a dandypunk has many strings to his bow in terms of the creative world. He is an alumnus from Sundance’s New Frontier Story Lab 2014, and works with the Cirque du Soleil as a designer and creator and has had an artist residency at Walt Disney Imagineering.
The name a dandypunk is described as ‘a character from the fictional universe of his own creation’, with the name being taken from dandy – a late 20th century English term for persons who consider themselves to be arbiters of culture, refinement and wit and punk – an attitude of rebellion against tradition, with a strong D.I.Y mentality.
Tell us about your career. What led you to the work you’re doing now?
I came from a background in contemporary circus theatre. As it became clear that my body was not going to last forever, I decided to try and mix my passions for illustration and movement with technology and storytelling. I am grateful to have worked as a designer for Cirque du Soleil and had an artist residency at Walt Disney Imagineering last year. I was also chosen to work with Sundance’s New Frontier Story Lab.
What does a typical ‘day in the life’ look like for you?
Cold showers, hot yoga, pushing pixels around a screen and making tiny worlds out of light, because that seems like a somewhat sustainable resource.
What type of design inspires you at the moment?
Anything that seems to have come from another plane of existence. An artist who has travelled into their subconscious and brought something back that no-one else has seen before. Moebius and Alex Grey are examples.
How would you describe your tastes?
Gothic futurism, eco, psychedelic, mystical, messy, Victorian, sacred, occult, neon, desert, ancient, laser.
What type of project do you enjoy working on?
I am happiest collaborating with kind, empathic people, using a mix of media including projection, illustration, sculpture, live performance and magic to tell a story.
Do you enjoy working within limitations, or do you prefer to be given full creative control?
I became quite good at creating with a little or no budget and enjoyed the rough “DIY” look of the outcome. I like to “upcycle” found materials and reuse paper and cardboard etc. So in truth this aesthetic was born from creative limitations. Now occasionally a company with a larger budget will want to try and recreate that look by throwing money at it, and it rarely has the authenticity to work.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
I am currently collaborating with some other talented artists on an immersive walk-through experience. It’s a cross between an art gallery and a (very modern) circus show. Projection mapping will bring illustrations to life, as if walking through the pages of a giant graphic novel. Dancers and acrobats will perform and interact in close proximity to the audience.
What would be your one tip for design?
Don’t worry about who gets credit for what, just make the best possible thing together.
What does the phrase “timeless design” mean to you?
Would it look beautiful to a feral child with no context of human culture to place it? Nature has a much better idea than we do.
What advice would you give to those looking to pursue a career in design?
I didn’t go to college; I’m torn on whether you should or not. It seems like a good way to get a job in a design company if that is what you want (and a lot of the time I wish i did). If you want to do something really original, I would avoid learning other people’s techniques and teach yourself. I’m didn’t come for the money, I care mostly about human connection and emotions.
In September 2013, academics at the University of Oxford published a report detailing the likelihood that robots will take over many professions. Do you think this could happen to design and creative work?
Technically yes. I’m pretty sure A.I. could replicate almost any artistic technique both digital and analogue and also come up with “original” concepts with some kind of random combination algorithm.
I believe it could learn how to play on a human’s emotions by referencing what has worked for other great artists throughout the centuries.
The only two things that might not be replaceable in my opinion, are the idea of the “happy mistake” that often leads to exciting breakthroughs in art and design, and the stroke of the human hand.
To summarize, I think a lot of technical jobs will be replaced but creative directors will still be needed to conceptualize projects.
Does your mood or mind-set influence what you design?
Extremely. Unfortunately I battle with quite severe anxiety and depression and my creative work became an escape from my own mind (a classic artist’s story!). I’m so grateful that I am able to have that expression, where so many others who suffer do not. My work always carries an underlying melancholy but it comes from a place of love and hope.
Is there anything special that helps you stay focused?
I listen to podcasts when I am working on something tedious that doesn’t require my full attention (Tim Ferris, Duncan Trussell, Russell Brand).
Whilst in creation mode, I prefer to listen to meditation music to try and achieve a “flow state”. Sometimes I will listen to the same song on repeat, which can work quite well with creative writing.
What happens when you hit the proverbial “designers block”?
I just daydream and try out hundreds of strange combinations in my mind. There are infinite novel combinations of things floating in the aether, all you have to do is catch one…
What do you think of social platforms like Instagram when it comes to sharing artwork? Do you have any recommended follows?
Instagram is the only platform I use now, I love the simplicity and the (relatively) kind and friendly nature of the user interactions. It certainly can lead to an over stimulation of inspiration (if that’s possible). I love being able to show a little bit of something in a short video clip rather than a polished finished product. I love the artists @artistrash, @bordalo_ii, @rogerballen and @dieantwoord all of whom have embraced a somewhat messy, childlike style that speaks to my soul.
Do you have time to do anything creative in your spare time?
Right now any spare time I have I prefer to spend with my family or working on my inner self.
Are there any other creative mediums or forms of art you’d like to explore?
AR (Augmented Reality) is very interesting to me, much more so than VR (Virtual Reality). I love the idea of enhancing a live experience in nature rather than being fully inside a video game. I have had a few chances to work with VR but it hasn’t really grabbed me yet. “The Void” in Utah (an immersive experience that mixes a solid set similar to laser tag with VR headsets) is something I could get into creating content for.