DROOL: When do you feel you first found success in the world of art, and how have you grown since then?
Dane: I feel like I’m constantly setting new standards for what counts as success to me, so this is kind of a tricky question to answer. There’s success at techniques, business success, recognition from others, and personal fulfillment in making art that represents something unique about yourself. I’m constantly working on every one of these in different ways, but I feel like one of my first moments of success was when I dedicated myself to making art as a job. At the time, I was studying to become a K-12 art teacher and working as a long term substitute because I thought it would be safer than pursuing art. After one of my long term sub gigs ended, I decided to take a semester off from earning a teaching degree. Instead, I dedicated all my hours to building a portfolio to get a job as a graphic designer. Looking back on that portfolio, I knew very little about graphic design. It was really an illustration portfolio. I applied to several graphic design jobs and eventually was hired by an advertising firm to do both graphic design and illustration work for their clients. Although I make very different art than I did then, the act of taking my art career seriously really shifted something in me. It gave me the confidence to do something I felt less safe doing, and I try to remember that feeling whenever I’m trying to make new strides in my current art work.
DROOL: How did you discover your voice in art?
Dane: I feel like I’m still discovering it, but I guess your artistic voice is supposed to grow with you. For a while, I illustrated fantasy card games and fantasy book covers. I still enjoy fantasy illustration, but they’re usually rooted in other culture’s mythology. I’ve never really left the United States, so I wanted to create a mythology for my own culture and see what that might look like. I started thinking about what American stories I really relate to: a boy and his dog, fishing with my dad, a boyfriend’s love for his truck, and as I grow older…questions about the American dream. So I’ve been trying to portray these ideas with the same amount of mythical word building. A knight and his horse became a guy and his rideable dog. The mythological creatures from my area aren’t gryphons or dragons. They’re Mothman and Sasquatch. But I’m also trying to get more personal with issues from my real life.
DROOL: What compels you to keep driving forward as an artist? How do you aspire to grow as an artist this year?
Dane: I really can’t imagine not wanting to keep pushing forward as an artist. Theres a lot of art I hope to make. I just have to find the time. During college, I was obsessed with learning to oil paint, but after college, I taught myself to paint digitally because its more efficient for illustration. That efficiency came in handy to start learning about my artistic voice, but I’d like to move back into oil painting with my art. I’m currently working on that.
DROOL: What about dogs attracts you to them as subjects for your artwork?
Dane: I work from home and my doberman, Gambit, is undoubtedly the companion I hang out with more than anyone else. He’s also quite the model. So in a way, he just started off as my most likely subject matter. But I also loved all those classic books about dogs growing up such as Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller, Shiloh, and My Dog Skip. Also, my daily dog walk with Gambit has really been my reprieve from work. My dog walks are the best time when I’m not working. When I’m walking Gambit, I’m not looking at a screen. I feel more in the moment.
DROOL: Which do you prefer: dogs or people, and why?
Dane: If I say dogs, I sound like a crazy person, but they are way easier going.
DROOL: What characteristics in dogs/breed of dog do you relate to most, and why?
Dane: I’ve had Gambit, my doberman, for 8 years, and I just got a German Shorthair puppy this past week. I feel like these breeds are both very observant and active velcro dogs. I’d like to think I practice those qualities. For example, art requires a lot of observation skills. But if I’m not making art, I’m always out walking my dog, running, hiking, kayaking. And even when I do watch tv, I try to be active by sketching or doing some chores. Lastly, like velcro dogs, I don’t need lots of friends. Just a few strong bonds.
DROOL: Anything else you want to share with the dog-loving humans of Earth?
Dane: As a digital illustrator, I spend lots of work hours in front of a computer and I love making that art. However, I also really love how dogs give me an excuse to get away from screen time and feel more present in real life. I guess I would just hope other people feel some of those benefits of dogs as well.
Follow Dane Cozens on Instagram @danecozens
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