Recently I had the pleasure of coming across a certain artist while browsing online one day, and boy was I astounded by his work and personality. The artist I’m referencing is the Nate Van Dyke, and I do mean the. He’s worked for, amongst many others; Scion, Sparks, Gap, Converse, IFC, and EMI records, and has been in art shows the globe over. His work conveys as, in my own words; fresh, daring, and richly detailed (if i had to choose three qualities), further more he can complete a project for a client and still maintain a completely personal watermark on everything he creates. He’s truly an artist’s artist, which is exceedingly rare to come across these days. In my crossing paths with Mr. Van Dyke, what stuck out most? First of all, his work, the way he flirts with extremes like morbidity or his larger than life monkey creation, Dutch really shows a new perspective in the art world. Also, unlike what one would assume, for a WELL known artist, he’s highly approachable, and was kind enough to grant me an interview, so here’s to catching up, with Nate Van Dyke:
Rap: what is an ideal client?
Nate: An ideal client for me is one who lets me do what I do best. They give me a couple guidelines to follow but allow me the artistic freedom to create the best piece I can. The more rules and backseat driving a client does the stiffer and crappier a piece turns out.
Rap: which client has, or did most surprise you?
Nate: The magazine illustrations I did for OXM were a pleasant surprise. They ended up giving me a good deal of freedom and I had a great time doing the work because I was always doing something different, each month. I became great friends with the art director and we had a great volley of ideas and art. I really enjoyed doing those drawings each month.
Rap: what project are you most proud of?
Nate: I think, as a whole, the work I did for Converse shoes. The tv commercial, advertising illustration and shoe design. I did it through the advertising agency, BSSP, and they gave me all the freedom in the world and in turn got some great work out of me.
Rap: what inspires you, and your work in turn, most?
Nate: It’s a tricky question in some ways because I often feel that I may not actually be inspired but a lot of the work I create is almost on auto-pilot. When you are working on something new everyday or every other day you don’t really have time to think. You just have to do it. I will say that I get my best thinking and ideas when I am alone. Often out and about walking through the park with a beer. My ideas come clearer and freely.
Rap: how do you perceive your audience? client? objectively or subjectively?
Nate: I try not to think too much about what other people think. Obviously, when working for a client you have to put their needs and ideas into consideration. I’ve learned over the years that the best way to please the audience is to please myself first. If I do some work that I am really proud of it will show. When I put too much consideration into a piece it shows it’s weakness in a way, I believe. Unadulterated all the way.
Rap: if you could work for anyone, person, corporation, etc. at your choice, who would it be, and why?
Nate: I’ve always wanted to do artwork for Metallica and now I am actually getting that chance. It’s too early in the project to give specific details but I’ve always wanted to collaborate with them in some way. I grew up on Metallica from a very young age. They’ve been in my head for over the past 20 years as I’ve created a lot of my work over the years. I can’t draw without music on and to me that is as good as it gets. I’m really excited for this project and can’t wait to see how it develops.
Rap: what is artistic merit to you? is any piece of art justifiable just by existence?
Nate: There are good things and bad things about what Picasso created. He changed the rules for the good and bad. He expanded on what art can be but the problem with that is now everyone can go out, buy a canvas, scribble on it and call it art. The thing is that I’m not saying art has to be detailed with correct anatomy and perspective or anything like that. I simply feel as though the lines have been blurred far too much. Everyone seems to want to be an artist but I feel very few actually are.
Rap: what has the most profound effect on a person in your work, what have you noticed as a recurring theme?
Nate: I think the work I do with my chimp character, Dutch, probably strikes a cord with more people than any of my other work. I think they can see a bit of themselves in him. Dutch has a way of tackling ideas that are much greater than the obvious. When I draw him with a chainsaw it’s much more than a simple chimp with a chainsaw. I think the scope of the piece goes deeper than that and people are able to fill it with meaning to suit themselves as well.
Rap: are you more inclined to hold obligation to yourself as a creator, or the project at hand?
Nate: A little bit of both. I think maybe more so myself. At the end of the day I am putting my name on it. I might not be working on the best project all the time but I have to try and make it count. Most people aren’t going to know that the art director was horrible or this, that and the other thing. They look at the piece of art and either like it or not. Some projects might have more turd polishing than others but the trick is to make the most of it and make it count like all the others.
Rap: do you appreciate leeway or direction more in your work?
Nate: I’m all about the leeway. A little direction is fine and I’ll take it from there.
Rap: have you ever walked away from a project? why?
