Interview with Dan McCarthy: Celebrated Screen Print Artist
Power Lines 1-9 (2003) acrylic on canvas, 12 x 12 each
Lara Cory: There are recurring images in your paintings, art prints, drawings, and posters. We see telephone poles and wires, silhouettes of forests at night, skeletons beneath flower bushes, dotted winter landscapes, bare trees against solid color backgrounds, and houses with the lights left on in the dead of night. What interests you about these specific images, running through your body of work?
Night Air – 5 color screen print (glows in the dark)
Dan McCarthy: Well, I was first attracted to telephone wires and poles because I liked the idea of drawing attention to something that was generally overlooked or ignored. Also, the variety of intersecting lines are a lot of fun to draw. I use skeletons in my works to represent death. Much of my art explores the concept of death and rebirth.
O is for Orchid, oil on linen, 15 x 15
Dan McCarthy: Death is something I think about often. It’s something I fear. But I’m also curious about it. The forests, night skies, and lighted windows are part of my surroundings; I see them all the time. And I feel them. I’ll just stand outside at night and feel inspired to create a piece of art from the feeling I get from standing underneath the stars.
Gloaming, Poughkeepsie, (2007) 48″ x 36″, acrylic on canvas
LC: I love how you’ve established a body of work in a variety of mediums. What types of methods or techniques do you use in your paintings, prints and posters?
Dan McCarthy: Thank you. My posters and prints are screen printed. I start with a pen and ink drawing, and then I scan the drawing into Photoshop and add the color on different layers. From Photoshop, I print out films of each color layer and expose each layer onto a screen. After that, I begin the printing process. All of my paintings share a similar, dominant style. This comes from the careful layering of each color and not using use more than 4 or 5 colors. You could say my painting style is more graphic than painterly.
I’m a Cruise Ship, Dagobah/Helms (2008), 2 color screenprint
LC: Here’s a question you probably get all the time . . . But where do these skills and talents come from? How did you develop into the artist you are today–with a distinct, not to mention extremely popular, line of art prints?
Dan McCarthy: Ha, ha . . . I studied art in Boston (The School of the Museum of Fine Arts). And there, I just took all sorts of classes: drawing, painting, animation, etching, lithography, screen printing. Screen printing really caught my interest. I loved doing it and started making posters for a band I played in, and then I made posters for my friends’ bands and so on . . . Lately I’ve been more focused on creating art prints and paintings. I occasionally do an album cover or two and I’ve illustrated a few book covers.
3 color screen print 15 x 24
LC: Rock posters for Wilco and Andrew Bird. That’s impressive.
Dan McCarthy: Well, it didn’t begin that way. Since I graduated in 1999, I continued printing posters and making art and then I took a graphic design job for a small company. In 2004, I left the company and started working on my own. I became an freelance graphic designer and made screen-printing posters for independent clients. Around that time, I also launched the Print Club, a project in which I design and print an art print every month of the year—which has continued to this day.
Rousseau’s Transmission (for ABC’S LOST) (2010), 6 color screen print, 18″x30″ (2010)
LC: Tell us about your widely-popular LOST poster . . . and are there any other projects in the works?
Dan McCarthy: You know, I loved making the LOST poster. I’m a huge fan of the show and I was extremely excited when at an exhibition of mine in San Francisco, a guy came up to me and asked if I would be interested in being part of the project. These are the details if you’re interested in knowing what it was all about:
In celebration of LOST’s final season and as a project of fan appreciation, 16 top designers and artists, who are also fans of the show, were commissioned to create artwork celebrating one of the series’ most memorable, and unforgettable, “water cooler” moments. This ultimate “fan art” was then turned into labor intensive, hand-pulled screen prints, limited to an edition of just 300, with less than 200 available to the public through our websites. Each beautiful poster tells its own different story, allowing the fan to relive memorable and influential moments in an artistic manner, as the show’s storied run comes to a close. Once this limited edition print has sold out, they will never be printed again. Celebrate the fandom, community and family created by one of televisions’ greatest shows by hanging a little part of it’s history, inspiration and influence on your wall. (from LOST blog)
I was really happy to do it. There are a couple other projects I’m working on . . . but unfortunately I can’t discuss them here.
Sketching: The Animal Kingdom, (2009) 4 color screen print – 25″x19″
LC: Non-disclosure agreement, got it! On another topic, do your favourite artists influence your work? And in what ways?
Dan McCarthy: I am definitely influenced by early Japanese print makers like Hokusia and Hiroshige. I love the simplicity of color and line work. As for subject matter, I feel I am influenced by nearly everything. For example, last night I was watching an episode from the series “Through the Wormhole”. It’s on the Science Channel, and hosted by Morgan Freeman. Just watching it, I was flooded with all sorts of new ideas for my art. Also, I collect Time and Life science books from the 70’s and regularly use the illustrations and photos as inspiration.
We’ll all float on (2008), 2 color screenprint
LC: Well, I just want to thank you for speaking with me. I’ve learned a lot about the growth and development of your career and life as an artist.
Dan McCarthy: My pleasure. Thanks for inviting me to share . . .
Lara Cory recently completed her first novel and she’s starting a food blog. She’s always been interested in music, writing, art, film and books. She studied Communications and Music and lives in Sydney, Australia with her husband and two small boys.