Dan Climan is an artist from Montreal with a timeless aesthetic. We’ve known him for a while and are always excited to see what he does next. He is currently tattooing at Bait and Schlang and in the process of opening a gallery in Montreal. We recently caught up with Dan at the office.
WHAT YOUTH: How old were you when you got into art? How were you introduced?
DAN CLIMAN: I started drawing at a young age, and I guess it quickly became my favourite thing to do. Growing up in Montreal my first memories are of drawing at my parents house with my older brother Max and our cousin – we would draw versions of cartoon characters we liked and lots of hockey players given that all three of us loved sports.
Drawing also felt really special when I was really young because my mom would hang all the pictures we made all over the room until it was wallpapered in our drawings. Looking back now this was a tremendous influential part of my love of creating art. Not only was it fun but there was a sense of pride in having the work displayed, along with being able to study it to develope a sense of what I liked about some drawings and what needed more work with others.
Do you remember the first time you realized “this is what I want to do”.
When I was sixteen I was asked to do some tee-shirt graphics for a collaboration between a store called 3Monkeys and the WESC brand. I got the job because some older guys at a skate shop where I used to hang out vouched for my work and showed it to the store’s owner. I finished the project and there was a release party at the store and I had a small art show – the shirts sold very well and I remember that I sold most of the work that I displayed. I’ll always remember that as one of the first times that I thought to myself “this is what I want to do with my life.” I was so excited to have created something that felt professional and polished and realizing that people were willing to pay money for my art was great. It was the first time I ever felt like I was finally getting on track to where I wanted to go.
How did you develop your skills, technically and creatively? Did you go to school or have a mentor?
I always studied art if it was an option. After highschool I went to Montreal’s Dawson College for two years studying Fine Arts before moving out west and getting my bachelor’s degree in Painting from Emily Carr University. Moving was an important milestone in my life because, for the first time, I could skateboard year-round and was exposed to a new west coast culture, something that really struck a chord with me. After university I became really involved in the world of tattooing and was fortunate to apprentice with James Acrow. It started slow. After months of showing him drawings every two weeks he let me work at the shop once a week. One day turned to two, two to three and then almost before I realized it I was at the shop full time. Ultimately I don’t think it’s necessary to study to be an artist in an academic setting, at the end of the day we learn more from doing more than studying.
Did you ever consider art as a career path, or do you just do it as a hobby?
I always knew that my career would focus on some form of art. I never had a strong interest in anything other than being creative. I made party flyers and band posters to make rent when I moved away from home, and now working as a full-time tattooer and artist I can honestly say that somehow I always knew it would turn out this way.
What are you into working on now?
I work as a full-time tattooer in Montreal at an amazing shop called the Bait and Schlang alongside Nick Oaks and Travis Driscoll, two amazing artists that I can now call close friends. I also have a contemporary painting practice where I do a lot of bold text base work and wood cutouts.
I love to talk, I love language, and I’m interested in objects that are a part of my everyday life and I think all of that influences my personal work. I’m a fan of a timeless aesthetic often found in old advertisements and classic tattoo imagery and I think that’s a strong link that connects the two worlds of art and tattooing – two very distinct practices. Beyond that I really love graphic design and actively pursue creative projects where the primary goal is to create art more than just a commercial product.
In 2014 I spent time in Hong Kong working with Matt Abergel to design a brand aesthetic for Sunday’s Grocery, a sort-of curated convenience store. I am very proud of how that project turned out. Matt Abergel, who opened the store, and I worked really well together and it was amazing to work with someone who trusted me to take the lead. There are a few new projects I have lined up for 2016, all of which are at the beginning stages. Between big tattoo projects and creative work there is lots of good on the way.
Check out more of Dan’s work here.