Nate: Yeah, I’ve walked away from a lot of projects. Often time it’s the client not wanting to pay a decent fee or the project itself holds zero interest from me. There are a lot of gigs that crumble towards the end. It’s rare that everything goes right. Generally if I sign up for a gig I am going to see it through to the end.
Rap: what pisses you off most, or have you seen most in clients that do piss you off?
Nate: The shit that pisses me off the most is when you are buddy-buddy with a client and trading e-mails and as soon as you turn in the artwork all of a sudden you can’t get a hold of them. Sometimes it involves chasing down your check which really sucks. I’ve had a lot of clients not really return e-mails after they get what they want and it’s a really crappy feeling.
Rap: if you could re-do any piece you’ve done, would you, which, and why?
Nate: I have a couple in mind I’d like to redo. The truth of it though is once a piece is done I tend to move on. I don’t really check in with pieces years later and ask how the wife and kids are. I see flaws in every single one of my pieces and I think that is one of the ways I gauge to myself that I am slowly getting better, more refined. There are a lot of pieces I think could be redone but I like to look at them more as a time-line rather than an individual. It shows where my level of ability was at that moment and for that reason I like them well enough the way they are.
Rap: do you ever turn something in feeling less than proud, to meet a deadline, or knowing you’ve done enough? or do you strive for the best possible product every time?
Nate: Oh, yeah. I’ve turned in some lemons. One of the things I learned early on in doing freelance and such is that not every piece is going down in history. When my girlfriend asks me upon finishing a piece if I like it I am all too often quoted as saying “It’s good for what it is”. I’d love it if everytime I put pen to paper it turned to gold but it simply isn’t the case. Finish it up, sign it and move on to the next one. That’s all you can really do.
Rap: what inspired you to get into your field most?
Nate: If I wasn’t doing art I’d be dead. There isn’t anything else for me other than maybe a mass murderer or a beer taster. I do art because I can’t NOT do art. It is in me. I didn’t go to career day looking for a gig, this gig was chosen for me.
Rap: who do you most admire? did they influence your career choice?
Nate: I admire like-minded people in the field of art. I love it when I go to a friend’s place or art show and they’ve got all these new ideas and pieces cranked out. It’s inspiring and makes you want to get back into the studio and crank out some new pieces of your own. I never thought I’d work in video games as a concept artist but I find it is a fun way to get paid drawing the type of stuff I already enjoy drawing.
Rap: what advice would you give someone starting out in this field?
Nate: Don’t do it. HA! If they were still listening after that I’d tell them the truth of it is that art is an up hill battle. It’s not something that happens over night. When you hear a new band on the radio the chances are that they’ve been struggling to be heard for the past 8 years. It’s a lot of work and you have to want it. Really want it. Also, the first thing you need to do is to get your own website. Not a Facebook, Flickr or any of that crap but a real site with your name .com.
Rap: at the end of the day, what are you most glad of in your work?
Nate: That it’s honest to who I am. I don’t do it for anyone but myself at the end of the day. I love that I could very well have a new polished piece of artwork at the end of the day and I had nothing to begin with that morning. It’s a satisfying feeling.
Rap: in obtaining perfection, have you, or do you obsess over details? or are you more of a fluid type, in obtaining the desired effect things generally just work out?
Nate: I’ve been called OCD for my attention to details in my inking, specifically. I’ve learned to add a lot more fluid movements into my work which help give it a more natural feeling. I’ve learned to let a piece breathe a little and let it happen a bit more naturally than always trying to shoe horn it into shape.
Rap: what qualities are worst to have in this work? do you note any in yourself?
Nate: Procrastination can be a pretty bad one for myself. Also, everyone has heard the saying that we are our own worst critic and I think that is all to often the case for artists. I beat myself up in the head like you wouldn’t believe. Everyone else might see a fine piece and I see everything wrong with it.
Rap: in perceiving others in your field, how do you look at them? which stick out as forces to be reckoned with?
Nate: The thing I’ve learned in knowing so many other artists is that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. Some people are great with oils but don’t draw all that well and vice versa. When I was younger I used to treat other artists as more of a threat if they were better at some aspect than myself but I have grown to appreciate the differences and commonalities between each other as a whole.
Rap: where do you see yourself in ten years?
Nate: Hopefully still drinking and drawing and continuing to make a name for my personal work.
Admirably candid, no? If you aren’t already, you should be going directly to Nate’s Site to realize the magnitude of his artistry and creations. Looking for something 2D? He’s also got a new book out, called Dutch. Check it out!