Street artist Dan Kitchener adds his creative energy to the TPi Awards . . .
Known for his vibrant, futuristic, cityscape murals and mastery of electrifying light and colour, Kitchener’s distinctive work can be found enlivening an increasing number of urban locations worldwide. “I started to draw and paint as soon as I could hold a pen/brush and haven’t stopped in 43 years!” says Dan. “It’s been my life’s passion.”
Light appears to leap out from Dan’s incredibly vivid, stylish, hyper-real works. Street lights, signs, cars, traffic signals and shops, often reflected in the wet and refracted through rain - give a striking extra dimension to his creations. His portraits and geisha-themed artworks feature atmospheric, theatrical lighting. He explains, “For me, light conveys mood and atmosphere. I’m fascinated by the way different lighting can really affect a scene or environment. All the cityscapes and places I paint are based on me being there; I feel a sense of atmosphere which I then want to capture in my art. I’m always attracted to scenes that have unusual lighting or mood. I’m drawn to these in the real world, walking around cities at night, taking photographs of scenes I see, to inspire future works . . . My work is all about light, that’s all that matters, light brings form from the void - the lighting is everything.”
To feed this thirst for visual fuel, Dan travels widely, absorbing inspiration from diverse locations. He says, “Each place has its own lighting, its own colour palette, it’s own atmosphere . . . it’s magical. I’ll sometimes move like on auto-pilot in order to capture something quickly. I get into a zone where I can capture something in essence, I don’t need to describe the entire scheme - I guess my practice allows me to quickly dissect what it is in a scene that creates the effect I’m interested in.”
Behind his talent lies not just a passion for paint and light, but a diverse experience in the creative industries. Dan has worked in TV commercials and music videos, post-production, even stage visuals and animations, creating visuals for Paul McCartney, Lenny Kravitz, Miley Cyrus and many others. It’s a CV which has underpinned his understanding of the nature of a scene, the composition of a frame, the importance of colour theory and the transformative power of light.
“I’m used to theatre, drama and epic scale in my work,” he says. “I like the idea of bringing different elements into my art, bringing people to a scene, to make it almost like a movie set or a backdrop. I recently did this in North Carolina, where I painted a huge 100ft x 50ft freehand mural. I’ve also begun playing with actual neon, using it in shoots with the models I use for my portrait and geisha work.
“There’s so many aspects I want to explore. I’d love to work on a full rock stage visual, incorporating all elements - light, animation, people and art, living art with music, something truly epic! I taught myself 3D animation software for my job in post-production, and this allowed me to place lighting in scenes and helped me to understand the relationship between lighting and mood. All these things form a huge melting pot, which has brought me to this point.”
Dan’s artwork displays a bold energy, reflecting the physical energy he puts into them. Although he is constantly sketching and experimenting with scenes and subject matter, when he comes to create a new piece of work he lets his intuitive energy guide his hand. And remarkably, even on the largest-scale mural, it’s a process of authentic, unaided creation. “All my work is freehand and all from blank canvases,” says Dan, “with no aids, effects, filters, tracing or projections. It has to all come from me, 100% freehand, even on 100ft walls! I’m very energetic when I paint - I usually run 6 miles every day before painting large murals!”
So when it comes to his live creation at the TPi Awards, what does he have in mind? “I’ll be painting a light-filled cityscape, but I won’t make any more decisions about what I’ll paint until I’m standing in front of the canvas on stage - then I’ll react to what I feel will work at that time. I like to keep it fluid and loose and not restrict myself - reacting naturally produces far more energetic work!”