The Q&A: Dan Bejar

By Peggy Roalf   Monday July 18, 2016

Q: Originally from [where?] what are some of your favorite things about living and working in [your current locale]?

A: Originally, I’m from the Bronx, NY but I grew up on the Gulf Coast of Florida. Today I call Brooklyn home. I miss the beaches, but one of my favorite things about living in the city is that history is everywhere, and that you can go see it or touch it. I also love the access to all of the amazing museums, galleries, and art spaces. 

More practically, as an artist with two distinct practices in illustration and contemporary art, working in the city provides opportunities and resources for both of these practices to co-exist and develop. As a socially conscious and politically engaged artist it’s important for me to be in a community of citizens and artists with diverse ideas and backgrounds, and most importantly living here provides the opportunity to be part of a truly inspiring community of artists who live and work here. I’m currently an artist-in-residence at the Abrons Art Center and have a studio in the Lower East Side which happens to be conveniently close to my favorite doughnut shop…very dangerous.

Q: Do you keep a sketchbook? What is the balance between the art you create on paper versus in the computer?

A: Yes, I always have a sketchbook with me, mostly for writing but also sketching out ideas. I use sketchbooks as journals or mental maps, and keep a library of all my completed sketchbooks which allows me to go back and track down an idea or find a recurring thread running through the books.

The majority of my commissioned work begins as prints on paper, which eventually end up in the computer. I’d say the most of the commissioned work is about 70% done on paper and the final 30% on the computer, but depending on the assignment the computer can play a larger role in realizing the final piece. 

Q: What is the most important item in your studio?

A: It’s not an item, but I’d have to say my internet connection; also my computer. Researching is a huge part of both of my practices and my process begins by spending an embarrassing amount of time online researching for both my commissioned assignments and personal work. 

Q: What elements of daily life exert the most influence on your work practice?

A: Life itself exerts its influence on both of my practices. The constant access to news, media or email informs my practices and their responses to the politics and injustices occurring in our world. The daily routine of checking email has provided material for projects like “The Googlegänger” where I intercepted a fan email intended for another Dan Bejar, or in “Operation Guest” when I received a Google Alert and found out that a Gaddafi tried to assume my name with false passports and birth certificates. I try to stay open and let myself be influenced by the everyday.

Q: How do you organize your time to accommodate both your commissioned work and your personal work?

A: It really comes down to prioritizing my deadlines between commissioned work and personal work. If I’m not working on commissioned work, then I’ll be working on deadlines for personal work and vice versa. I find the switching between the two provides a mental break from each practice and allows me to come back to each practice with fresh eyes. It also allows for some subtle unconscious cross over between the two bodies of work. It’s definitely a balancing act, but I love it!

Q: How do you know when the art is finished?

A: This question is much easier to answer for my illustration work, as this practice is usually governed by a deadline. I know an illustration is done when the concept and image fuse together and become inseparable. For my personal work this question is a little more difficult to answer, as this work is primarily process oriented and is developed over time. Depending on the project, a project like “The Googlegänger” can take years to be developed and may never really be finished.

Q: What was your favorite book as a child?

A: My absolute favorite books as a child were a children’s encyclopedia set called Childcraft that my parents got me early on. It was a twelve-volume set, and each volume covered different themes like Stories and Fables, World and Space, or the Green Kingdom. Each volume was filled with amazing imagery, from every style of illustration to photography and I would get completely lost in them. I still have them, and some volumes even have some of my earliest drawings on the pages.

Q: What is the best book you’ve recently read?

A: The best book I’ve read recently is Seeing Power, Art and Activism in the 21st Century by Nato Thompson. Highly recommended for anyone making socially conscious art in today’s landscape.

Q: If you had to choose one medium to work in for an entire year, eliminating all others, what medium would you choose?

A: While my illustration work starts with pencil on paper, my personal work is typically photography and video based. If I had to choose, I think I’d go back to basics and draw with any carbon based material on paper, and I’d try to incorporate drawing into my personal work. 

Q: If you could time travel to any era, any place, where would you go?

A: Given that Donald Trump is one election away from being president of The United States I would travel back in time to Queens, NY in the 1950s and try to persuade The Donald to pursue a career in comedy, while trying not to run into my parents.

Q: What are some of your favorite places/books/blogs/websites for inspiration?

A: I find inspiration can strike from anywhere or anything, but some of my favorite places to find inspiration are on the road traveling, the beach, or looking at art in museums, galleries or on the streets. I also find inspiration from lectures, and try to get to as many as possible. Some of my favorite blogs / news sources are Hyperallergic, Art F City, and NPR.

Q: What was the [Thunderbolt] painting or drawing or film or otherwise that most affected your approach to art?

A: An important moment for me was when I became interested in the work and ideas of Marcel Duchamp. His idea of anti-retinal art played a huge role for me, as this showed me that art didn’t have to always have to focus on visual language and please the eye, it could focus on the conceptual. I learned art could really be anything, and this was particularly freeing for a young artist.  

Q: What would be your last supper?

A: It would most definitely have to be my mom’s pernil (pork shoulder) with arroz con gandules (rice and pigeon peas), and tostones (fried plantains) and a beer! 

Dan Bejar is a freelance illustrator/artist living and working in Brooklyn, NY. His illustrations have appeared in magazines, advertising campaigns, books, newspapers, for clients such as The New York Times, TIME Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, Esquire and Rollingstone to name a few.

Bejar’s illustrations have been recognized in award annuals such as American Illustration, Communication Arts, 200 Best Illustrators Worldwide 2016/17, 3x3, Society of Illustrators, Society of Illustrators (LA), The Society of Publication Designers, and Print's Regional Design Annual. Bejar has won silver medals from The Society of Illustrators (NYC) and The Society of Publication Designer's. 

Additionally, Bejar is a 2015 fellow in Interdisciplinary Work from the New York Foundation for the Arts, and is currently in residence at the Abrons Art Center’s AIRspace residency program, and participating in The Drawing Center’s Open Sessions program. He is also a 2014 recipient of a Franklin Furnace Grant, and a 2013 recipient of the Rema Hort Mann Visual Arts Grant. IG: bejarprints dabejar

“The Googlegänger”:
Upcoming Events:
Panel discussion on propaganda at Smack Mellon Gallery, Brooklyn, NY July 27th, 2016


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