I met Danny Galieote recently while attending a group exhibition in New York. In person, Danny was as dapper as his paintings, wearing a pinstriped suit looking like he just walked off the set of Mad Men. Kind and down to earth, he was happy to talk about his art and journey as an artist. As a native to California, where he still lives—with the occasional sojourn to the East coast—he has also worked for Disney animation studios for some time before devoting his time solely to a fine art career. Here, Eyelevel Arts gets to hear the behind the scenes working of this extremely prolific artist.
J: What got you first interested in making art?
D: I was always interested in art since my earliest memories. When I was 3 or 4, I remember my Mom was painting ceramic characters and did amateur photography …I also remember my Dad was an electrical engineer who was always drawing technical layouts of homes, so I understood the importance of pencil and paper. When I was 5 or so, I remember doing paint by numbers kits…and thought it was amazing that if you put one color next to another, in the right spot with the right lightness or darkness, you can get a realistic image. When I think about it, I think I am still doing that, but just in a much more complex manner and context. My grandfather would bring me large computer print out paper when I was 6 or 7… I was always drawing. My parents put me in some art classes at a teacher’s home nearby our house when I was a kid…doing oil pastels and starting to paint.
J: Tell us a little bit about your journey as an artist until now.
D: I grew up drawing all the time and never stopped. I was always carrying sketchbooks with me on family trips. Drawing was always around me…doing drawing exercises and working from comic book diagrams and how-to books. In grade school, we would write on our school uniform shirts at the end of the year. In third grade, my teacher wrote “Good Luck Rembrandt” I looked him up and that was my introduction to painting…I think. After that I understood who the masters were to some extent. This led to my discovery of the Italian masters/ Renaissance and the Golden Age of Illustration, which I learned about at a pretty early age. I also started to draw and paint from horse books because my dad had show horses on our property when I was a kid. I drew our horses, chickens, dogs and cats often. I was also a boxing fan as a kid and painted many boxing figures…sometimes doing large oil paintings in my bedroom as a kid…which looking back, was not a healthy thing to do…smelling all the fumes as I was sleeping as well. When high school came, I was doing all the art classes, while being a bit of a jock….playing football and running track. Won grand prize in high school art show and was encouraged to pursue art in college, which I did. I was majoring in Illustration…studied all the masters and did figure drawing a TON. I obsessed over Rockwell and Leyendecker, Bellows and other AshCan artists. They were my heroes. Then, I needed a job after graduating at 21 and was chosen to be an intern at the Disney studios. I began my professional career at 22 working on the Lion King…and continued to work on 10 Disney features as a character animator. All the years at Disney during the “hand drawn” period, allowed me to get very good at drawing and painting. I did figure drawing workshops sometimes everyday, for the whole time I worked there…about 12 yrs altogether. And the whole time I was there, I saw myself as a “fine-artist” in the future. In 2001 (actually 9/11 was my first day… the school was closed for a week, after the attacks) I began to teach at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. I taught there for 7 years, while painting everyday and studying fine art on my own and with some great painters in their studios in Pasadena. Kenton Nelson and Steve Huston were kind of art mentors for me. In 2008, I started to show in galleries as well as working on a couple more movies. Again, from 2008-2011 I was working at Disney and painting a ton on my own and began to exhibit at galleries in the Laguna Beach area. In 2011, I left Disney and began painting full time as I was having more sales and began exhibiting with Arcadia Contemporary in New York. Since then, Arcadia has been my primary Gallery Representation.
J: What mediums do you work in?
D: I like to work with oil on canvas… linen occasionally…on rare occasions, I paint on wood panel. Drawing …I like to use Conte or Carbothello pencil on Fabriano Paper.
J: What is the subject of your artwork?
D: At first, I was painting a lot of beach scenes, because that was close to my heart, since I went there my whole life (Santa Monica Beach and Pier). Then I began painting figures with a 40’s 50’s vibe but with modern elements mixed into the composition. I may revisit the beach concept in the future.
