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 breakdance and graffiti, which led to contemporary circus performance. 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. The result is a pure expression of the inside of my mind. I work as a creator and 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 on my latest show – Heartcorps – Riders of the Storyboard.
What does a typical ‘day in the life’ look like for you?
Staring at screens, yoga, screaming at the sun.
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. HR GIger, Moebius and Alex Grey are examples. I have no interest in trends in design.
How would you describe your tastes?
Gothic futurism, psychedelic, mystical, childish, mess, Victorian, sacred, occult, neon, desert, ancient, laser.
What type of project do you enjoy working on?
I am happiest in the creation of my own universe of worlds and characters. I enjoy 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 small budget and enjoyed the rough “DIY” look of the outcome. Lately, I have been lucky enough to be contracted to work with much larger budgets, and found myself feeling like I needed to produce a more polished product – while the client usually wants my signature mess! It’s very hard to translate that authenticity to a high-end production.
Truthfully, whilst I respect others’ creative visions, I know that the best outcome will be if I’m left alone to do what I want.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
I am currently directing my own immersive walk-through experience – Heartcorps – Riders of the Storyboard. It’s a cross between an art gallery and a (very modern) circus show. Projection mapping will bring my 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?
Seriously Stop Copying.
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. If you want to do something original and disrupt things, I would avoid learning other people’s techniques and teach yourself. I’m not here for the money, I only care about giving people goose bumps.
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?
I suppose I’ve always existed on the darker side, both emotionally and aesthetically.
In recent years, meditation and spirituality are helping me step into the light, and with that I have subconsciously started using a wider and brighter colour palette and more empathic themes.
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, Terence McKenna recordings).
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”?
This has honestly never happened to me. 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?
I owe my career to social media. Facebook is an incredible tool and I would say entirely responsible for getting my work seen by some very influential producers.
Literally, from me posting a video once, I can reach a million people through the sharing function. I am so grateful that I was able to miss out on the days of shaking hands at parties and handing out business cards to make connections.
Instagram has been fantastic for reaching a broader audience and for learning about new, inspiring artists. My best advice for building a following on Instagram, is to “like” and comment on the works of others you admire, and also those of beginners who are exhibiting a similar spirit. People will almost always check out your page and likely follow if your page seems like a source of inspiration. Always make sure your page as a whole conveys your style in one quick look, avoiding personal pictures if possible.
Do you have time to do anything creative in your spare time?
Happily, spare time and work time are all the same thing in my life. I like and recommend yoga to all. Gratitude.
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.