One to Watch

Take a Trip Through the Subconscious with Danny Augustine

What does the subconscious look like? Inundated with mass media and shaped by the vicissitudes of emotion, we can imagine it’s a scene in constant flux, perhaps with a tendency towards the chaotic. With his distinct yet unpredictable drawings, Chicago-based artist Danny Augustine gives us a glimpse.

Danny’s process is intuitive in the truest sense of the word: Inspired by the automatic drawings of the Surrealists, Danny begins each work with a random mark or splash of ink and builds upon this with an idiosyncratic vocabulary of colors and repeated forms. Nebulous and uncertain environments emerge on the page, taking the viewer on a mind-bending journey through the thoughts, feelings, and 24 hour news cycles that feed into the composition.

Danny’s work has been featured in British GQ, as well as CURVE magazine in Lebanon. He has exhibited internationally, most recently with exhibitions in South Korea.

Tell us about who you are and what you do. What’s your background?

I began my artistic career as the founding member of the visual art major at Alderson-Broaddus University and later earned my BFA from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2010. My first painting was exhibited in the West Virginia Governor’s Juried Exhibit held within the state’s museum. Shortly afterward, I was juried into the annual catalog New Art International by Book Art Press. I have participated in numerous exhibitions on a national and international level, and also had the honor of being named one of the most compelling artists in an international competition, Year In Review. 

Can you walk us through your process for creating a work from beginning to end?

My artwork is a product of a meditative state I slip into while drawing. I never have a set image or idea when I begin a drawing so the end result is a reflection of the world around me. During my process, I filter in 24 hour news streams, personal experiences, and everyday life.

What are the major themes you pursue in your work?

Once a drawing is completed, I study and analyze what I was feeling at that time. I could be communicating a political view point, expressing a chapter within my life, or just absorbing the energies of our current times and documenting them. Leader Merging and And they stormed the Capital are my most recent ink drawings completed. Of course, these two drawings have a political undertone, and I’m suggesting to the viewer on my thoughts with my titles, but my drawings are like Rorschach ink bots. Each viewer see them differently, due to their life experiences and memories.

When it comes to my digital drawings, Time was my first created. I was watching a documentary about Leonardo da Vinci and the mirror images he was creating within his paintings. I found this idea fascinating and wanted to explore this myself. At the time, I had just bought a drawing tablet with the idea of exploring the digital art world. I wanted my digital work to have the same textural feel as my ink drawings and paintings. I began to mirror image my ink drawing series and I noticed some really interesting forms were developing.

Time is one of the first digital drawings I developed from an ink drawing, North Korea. Once I mirrored North Korea, I saw an hour glass with a clock-like pattern around it. I also noticed Roman numerals within the center of the piece, and I instantly knew what to title this work. After I create a mirror image an ink drawing, I go in digitally and draw over it. All of my digital drawings originate from an image of an ink drawing.

Who are your biggest influences and why?

Karl Wirsum gave me a very positive space to explore my intuitive drawings, while guiding me along the way to shape my process. I highly recommend this documentary: Hairy Who & The Chicago Imagists. Michiko Itatani guided me to find my purpose for creating. Barbara Rossie gave me the tools to release the imagery that was floating around within my head and soul.

Why art?

For me, my artwork is a means to express my thoughts, feelings, and emotions. I work intuitively, focusing on my thoughts to create textural environments, and these environments become a strong expression of my internal self. I intend to express my feelings in every one of my individual works through the use of color, space and line. Each one of my pieces shall represent an emotional stepping-stone within my life and find their own spot in the art world.

About the Author

Bethany Fincher is a curator at Saatchi Art. Need help finding art? Contact her via our free Art Advisory service at saatchiart.com/artadvisory.