ART: Local Artist Danny Devine Opens "Just My Imagination" (A Draw 365 Show)

Danny Devine in his studio 
Before I met local artist Danny Devine, I was already very familiar with his work.  I've had friends say wonderful things about him, I've seen his work everywhere, we even spoke on Facebook, but it took about 2 months for us to actually meet.  He was like this phantom artist who I was a huge fan of and that I desperately needed to talk to!  Finally, we were able to align our schedules for a much anticipated interview.  This interview came at a great time because this Saturday (March 31st), Danny will be opening a show called Just My Imagination (A Draw 365 Show) at Gallery 4 in Shadyside from 7-10 pm.  This show focuses on a year long project where Devine made a piece of art everyday for 365 days. When I met Devine, I realized how much of a down-to-earth, and very friendly person he is! Finally, one balmy Pittsburgh night, over a few PBR's, Devine hashed out the details of his work...

The PGH Look:  Alright, so you go by Danny Devine, do you want to explain a little what that means?

Danny Devine: That is my government name.

TPL: Like your real last name is Devine?  That's awesome.. 

DD: My mom and dad hooked me up.

TPL: (Laughs) That is the best natural name I've ever heard.  Are you originally from Pitsburgh? 

DD: I am from Highland Park.

TPL:  So we talked a little bit about you going to IUP and there you studied printmaking, but how long have you been doing what you've been doing? 

DD: art?

TPL: Yeah like this form of art..

DD: Well..I did that water color when I was 3 [points over to a water color painting on the wall], so I've been doing it for a while.  I started drawing heavily, on a regular basis when I was 16, I went to Peabody, did graffiti in the late 90's/early 2000's and that required a lot of drawing, then I went to college and honed skills in other forms of art - I got a little more abstract, a little more intellectual.

TPL: What made you want to do the street styled type of art, I guess this kind of goes into a different type of question: The things you were showing me downstairs [where Danny is keeping all his pieces for the 365 Show], are very in-depth, the lettering has lots of layers and perspectives, and detail..why that style of art, how did you come about doing that?

DD: Ummm. [pause] I don't know?  It's just kinda what I've always done, since I was like a teenager.  I was drawing letters and then taking them to a the script letters, I started doing that in 2003 - I've done a lot , there's like thousands and thousands of those, and they're popular and fun to do, and kinda therapeutic now, now I'm kinda sick of them but if I get a commission, I'll probably do it [laughs] just cuz it's fun.

Day 1 of Devine's "Draw a Day" project 

TPL: Downstairs you were telling me how sometimes, you like to keep your letters black and white, in fact in 2008 you did a coloring book called "Alphabetastics.."When people look at your art do you want people to understand it, or take what they find from it?  

DD: Umm, I'd like them to take what they find from it, the coloring book was fun because it took months to do and I could do it where ever I went and it was good for studies, and like adding and subtracting things, from the layout where it wasn't a whole word it was just like a letter so you could do whatever you want to the page and it developed the style pretty significantly over that period in  time.  And I think more people have bought it and not colored it honestly...

TPL: Do you still have more copies of that?

DD: I have one right there [points to the mantle] and I'm hopefully going to get like 50 to 100 more for the show.

Alphabetastics by Danny Devine 

TPL: Who are some of your biggest influences?  

DD:  Hmm....that's a tough regards to my style or just like work ethic?..

TPL:  I guess both, just who are some people, they don't even have to be famous artists or anything, it could be anyone.

DD: Well my friend Matt Hunter, who is a local artist, he taught me how to do what I do, pretty much.  He like...we started doing art together when I was 17, he was 16, then we kinda developed....he's very very good [laughs] he's f***in awesome.  And just working with him made me push myself a lot more than I think I would I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing without him.  And my friend Cameron Clayton, his illustrations and his black and white style, and just his attention to detail and composition is absolutely f***ing insane.   And I really like his work.  I dunno, there's tons of early pop artists, like those Vogue magazine covers [referring to an old book of vintage Vogue magazine covers on his desk] those are awesome.  Just in terms of like sheer volume it's probably the pop artists because they just like cranked it out.

One of two drawing desks.  

TPL: So what is your opinion of the graffiti scene both locally and internationally?  

DD: People are pushin' it pretty hard.  I like street bombing.  It's fun.

TPL: What is that? 

DD: Like uh, just tags and throw-ups and so forth.  On the streets, on highways, I haven't done that in a very long time so I have to live vicariously through them you know what  I mean?  And it's fun to look at, it's fun to see like new stuff, there's so much of it that's just bad and awful, but I enjoy most of it.  Pittsburgh had a crazy scene there for a while, it's always.....kind of.....fizzled out, like some people went to jail for long stretches of time.  So that's when I kinda hung it up.

TPL: Right.  Umm...So do you prefer working alone or do you like to collaborate?

DD: Uh, it depends on the project, like I have friends that I like to draw with like my friend Matt, I love drawing with him.  I've done collaborations, collaborating on big wall murals is fun but I haven't been doing that recently, I just like to draw by myself and paint by myself.

Danny Devine's drawing desk  
TPL: What is you favorite piece of work you've ever done?

DD:  Oooo.  I have no idea......Hmmm....

TPL: You showed me a piece just downstairs from the 365 that you said was your favorite...

DD: Well, I think my favorite piece that I've done was the first felt Primanti Brothers sandwich I did.  Did you see those?

TPL: Ooooo, no!

DD:  Awww man, they're f***in so funny.   I did them to order, I only did like 28 to start but.....[shows me the felt Primanti Bros sandwich]

TPL:  Oh that is so cool! 

