art.

Cold Tree, part of Danny’s collection, Explorer, on NeonMob

Cold Tree, part of Danny’s collection, Explorer, on NeonMob

Hey Danny! Thanks for taking the time. First off, tell us about where you’re from.

I was born in Caracas, Venezuela but my parents and I moved to Madeira Island, Portugal when I was ten years old. I spent my childhood and young adult years on this cool Portuguese island with excellent weather and a calm life. I moved to Lisbon to study multimedia in university, and now I live in this beautiful city, Lisbon, which has an awesome vibe and a great culture.

How did you get started as an artist?

My life is filled with images and sounds and I’ve always loved technology. When I was younger, I played with cameras, computers, and software. I used technology to do art at times, but I never took it too seriously. When I started university, I was searching for my visual identity and creating art every day. I was aware of other art and artists, but I was more focused on finding my own identity. Some close friends advised me to try uploading my art to various sites online. People started buying my work, so I started accepting commissioned works. But actually, I don’t identify as an artist, but rather a graphic designer with an artistic touch.

Color Husky, by Danny Ivan

Color Husky, by Danny Ivan

I don’t see you that way, your work feels very much like art to me — what’s the difference to you between being an artist and a graphic designer?

That’s a good question. I feel like I’m more of a graphic designer because I use lot of geometry and rules in the construction of my graphical process. I avoid having a random feeling to my work. I guess the difference between an artist and a graphic designer is an artist can have some freedom to communicate his or her feelings and thoughts, while a graphic designer needs to respect the brands, products, and projects he is working on.

OK. What’s the art scene like in Portugal?

The art scene in Portugal is changing everyday. We have a vibrant culture here with film and music festivals, pop culture stuff, and amazing galleries for sculpture and painting. We have international artists on the graffiti scene too, like Os Gemeos. I regularly visit museums and galleries and I always find great works in so many expressions. In Portugal we have amazing people doing illustrations for childrens’ books, like the publisherPlaneta Tangerina (Best Children’s European Publisher) or people who work for the New York Times and The New Yorker. There are major brands who love Portuguese artists.

Do you feel that Portugal and Portuguese culture is overlooked internationally a lot?

I feel we are growing in many areas. We hear stories about successful Portuguese people all over the world, but there is still progress to make.

Changing courses here, what inspires your geometric, colorful style?

Definitely cubism. I love bold people and bold emotions, so my colorful style represents all people who have positive and bold emotions like happiness or excitement in all actions of their life.

Vanishing Point, by Danny Ivan

Vanishing Point, by Danny Ivan

You create a lot of digital art. Is digital your preferred medium?

I only create digital art. I love the idea that an image can reach many people, that people can bring your art into their home or life by using your art as a wallpaper or printing it for a mobile case. My dream is for all people to have easy access to art.

What do you think is the future of digital art?

We’ve been able to create awesome things with paper and plasticine for a long time, but now we can create amazing art with tablets. I see opportunities expanding in the near future for artists because now we can showcase our work on digital platforms. When everyone has the ability to create using digital tools, we will all have to push harder to create something new and different, so this is a good thing for the art world.

What art trends are you totally sick of seeing?

Polygon art. Though I do love when somebody can do something different in that style (one example is Maxim Shkret).

Who are your favorite artists?

I have a lot, but my favorites are Andy GilmoreNeil Krug and Leif Podhajsky.

What else should we know about you?

I volunteer to teach young people from disadvantaged backgrounds how to make movies.

What kind of life do you want?

I don’t want an artist’s life. I’m a simple guy who wants a simple life with love, harmony and peace. Nowadays it is hard to have all of these.

Good luck and thank you Danny!