I first heard about Dan McCarthy from a friend of mine who’s really into rock poster art. Dan does that kind of stuff, but he does other stuff too — eerily gorgeous prints, paintings and posters that elicit feelings of deeply sympathetic solitude and natural wonder.
He was also one of a select few artists commissioned to do poster for the TV show Lost.
Dan has the voice and demeanor you’d expect of someone doing his kind of work.
When you start on a new piece, do you usually have the finished image in mind? I tend to have a pretty clear idea of what I want it to look like when I start out. Often I have a title worked out and go from there. Titles are important to me. But I expect there to be some transformation while I work.
Can you talk about the use of dinosaur imagery in your work? You make humans and dinosaurs appear as part of the same continuum of existence. It makes me wonder if you believe in some sort of collective or vestigial experience of the world. This is something I feel like I’m still trying to figure out. I think the more I explore it, the more clear it will become. I think you’re on track with finding a common thread between us and dinosaurs and other creatures that lived in the past. My main thought is trying to find a commonality between everything on Earth, through time. We’re all living on the same planet. Everything in time has looked at the same moon and the same stars. Everything has a similar attitude towards the natural world. It’s impossible not to. At least on some level.
Are you a solitary person? I do enjoy solitude. I work from home every day. I haven’t had a real job in maybe six years, so I’ve been spending a lot of time on my own. It was weird at first just getting used to being alone. I feel like I’ve gotten better at it. And now I definitely feel like I need to be alone at times. More than I used to. I don’t want this to sound too sad, though.
I don’t think it does. You’re talking about solitude, which is different than loneliness. Yeah. It’s like when people go camping or talk a walk. The experience of those things is not an experience of loneliness. I like doing those sorts of things.
Can you think of the first piece you did that made you feel as if you were speaking your own language? So like a turning point?
Yeah, that’s a better way of saying it. Let’s see, let me look through some of my stuff. Hmm. There’s an image I did called “Don Stepped Outside.” [That’s the picture above.] I felt happy about how it turned out. It conveyed the mood I was looking for. From that, I’ve been able to branch out into a lot of different pieces. The title for that piece comes from a lyric from one of my favorite bands, Slint. That was the first time I gave a piece of art a title based on music. A lot of my pieces since then have been musically related, even if I’m the only one who knows why.
What was the last creative thing you did? Right before you called I was sketching an animal. I have this print I’m working on called “Sketching The Animal Kingdom.” It’s about 300 different prints and on each print I’m sketching an animal, so I’m doing 300 different animals. One for each print. The last animal was the Grey-Cheeked Mangabey. It’s some sort monkey.