J: What concepts do the latest body of work deal with?
D: The latest work has dealt with many psychological aspects, which I find interesting. Intrusive thoughts, a term used in psychology, has been a concept that I like to use now. Intrusive or secret thoughts, that you might not act upon, yet are nevertheless, effecting your mind…. things that you may think but not DO. I’ve also been experimenting with narrative in the new work. I like to insinuate things and leave it open to the viewer. I have also begun to work with desaturated 50’s imagery and adding some kind of “pop” or modern element that adds to the narrative. This has been really fun. My recent painting “Refreshing In Any Weather”, which is hanging at Arcadia Contemporary at the moment, is an example of this new imagery that I’m dealing with.
J: What are some things that inspire or influence you?
D: I love art history and have always loved to read about it… I love reading about Pop art and its history, but I also love the classic painters from Europe. Ie. Sorolla, Serov, Repin, Fechin, Sargent, etc. I think I’ve learned a lot from my huge library of art books that I’ve collected. I have also watched modern trends in art pretty closely and love a lot of what is out there today. I’m a huge fan of Chuck Close, who I was honored to have met one day while visiting the Whitney at an Alice Neel exhibition in 2000. We spoke briefly and he told me to “Keep the faith” in regards to pursuing an art career. I never forgot his words of inspiration, because Lord knows it has not been an easy path. In regard to imagery that has influenced me….I started to work from old pictures that I loved while keeping the Intrusive Thoughts concept. The 40’s 50’s images that my grandparents showed me as a kid were always there and never left my mind. I’ve also always loved the Ashcan artists, WPA artists like Paul Cadmus , George Tooker and the Regionalists like Benton, Curry and Wood.
J: I can certainly see that influence in your work! How do you begin a piece?
D: I begin with the concept first…or a dream might give me a feeling or image to start with… then I will do drawings and studies to get the composition how I like it. I usually work with black and white conte on toned paper at first…and l may add some color pastel or carbothello on top of that. After collecting my references (I shoot my own photos) and getting the drawing right, I will grid off my drawing and grid off my canvas to the same proportions. And begin to work with a sepia stain directly onto the canvas. I develop the tonal composition on the canvas with the stain and later add the lights…then add color gradually, with wet over dry paint.
J: What do you hope the viewer will feel or think when they see your work?
D: I hope the viewer will feel attracted to the work and want to live with it. I hope they will find that they can relate to it in some way… I hope the imagery may make them feel comfortable and the added “twist” may make them intrigued or make them think about the multiple meanings. I love adding layers of meaning along with the technical application of the many layers of paint.
J: Describe some interesting technical details about the making of your art.
D: I use a lot of glazes….or thin layers of paint. I usually start thin and work thicker…. Then add thinner layers on top of the underlying thick layers. I love to see the painting “age” on its own as I work on it. The complex layers can appear simple from farther away and more complex as the viewer gets up close. I like when the painting can have a different effect on the viewer from different distances…3 inches 3 feet or 30 feet.
J: Did you have a transformative experience which tells us something about your work or why you became an artist?
D: Mainly I feel that it has been a long journey to get where I’m at now. I ALWAYS wanted to paint the way that I want to paint. Like many artists in the past, I’ve done commercial art for many years, while developing my voice as a fine artist. This transformation has taken place over many years, but I wouldn’t change the journey for anything. I feel that I’m in the right place and right time and I’m loving what I’m doing. I can really really REALLY appreciate where I’m at now, because of the past, which was not always easy.
J: That’s encouraging to hear! What’s next?
D: My next group of works will most likely be dealing with the 40’s 50’s imagery combined with some of my invented modern “pop” twist elements. They are the most fun that I’ve been having up to this point in my art career.
To see more of Danny’s work, visit his website at http://danielgalieote.blogspot.com/
Article by Jessica Libor