Dan Grzeca (US)

Dan Grzeca (US)

Defining himself on his facebook profile as "Artist. Father. Husband. Crazy person" there is no surprise (at least when you read the 4th adjective) that, even better Cicero, he quotes Richard Milhous Nixon in his top 3 quotes :) Hopefully for us, quote 1 goes to David Yow saying: "This is a job for a stupid man" so you would easily guess that, as his works tend to show us, Dan is, at least, as much a funny complex person as a great artist. One of those, in the rock poster area, with their totally own style. …

Hello, of course as every Crewk interview, first question: what are we listening to when we come to visit you?

"Angels and Demons at Play" by Sun Ra and "Catch my Shoe" by the Ex. Not a week goes by when Sun Ra is not on rotation either at my home or studio. The Ex continues to be the most relevant touchstone for me as I get older. They just keep making inventive, engaging, and powerful music. They played in Chicago in March with my friend Ken Vandermark and it was a crushing and beautiful show.

Can you tell us more about yourself, who are you, where are you from, what do you do?

I was born in Chicago, which is where I still reside. I grew up in the suburbs of the city, listening to Punk Rock and being influenced by seeing the work of Gary Panter in RAW and painters Ed Paschke, Sue Coe, and the Chicago Imagists. Went to university and studied drawing/painting. Worked in a mostly mixed media drawing method using paints, drawing material, spray paint. Graduated college to become underemployed. Continued making large figurative paintings while eventually running an interior painting business. During this time (Early 1990s) was introduced to making screenprinted posters by Bob Hartzell, then printing at Screwball Press with Steve Walters. I made a poster for my friends in the band TAR (who were an amazing band), and started making a lot of posters for Ken Vandermark and musicians in the then burgeoning Chicago Free Jazz scene. It was through this that I made posters for Peter Brötzmann, Steve Lacy, Mats Gustaffsson and many others improvisers and jazz musicians.

Eventually I started printing my own work very frequently, printing in the old Ravenswood location of Jay Ryan's printshop, The Bird Machine, then printing in my home shop,on the North Side of Chicago and then moving to where I am now, a few blocks away in a big industrial warehouse building, where I share a print studio with Kathleen Judge of Judgeworks. We are right next door to Steve Walters and Screwball press, so it is really nice to socially to be around a lot of people focused on making work. Its good energy. We do open houses every couple of months and they are a ton of fun.

These days I am more focused on making art prints and drawings than posters all the time, my head is filled with images that are waiting in line patiently for my human body to have the time and energy to get them all drawn and printed. I work mostly in scratchboard and pen and ink, so that aspect, of image making, is time consuming. It's a satisfying process, for the most part.

I have 2 daughters, who are 6 and 3. They are pretty influential on me as I spin stories for them at bedtime. A lot of the characters from these stories end up in my prints and will, eventually, be in a children's book.

When did you start drawing?

I don't remember ever not drawing. When you are a child it is an easy and natural expression. I was never discouraged to stop so I guess I never did.

Did you follow any course or did you improve by drawing in the margins of your schoolbooks?

I copied a lot of Dick Tracy and Charles Schulz comics when I was about 8 or 9, so that was helpful.

Today are you living from your art, or do you do something else for a living ?

I am lucky enough to make art every day.

Are you collaborating with magazines/fanzines, regularly?

I do the occasional illustration or interview, that is about it.

Where does your influence come from? Is there any artists/graphists you particularly like, what are your influences?

Certain periods, like 1930's printmaking and painting in Berlin and 1970s painting in Chicago are pretty much touchstones for me and have been since I was a teenager. Art associated with punk rock, like comic book artists who contributed to RAW magazine in the 1980's were also very infuential on me when I was getting my undergraduate degree in DeKalb Illinois. Also, the linocuts and screenprints of Pablo Picasso are just fucking unbelievable. The amount and quality of that part of his career is mind-blowing to me.

Artists today who I have a great deal of respect for are numerous and difficult to list without missing someone. That being said, Sonnenzimmer here in Chicago and LandLand in Minneapolis are 2 of my favorite poster studios going right now.

What are the principal steps in your work ?

The idea is the first and hardest. Usually my best ideas come to me when I'm either having lunch with my girls or doing mailorder in my shop. I usually very very very quickly scribble a sketch , which I cut out and paste in my sketchbook to refer to later. I go straight to very detailed drawing on scratchboard from there. I don't like to do very detailed preliminary drawings as this robs me of the fun and surprise of improvisation, which is why I make art to begin with. The danger of making an "illustration" of a drawing is one that I am well aware of, and steer clear of.

From there I hand draw my seps on vellum using ink. I blow up all these layers on a blueprint photocopier to the size I will print at. From there I make screens and we print the hell out of it.

Do you do everything by hand or on computer?

Everything I do is by hand. That being said, the computer is a tool like any other piece of equipment, large or small and as such I'm not adverse to starting to use it with my work to help me from a technical standpoint of making films for print.

How long does it take you to do a poster?

Anywhere from 2 hours to 2 months.

You have a very distinctive style, are you doing only what you feel like or if tomorrow somebody asks you an oil painting with horses running out of water with a sunset backdrop, is it a problem or are you up for it ?

Bands or musicians that approach me do so because they like the work I make. I've never had someone ask me to make work completely estranged from my visual aesthetic, so its not something I'm concerned with. I do turn down a lot of work as sometimes bands like the work but are unsure of what they want or how to make a decision.
For which band have you already worked for?

I've worked for a fair number of bands, from as small as the Spares, to as large as Phish and the Black Keys. I've made a lot of posters.

For which band would you love to work?

A time machine would be helpful, as John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Sun Ra have all passed on. Ornette Coleman would be on the bucket list.

Do you choose the artists yourself?

I turn down a lot of work these days, so yes.

What is the most difficult part in designing a poster ?

Deciding on the initial idea. My sketches usually take about a maximum of 30 seconds- to 2 minutes. I can tell immediately if it is an idea that is going to work when I sit down to make the final drawing to use for the print.

Do you think you are part of a "Graphic Scene", if so who else ?

The print/poster scene is in a huge upswing, which is great to see. Chicago in particular is blessed with a lot of really talented and hard working print artists who are fiercely idiosyncratic and supportive of each others work. I'm sure I fit in somewhere, I tend to like the way things are here, where artists really try to maintain their own direction. I think there is a huge danger of many poster artists taking too much either directly or indirectly from more established styles. Everyone needs to push themselves to have their own voice. It is not always easy, but I think it is crucial to having artistic identity and integrity.

A bit of self-promotion, take advantage of it, it's free, where can we see your work , on the web or in real life?

You can see my work on the internets- at dangrzeca.com My work can be purchase at groundup.bigcartel.com

The best praise you received lately?

"Daddy, that bear is funny!!!" from my 6 year old daughter , Ella.

What can we wish you for the future?

Enough success to stop worrying about Health Insurance all the time.

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