by Sarah A. Peterson-Camacho
When viewed from the air, the Central Valley spreads out like a jigsaw puzzle made up of grids of green and meandering blue stripes, but to Fresno artist Daniel Van Gerpen, the heart of the Valley can be seen from the sky.
KRL: How long have you been making art?
Daniel: When I was a child, I remember always sketching and doodling. I remember lying on the floor with a sketch pad, drawing while watching Mr. Rogers. My mother was an artist, so I had access to tools and encouragement even as a young child. As I grew older, drawing and making art became more and more a part of my identity.
When I was in fourth grade, there was an art competition. I worked really hard on my drawing and submitted it. I did not even place. I was bummed, but I think this was also when I realized that I wanted to be an artist because it hurt so much. I knew I wanted to get better, and so I have been making art steadily since then.
KRL: Were you always interested in art, how did you get your start?
Daniel: I have been interested in art for as long as I can remember. I went on to study art in college and started showing in a gallery after I graduated from college. I have been making and selling art ever since.
KRL: What mediums do you work with?
Daniel: While I work in a variety of media, my primary medium is painting. I create work in both oils and acrylics. I find each has characteristics that give certain results. I enjoy working in different mediums and experiencing what each has to offer.
KRL: What is your favorite medium to work with?
Daniel: I would say oil paint is my favorite medium, but I enjoy working in a variety of mediums and seeing how working in mixed media can create such a variety of results.
KRL: What are your favorite subjects to bring to life?
Daniel: I have always lived in areas surrounded by the agricultural landscape. I am inspired by the interaction between the organic characteristics of nature and the river, juxtaposed by the man-made geometry of the fields. While I have been painting the agricultural landscape for decades, it was not until about two years ago that I began exploring the field from a new perspective.
It began with looking out the window of a plane from 30,000 feet. I then began “flying around” Google earth looking at the organic grid from different angles and perspectives. It was when I was able to fly over the Valley at a few hundred feet that my obsession with capturing the aerial perspective of the landscape took a deep hold. The long shadows of the morning light glimmering off of the river really struck a chord with me. Since then I have been vigorously trying to capture the light, lines, colors, and textures of the Central Valley through my art.
KRL: Where do you most find inspiration for your artwork?
Daniel: There are many entry points in my creative process. Sometimes I am inspired by things that I see; other times I am reacting to what is happening on the painting surface. So, I would say my process often begins by observing the landscape. I enjoy taking long, winding drives through the fields. I am a sucker for a good dirt road. I have also been able to fly in a small plane over the valley. These experiences have heavily influenced the subject matter.
On these journeys, I often collect photographs or sketches. These typically lead to more sketches in my sketchbook. I often take elements and ideas from several points of inspiration and work them into a composition that accomplishes the vision of my inspiration. From there I move on the painting surface, typically stretched canvas or mounted wood. Then I try to transfer the general idea of what was captured in my sketch.
I then begin to add paint and follow where the painting leads. At this point in the process, it is often reacting to what happens and proceeding from there. Sometimes the direction that a painting goes is different from what I initially intended. I have learned to be okay with that. The secret is to keep going until I get to something that works following the principles of design: balance, proportion, emphasis, variety, movement, rhythm, harmony. The longer I work the more I realize it is about simplifying your work using these basic principles.
KRL: Who are your favorite artists? Whose work do you find most inspiring?
Daniel: Mark Rothko, Jesse Pollock, Richard Diebenkorn, George Inness, Wayne Thiebaud, and Nancyjane Huehl were artists who really inspired my work during college, and I still feel their influence in my current work.
KRL: Where have you displayed your work locally? Any recent shows?
Daniel: This year I have had shows in Pacific Grove, Fresno City Hall, and my studio. I have had a studio in downtown Fresno for the past four years, and have enjoyed being a part of ArtHop each month. I am currently in the process of moving into my home studio, and look forward to creating in this new space. I have scheduled shows next year at K-Jewel, Vernissage, and am finalizing a few other exhibitions.
KRL: What advice would you give to someone who would like to get started as an artist?
Daniel: I would recommend taking some basic business and marketing classes. I remember graduating from college and having respectable art-making skills, but not entirely sure how to make a living with those skills. I also think that trying to make a living as an artist has as much to do with entrepreneurship as it does with mastery of the craft. The required skills may differ depending on if you are going to be focusing more on the gallery/museum path or the commercial/sales route. Either way, it would be helpful to learn how to operate your business.
KRL: Are there any upcoming events/shows you’d like our readers to know about?
Daniel: We are expecting our second child in September, so I do not have any immediate shows on the horizon. I am planning my schedule for next year and have already booked several exhibitions. You can follow me on social media @dvgcreative on Instagram and on Facebook. I also have a monthly newsletter that helps to keep followers informed about upcoming events. You can find a signup on my website, www.dvgcreative.com.