A felt Primanti Bro's Sandwich by Danny Devine  (and the Vogue covers book too) 

DD:  So you order whatever you want off the menu and they're like 20 bucks, and then like if you want fried egg on it, it's 50 cents, if you want double meat it's like a dollar, like whatever it costs on the menu. So I think that was my,  that was my favorite, just cuz it was so quirky...

TPL: It is, it's very different from anything I've seen you do.

DD: Yeah it's kinda funny, I did a felted piece of Gucci Mane's face for a friend in Boston once.

TPL:  So, next Friday you are opening "Just My Imagination...."

DD:  Next Saturday...

TPL: Next Saturday!  I'm sorry, next Saturday you are opening "Just My Imagination: A Draw 365 Show," so what made you want to the draw-a-days?  How did you come about doing this?

DD: Umm..I was kind of. [his phone buzzes] Mm. Hold on. Someone is heckling me about something.  [pause] Oh no!  One of my pieces is being ransomed!  I gave away the one piece to my friend, in the beginning [laughs then reading] "$300 or your show fails"  [laughs] the ransom money....[laughs] no no no,  it's being dropped off somewhere for me.  I'm sorry what was you're question?

TPL: Just how did you go about doing the 365, what made you want to do a draw-a-day?

DD: There's this kid that, his name is the Almighty Swerve, I dunno his real name, not exactly sure where he's even from, but I followed him on Flikr and all these other places and he was doing his 365 and just seeing - he was doing like faces everyday - and the progression, how much better he got.  I kicked around the idea for a while, and then I had a pen pal in New Mexico that was kicking around the idea to take a picture of graffiti on a freight train everyday for a year, so we started it at the same time.

TPL: How did you stay motivated for a whole year?  Did you find it hard sometimes to do something like that everyday for an entire year?

DD: Yes.  Some of them are really bad, not really really bad, but just really simple.  Like that one right there [points to a small drawing] took me like 45 seconds or something but then like the one the next day took seven hours to do. I have a lot of awesome friends.  And we show our affection for one another by making fun of each other and if I would have quit, I would have gotten heckled for forever.

Pieces for the 365 show.

TPL:  Oh that is a good group of friends you got there!  So you were saying that a lot of your pieces are based off of love, do you find that a lot of your pieces are just like inspired by everyday things happen in your life or where do you think you get most of your inspiration from?

DD: They're definitely pretty autobiographical. Like funny or quirky things, or romantics things, or there's some that are kinda heartbreaking, or just difficult subjects drawn in a more pop style to make them kinda better, therapeutic stuff, and then just some stuff that's just balls out funny/weird.

TPL: I remembered you did the New Year's Eve flyer - I was at the New Years party at Free Ride.

New Years Flyer by Danny Devine 

DD: Yeah, that drunk ass keg?  [laughs] Drinking a martini?  Ah, I missed that show.

TPL:  Did you?

DD: I did!  I always miss the shows I draw flyers for.  I drew a flyer for this show on Saturday, and I'm definitely, definitely going to it [laughs].  I dunno, drawing everyday, I missed a lot of stuff, and I should be used to it- doing something everyday but it's just, I took a lot of commissions, and just trying to work a second 40 hour week on top of that is definitely, on top of working 40 hours a week! It's definitely time consuming.  You don't sleep very well when you try to make your brain work like 16 hours a day, everyday.

TPL: I ask this question in all my interviews, just because this is The Pittsburgh Look, and we're trying to give Pittsburgh a good name here, so what is your favorite thing about Pittsburgh?  

DD: I love everything about Pittsburgh.  I decided that I didn't want to go to grad school, I didn't wanna move anywhere else and I wanted to stay here because Pittsburgh has everything I need at this point.  You can drive 25 miles outside the city and there's just depressed buildings and abandoned train tracks, and steel mills that are either abandoned or still going that are completely photogenic, just absolutely beautiful, and I think that now that Pittsburgh's the new Portland or whatever, I like the more post-industrial stuff more. I like rust, I like bridges, I like river spots, there's nothing like drinking beer under a bridge when it's like 60 degrees out with your friends, like that's just, that's it.  There's nothing else that's better than that.  You know the sense of like adventure and camaraderie still exist in Pittsburgh, heavily.  And it's not with everybody but there's a pretty hefty amount of people that are doing it and sometimes leaving their mark in little places, it's like "Motherf***er, I thought I was the only one there.."

TPL: What are some of some of your favorite spots in Pittsburgh, not even to do your thing, but just to go to?

DD: I have a new found appreciation for overlook spots, cuz I'm from the East End, there are no overlook spots.  One of my best friends lives in Mt. Washington so I've seen some pretty interesting overlook spots, anywhere you can see a dope-ass sunset with like a bridge in the background, that's just like silhouetted that's probably it.  That's my spot right there.

TPL: Is there anything else you would like to say about your show?

DD: Yes! My show opens on Saturday March 31st from 7 to 10 pm at the Gallery 4 which is an absolutely phenomenal gallery, like the owner, the employees, they're all awesome, they actually care about art and they care about showing art that most places won't show.  That's what really great, like after a short conversation with the owner Joe Veltri over the phone, I realized that it was an amazing fit for me to do my show there and for me that was a HUGE deal, finding where I was gonna show all this s***and I was like "do you think this is all gonna fit?" and he said "we'll make it fit," you know, like salon style in the 30's...we'll make it fit.  So yeah, I got some good sponsors for it, they got Artists and Craftsmen Supply hooking up all of the matte board, Copies For Less Downtown is doing all the printing, and yeah it should be fun!

TPL: Well I'm excited!  I'll  definitely be there!  Thank you so much!  

DD:  Thank you!


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