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Daniel Shipton

Artist Spotlight

Presenting everyday objects in a contemporary way, as a piece of fine art, repackages them as treasures worthy of contemplation and acknowledges their inherent, but often overlooked, beauty.

In his works, Daniel Shipton seeks to uncover the gem-like quality of the everyday items that surround us - the things that, when we were a child, still held such a magical aura. He thus infuses his works with a sense of playful nostalgia, using contradictory perspectives and the generally underrated medium of colored pencil to establish a dialogue between the realistic and the abstract, memory and re-interpretation, the whimsical and the thoughtful. In doing so, the artist provokes the viewer to reflect and asks them to re-examine their interpretation of the world around them. 



Q. Did you always want to become an artist? 

A. Like many children I wanted to be a fireman, as a teenager a writer, and after university, I began working in television. However, art very quickly found me, naturally consuming me, willingly making me into an artist as opposed to me setting out and forcing myself to be one. This resulted in a very comfortable relationship with art enabling me to enjoy the creative process. 

Q. Was there a pivotal moment in your career as an artist that made you change direction?

A. Using the sensational and overlooked medium of colored pencil for the first time completely changed my artistic practice. Picking up a pencil, such a humble and underrated medium, and unlocking its potential by embarking on the creation of fine art and realizing a vision, was without a doubt a pivotal moment.

Q. You have stated that your work is ‘designed to please and amuse’, would you say that a certain form of aesthetic entertainment and uplifting sensibility are the main goal of your work? 

A. Yes, I want people to smile when they see my work, I want it to be positive and uplifting. Art can be an intense thing to experience and in asking people to live with my art I feel a sense of duty to enhance the mood of the space in which my work appears and of those that see it. My work and I have a nostalgic sensibility. I think this inbuilt nostalgia is a sentiment of amusement. I do certainly hope the end result of my artistic process is a work that brings about a smile.

Q. Your drawings play with a sense of perspective – within the confinement of one piece, you both zoom in and out on well-known forms, thus giving the viewer the feeling that they are both drawn in and are looking at a scene from a bird’s eye view. What are you looking to achieve with this contradictory pictorial approach? 

A. I like art that intrigues the eye and to play with contradictions; this engages the viewer and is refreshing in its approach. Experimenting with perspective and scale are two ways in which I do this. Asking the question: ‘are we looking at a huge splodge of paint and normal-sized people or a normal-sized splodge of paint and tiny people?’ The very fact that this is a splodge of paint rendered in pencil feels slightly contradictory in itself and invites the viewer to engage in further reflection. 

Q. Your subjects are usually everyday objects that we generally do not pay much attention to - how do you choose them? 

A. Finding beauty in the seemingly mundane or the overlooked is something I explore in my work, both in its subject matter and in my choice of pencil as a medium. The subject matter of my art is often an item that evokes a nostalgic feeling of warmth, or amusement, or that reminds of a certain place in time. Presenting these everyday objects in a contemporary way, as a piece of fine art, repackages them as treasures worthy of contemplation and acknowledgment for their inherent, but often overlooked, beauty. I can be walking down the street, at a market, or in a shop when I happen across an object that evokes this feeling. 

Q. Could you describe your artistic process? 

A. In terms of subject matter, I find a pathway forms in front of me, one piece naturally leads to another. It's also a matter of problem solving, how do I scale a piece? Where do I start? What new  technique do I try? All of these are decided by instinct in that very moment, that’s how I continue to evolve and learn… something that should never stop.

Q. What is your favourite time of day or setting to work in? 

A. I work in short bursts when I can, I like to take regular breaks so the piece feels fresh to me and is given the attention it deserves. As for setting, my studio is the place to be with perfect light, music and a ready supply of coffee and biscuits.

Q. Parts of your drawings showcase an impressive hyperrealistic technique, while others remain rather abstract, thus creating a field of tension between realism and surrealism. How would you categorize your own works? Or are you looking to defy categorization? 

A. I don’t seek to defy or be in line with any particular category; I create what feels right in a way that suits my eye. Categories emerge in my body of work only after the creation of a piece but not consciously during their conception or execution. I see my work as a melting pot of influences such as pop art, surrealism, realism, and abstraction, and often these all come together in one piece. It’s only natural to be informed by what has come before, but I do not deliberately seek to follow or defy any movement, I simply create as it comes.

Q. Could you tell us a bit about your gemstone pieces, these are not your usual everyday objects,  how did you come to choose these precious stones as your subject matter? 

A. So the jewels were the starting point for my exploration of coloured pencil as a medium. It was while creating these that I started really noticing and remembering those everyday items that have a similar jewel like quality. As a result of this, I found new subject matter and pathways to explore. The pieces are often collected and hung together to emphasise this similarity.

Q. Your work definitely invites the viewer to pause and take a closer look, is this an effect you consciously look to produce? And if so, does therein lie a message you would like to convey? 

A. Yes, I want to engage the eye - for people to take a second, third, fourth look and to keep looking. This gives my work longevity and provides a rewarding experience far beyond a first glance to the viewer. As for a message, that’s for the viewer to interpret. My work entails a significance for me which I can and do talk about, but recently I’ve come to think that meanings are rather for the viewer to create. Like taking pictures of the clouds, a viewer will always derive their own personal message from a work, so I don’t feel it is necessarily right to already present them one. Giving someone the opportunity to think for themselves might be just as valuable as conveying a specific meaning.

Q. Is there a certain form of ‘universal memory’ you seek to tap into? Or are your choices rather  based on personal nostalgia? 

A. There is definitely a universal unconsciously shared set of experiences and items that surround us that all have a very personal resonance for the viewer. Art, much like music, a favourite meal, or even a smell can trigger a memory of a place or time in life. In my work, I try to trigger some of these and bring them into consciousness creating a warm and fulfilling experience. 

Q. Occasionally, you introduce other materials into your work, such as gold leaf or glitter - a stark contrast to the drawings in pencil - what are you looking to achieve with this mix of media? 

A. The use of other mediums principally acts as an artistic pallet cleanser for my mind. If I play with a new medium for a while, and then I return to pencil, it feels new, fresh, and exciting again.

Q. Do you think you would ever be tempted to switch to another medium entirely or are you looking to find  the ultimate limits of working in pencil? 

A. Right now, I love working in coloured pencil, the magnificent medium that enables me a degree of control and achieves effects that other mediums can’t. I will always create work in pencil, however it's important to be versatile and eager to experience what other mediums are capable of. Otherwise, there might be a missed opportunity to create something else beautiful, interesting and thought provoking. 

I feel it’s the duty of an artist to explore and not retreat, look outward not inward, to progress rather than hide.

Q. You have recently created some works featuring iconic brands, what do you think happens to the  meaning of these labels when converted into art? 

A. These brands becoming art is an acknowledgement of their part in people’s life experiences. The  meaning itself does not change and neither does the brand's desired intention. But for the viewer seeing that brand in this context functions as a trigger enabling them to acknowledge a point in time, to refresh a memory or experience associated with it. This memory might otherwise be lost in the passage of time.

Q. Is there a certain direction you would like your work to develop into, or artistic goal you would love to achieve? 

A. Increasing in scale is where I am developing at the moment, creating a feeling of being one of the  figures walking around the subject matter. I’m also using large scale 3d printing to see my work in a new  dimension. I aim to create a sculpture of a truly monumental size for the turbine hall of the Tate Modern in London. An area where people could interact with the sculpture, touch it, climb it and I’d even like to pipe in scent that aids in memories being made and triggered; one of my penny sweets collection would be perfect for this.


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