Q + A: Printmaker Dan Quinton on Confidence, the Canadian Landscape, and the Future of PosterBoy
When I first met Dan Quinton, founder of the Halifax-based printmaking company PosterBoy, we were both in our early 20s and living in Victoria. Dan was a painter in the process of immigrating to Canada from England. I was a waitress embarking on a writing degree. He and his partner Robbie loved to cook and invited me over for many dinners, during which I’d ask Dan to show me whatever new piece of art he was working on.
So when he launched PosterBoy last year, I checked out the site, fell in love with this screen print, and immediately ordered it. (It’s now displayed on my dresser.) I also asked Dan if he would be open to an interview on the blog, and here we are!
You might gather this from our conversation below, but let me reiterate that Dan is one of the most gentle, humble, and witty people I know, not to mention talented. I’m so happy to share a little of his creative process and artwork with all of you.
Q + A
What’s your earliest memory of feeling a connection to art?
I have always had an interest in art as long as I can remember. Even back to being a little toddler I recall enjoying doodling and colouring with wax crayons. My mother always encouraged me to explore my artistic interests as it runs in my family. My grandfather in particular was a source of inspiration, as he always had a few creative projects on the go at once. I remember a feeling of wonder whenever I was allowed to go up to his loft where he would sketch out his designs!
You’re originally from England, and studied graphic design there before immigrating to Canada in 2003. You’ve lived in Victoria, Vancouver, Toronto, and Halifax. In what ways has the Canadian landscape and culture influenced your work?
The first thing that struck me when landing in Vancouver and taking the ferry to Victoria was the huge scale of everything, mountains, trees and freight trucks! I also noticed the light on the Pacific coast seemed to make everything brighter and richer in colour, compared to the more muted grey tones of the Atlantic coast. During my time working in Toronto as a picture framer my interest in printmaking was re-ignited, as I was surrounded by many colourful and complex prints, not to mention the artwork customers would bring in for framing.
Lastly I have found the change in landscape interesting as I have taken a road trip from Victoria to Saskatoon, and later driven from Toronto to Halifax. These journeys brought to my attention not only how varied the landscape and natural habitat is, but also the similarity to England as far as names of places and the way the provinces are broken down into counties or districts. This is what led to my inspiration to screen print my typographic maps of Canada and some of the Provinces.
How does the process of creating art influence the connection you feel to the country, or your place in it?
One thing I would say is that during my time in Canada awaiting approval of my immigration, painting really helped me through a difficult time. Being so far away from home, family and friends, and not able to work (without my documents), I did feel a little disconnected from society. Fortunately I was welcomed into a group of great friends and I was surprised how much people liked the canvasses I was painting, which helped lift my confidence again.
What do you turn to for inspiration?
I tend to always have a stream of ideas, sometimes more of a noise! I find whenever I am doing something that requires little thought like cleaning, driving, or some manual work, my creative thoughts become clearer and ideas for designs can take shape. I think I absorb information and am influenced by so many things around me, but it’s during these times my ideas come to the foreground.
Do you have any rituals regarding your creative process?
Mostly I like to work alone with little disturbance in my basement workshop, sometimes I like to listen to down tempo electronic music, but often am happy with no music at all. Once I get started on a project I do find it hard to take time out for a break and tend to work all day. I am at my best first thing in the morning and sometimes start screen printing as early as 6 a.m. Needless to say my energy levels are quite the opposite by mid evening!
How do you balance creating art that fulfills you and is also marketable? Is there any separation between the two?
That’s a tricky one! I feel fulfillment from anything I make and am currently working hard to market my designs. In the New Year I hope to make the most of a quieter part of the year to work on ideas for abstract paintings which will be more for my own enjoyment.
Your screen prints feature a lot of vintage images such as a telephone, gramophone, and camera. What compelled you to create this series?
I love the classic vintage style and was thinking about how streamlined and small our communication and entertainment devices have become. There’s something very alluring about the mechanics and construction of these vintage machines which appeals to me. It’s incredible to think how fast technology has developed to the point where these machines have gone from being used in the home to being unrecognizable to little children all within one lifetime!
You sell your work at markets in the Halifax area. What do you appreciate about the market atmosphere in terms of exposing your work to others, and what do you find challenging about it?
I like selling at the market as it gives me the opportunity to meet and talk to so many people from different walks of life, many of whom may not seek to purchase art or visit a gallery, but stumble across me and my work during their weekly shop. It’s been a great way for me to meet new people and is a social highlight of my week. The main challenge is packing everything up safely to set up and tear down the stall, after all any damage to stock, especially frames really eats into the profit margins…and poor weather isn’t very kind to paper goods!
What’s been the biggest realization you’ve had personally as an artist that has helped you continue on this path? What would your advice be to others starting out?
I would say having the confidence to show my work to other people and accepting payment for my art were hurdles I overcame. In the past I would frequently give my art away in return for compliments. By no means do I regret that and it’s only through showing my work to more people that I was able to gain confidence and feel worthy of receiving payment for my work.
Recently I displayed one of my abstract paintings in a group exhibition, a piece that is totally different from my work under ‘Posterboy’. It was something I was a little nervous about, but I was really surprised how well it was received. I think if you’ve really enjoyed working on a piece and you’re excited to wake up in the morning and take another look at it, then have confidence in what you have created and get it out there!
What is your vision for the future of PosterBoy, and your artistic work in general? Anything specific we can anticipate seeing from the creative pursuits of Dan Quinton?
I have lots of ideas! I want to combine abstract painting with screen printing my own photographic images to create pieces. I also plan to grow my collection of screen printed posters available through the website. I am currently working on screen printing a series of hand illustrated birds onto vintage wallpaper samples. I’m really enjoying making them and am happy with how they are turning out – so expect to see more mixed media work from me in the future!
Thank you so much, Dan!
Here is a little insight into his screen printing process…