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A Magazine for Sheffield

Dan McCarthy: Screen printing extraordinaire

Gracing our pages this month is the work of Massachusettsbased artist Dan McCarthy. Although his submissions to Now Then are screen prints, all of his work begins with pencil in hand, and he also often harnesses the power of the paint brush. Dan is a prolific and driven artist, running the popular Dan McCarthy Print Club (more on that below) from his print shop in Falmouth MA, as well as producing screen printed posters for music and film, and T-shirts featuring his most popular designs. He recently created a poster design for TV series 'Lost', as well as for Paddy Considine's newest film 'Tyrannosaur'. We caught up with Dan via transatlantic email to talk about his approach to art, where his inspiration comes from and why he loves screen printing so much. What started you creating? I've been drawing and painting since I was a little kid. My mother is an artist and musician, and my brother and sister and I were always doing something creative, whether it was making art or playing music. My parents have always been supportive and I feel really lucky to have that strong foundation. Tell us about the pieces you have submitted for this issue of Now Then. They are mostly screen prints printed on paper. The number of colours used for each print is around 4-7 and the edition sizes vary from 500-650. How do you approach starting a new piece? First, I need to come up with an idea that I like and that has personal meaning to me. Ideas come to me from all over place - a conversation with a friend, something I'll hear on TV, a lyric from a song or just something I'm thinking about. I am always taking notes for potential titles or sketching out rough ideas. When the time is right to create a new piece of art, I look through my notes and usually find something that fits with how I'm feeling at that particular moment, then start drawing. You work in a variety of different mediums - paintings, drawings, screen prints, gig posters. How do you decide which medium will best suit a specific concept for a new piece? Most of my concepts are created to be screen printed. I choose to paint or draw when I have a gallery show on my schedule. I try to show as many original pieces as I can. I love painting and I wish I had more time to do it. Screen printing takes up most of my time. It seems like I'm always either creating the next idea or printing. How has your work evolved over time? Technically, I'm a better illustrator and I'm becoming more aware of how to use light and shadow. A lot of my earlier work was simpler and mostly silhouettes. Also, I am a better printer. I've been printing for over ten years and I feel like I learn something new each time I print. Discovering how to use translucent colors opened up a whole new realm of possibilities for me. What is it about screen printing that appeals to you most? The printing process is very satisfying for me. I love layering the colours one by one and it is a great feeling to put down the final colour and have a stack of finished prints. The repetition is crazy, but for some reason my brain is equipped to handle it. When I'm doing a print run, I go onto auto-pilot and my mind goes somewhere else. I come up with a lot of ideas when I'm printing. I think it helps me with the creative process. [imagebrowser id=18] Tell us about the Dan McCarthy Print Club. The print club is an art print subscription. Each month I design and screen print an art print. If you join the print club you get a year's worth of prints. I originally started it to get me motivated to make more prints. It can be hard to make time for art after college when you have a job. I thought if I could get a few people to join, I would have to commit to making 12 pieces of art. The first year was a lot of fun and I felt better having made more art, so I decided to do another year. I'm in the middle of the eighth year of doing it and I'm really happy it's still working out. It's amazing to me that people join not knowing exactly what they are going to get. It's a good feeling knowing that people have faith that I will create something they will like (most of the time). I feel like I'm on a journey, letting the art take me wherever it wants to. It's cool to have others on the journey with me. What other artistic media are important to you as an artist? I love music. I've been playing drums (and some guitar) for most of my life. Making and listening to music is very important to me. I also love movies - science fiction in particular. How do you spend your days? I wake up around 7am when my two year old son jumps on my back. I drink coffee and hang out at home with my wife and boy until around 10, then I go to my print shop. When I'm there, I'm either working on a new design, printing, shipping out orders or answering emails. I get home around 5, eat dinner and take it easy for the rest of the night (watch TV/movie/video game). What subject or theme do you return to most in your work? I like to explore the cyclical nature of life and death and rebirth. I think that will be a recurring theme for the rest of my career. What are you working on at the moment? I have a gallery show coming up in July at Gallery 1988 in Los Angeles, so I'm working on some new paintings. I have about 30 done so far and I'm hoping to have around 50. I work best under pressure. I'm also getting ready to print my latest design 'Run Rabbit Run'. It's an eight-colour print, so I'm getting ready to burn eight screens. When did you become self-employed and what advice do you have for aspiring artists looking to carve out a career in art? I worked as a graphic designer in Boston for about four years. I lost my job in 2004 and did everything I could to not have to get a new job. Thankfully, I was able to pay rent by selling prints and taking some freelance work. It seemed like the more work I created, the more opportunities would come to me. I would tell an aspiring artist to create a presence on the web, whether it's a website or just on Facebook. It's so easy to share your art with the world and you never know what opportunities can come your way. Good advice you wish you'd been told earlier? Disconnect the internet at least four hours a day. )

Next article in issue 51

Sound The Vinyl Straw.

If you're within easy reach of any kind of low-resolution image of an animal/celebrity/religious figure with a sarcastic 'COOL STORY, BRO'…

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