Dan Nelson 

You are currently exhibiting solo at Art Systems Wickham, tell us about the work in this exhibition.

This is my second solo exhibition and my first at ASW. It brings together 25 paintings and drawings completed over the past 10 months or so.

I like to think of the moon as an imperfect reflector, bouncing back a strange and sometimes beautiful light. The landscape works in this show recall walks in moonlit forests and fishing on the tide with my father. They are an attempt to capture the subtlety of colour and particular tonality of moonlight, but also the feeling.

The show also includes some large pastel drawings of moths. I grew up in a house that backed onto rainforest. There were lots of Granny’s Cloak moths there. I have long loved their patterned wings and velvety heads, and that they navigate by moonlight.

Did you attend art school? If so, where?

I trained as a fine arts printmaker at the University of Newcastle, but in 1994 an experiment with monotypes (making a print from a wet painting on metal) sparked my interest in paint. Although it took me ten years to find the courage to pursue it, I eventually began painting under the tuition of Paul Milburn at the Brisbane Institute of Art in 2004.

Since returning to Newcastle in 2010 I have taken lessons with Mazie Turner and Pablo Tapia through Newcastle Community Arts Centre, as well as with Peter Lankas, who continues to be an excellent teacher and mentor.

I was excited to discover that Lake Macquarie City Art Gallery also runs great master classes. Through this program I’ve had the opportunity to learn from some inspiring and well-established artists, including John Morris, Chris Langlois and David Fairbairn.

Photo by Joerg Lehmann

Photo by Joerg Lehmann

Do you find drawing plays an important role in your art making?

For as long as I can remember I have drawn pictures and patterns, somewhat compulsively at times. It has always been important to me.

I drew a lot with my stepsons when they were young. I really love drawing with other people, especially kids.

When my regular weekly painting class with Peter (Lankas) morphed into a drawing class last year, I picked up pastels. I thought they might be a good medium for working between drawing and painting. It felt like a sort of doubling - two different worlds, or ways of seeing and doing, finally coming together. As a result, my paintings have become more textural and my drawings more atmospheric and layered.

Do you have dedicated art studio and do you set aside specific time for your art making?

I have been a studio artist at Newcastle Community Arts Centre for the past 18 months. I try to spend at least three days each week in the studio, but sometimes my time has to bend around other commitments and I grab hours there whenever I can. Regular classes and life drawing at the Centre help provide structure.

I also like to get out and draw and paint in the open. I share a beautiful rural property with some friends near Gloucester, which is increasingly a source of inspiration.

Do you have a website or social media where we can follow your work?

I have a facebook page which people can like to follow my work or get invites to upcoming exhibitions and studio sales. It also tracks my last few exhibitions, with several photo albums and reviews.


~ Interview by Ahn Wells 

Dan's exhibition Feeling the moon is on at Art Systems Wickham until Sunday 26 June