I was introduced to Dan Lavender's work by a sister of mine recently, and knew immediately that I wanted to feature him. I have a great appreciation for creativity, and it definitely shows in Dan's ventriloquist figures. They have such character!
I am so grateful Dan agreed to be featured - prepare to be inspired. You are in for a real treat!
What does Creativity mean to you?
I think Creativity is just a different way of seeing things. The ability to process more options in a given situation, and connect the dots differently toward a solution. A negative person might describe a glass as half empty, a positive person might say the glass is half full, a creative person would think that the glass is twice as big as it needs to be and what can he do with that extra space.
How do you expand yourself creatively?
Exposure to more things to make me think.
Were you creative as a child? If so, how have you evolved through the years? Did anyone encourage you, especially?
Yes, I was creative as a child and was somewhat encouraged. My mom is pretty good at painting, and my brother is pretty creative as well. I don’t think it was so much being “encouraged,” but we were never discouraged.
What inspires you most?
Seeing other people’s art, I guess.
What turns you on creatively?
Well, if creativity was a switch, I think what turns it on is simply being an alternative to everyday reality. I mean, for me, after doing dishes, gassing up the car, cleaning the kitchen and/or other necessary life “rituals,” I just feel the urge for an escape; so I will sit down and do something creative. Whether it’s updating my website, or doing some 3D animation, or actually going to my studio to work.
Do you daydream often? If so, does it inform your work?
My work is a combination of art and science, really. The artistic parts of my work I just do as I do it, and don’t give it much thought. But the other side of the brain used for problem solving - like how to create a certain effect or how to do the mechanics for this or that - works overtime and I sometimes drift off, daydream, I guess, and sort of work on a solution.
How do you care for yourself to ensure you’re available when ideas present themselves?
I try to stay healthy, I guess. I mean I am SUPER sensitive to epoxy and a few other substances I work with, after years and years of being less than careful with it. So to ensure I am available when Ideas present themselves, I put on all this protective gear when I need to epoxy something or slush cast a head. Otherwise, I get severe allergic reactions that have sent me to the ER, and hospital stays more times than I can count or care to remember.
How do you balance life and art effectively? Or, do you?
I pretty much do the “life” thing until that switch goes off that drives me to the art thing.
How do you deal with creative dry spells? Do you make space for them, or push through?
I guess I have dry spells, but I don’t really look at them as dry spells. I mean, I don’t sit at a blank sheet of paper, staring and waiting for something creative to pop up so I can write away and create. I just go about life, and if an idea pops up that, I like I’ll pursue it. Times like in college when forced to come up with an idea, I just couldn't. I think ideas need to bubble up to the surface of my mind at their own pace. I think that pace can be quickened by exposure to new and exciting things, but I don’t think it can be forced.
How do you deal with change, especially when it comes to creative mediums and passion?
Generally speaking, I like change. It is a great stimulus.
How does criticism affect you?
Well, it depends on the source. If it is a person I admire and/or respect, I will digest what they have to say, and perhaps learn from it. If it is a commission piece, I will certainly listen to the client, and try to give him what he wants.
Has your work ever been copied? If so, how did you deal with it?
Well, I have seen some mechanics - specifically the way in which I create the figures upper lip sneer - that has been utilized by others….but at the same time, the way I do the mechanics for the jaw or the eyebrows is not really original; so I am, in a sense, copying someone else. Emulation is the highest form of compliment. However….in college I made an animated film that hit the festival circuit, and a couple years later I saw a student film at a festival I went to that I know was heavily influenced - if not copied - from my film. Same type swing music as a soundtrack to liven up a boring training film with drawn on film as the medium. I mean, it was spooky. I was somewhat flattered, but also pissed because I think they did a better job…..the film was crisper and more polished than mine. But then again,I carved out the way through the mountain, and they were able to pave the road. That film (my version) is on youtube still:
My film was born from inspiration out of a comedy skit in High School that was co-authored with a buddy of mine. We performed that skit together, and the idea for the skit came to him from watching too many Monty Python episodes.
Do you have any other mediums you use to express yourself creatively?
Swing dance, and 3D computer animation.
Do you enjoy collaborating, or prefer to work alone?
Both. Mostly I work alone, but I do collaborate with Bill Nelson (famous artist guy) to make some figures.
Do you work in a studio/space designed specifically for your creativity, or on the spur of the moment/anywhere inspiration strikes?
Studio space - too many tools and materials to tote around to work when inspiration strikes.
Is it important for you to have a creative, inspiring environment?
Until I moved to Asheville and got a studio in a warehouse with other artists, I was working out of my living room; basically, all by myself. It didn’t bother me that the space wasn’t inspiring, but I do like to have other creative types around - if for no other reason than I don’t feel so reclusive, and can mix and mingle with other creative types.
Do you plan thoroughly for projects, or go with the flow?
Usually go with the flow, but as I am working on a particular task, I am thinking ahead and sort of planning.
Do you have a preferred way of cataloguing ideas?
Yeah….the stupid ones I forget and replace, then braincell with a better idea later on.
Do you utilize social media? If so, how?
90% of my Facebook “friends” are people “in the industry.” They make figures or puppets or perform with them, so it has been a pretty good way to network. Actually, I’m not a big fan of social media at all.
What is your typical day like?
Wake up, eat, go to my studio and work, come home, maybe work at my other job (freelance 3D animator) if I have a case to work on, then relax. “Relax” can be anything from just watching TV, to going out drinking and dancing.
Do you have any rituals that help to set your creative time and/or space?
Not really, just a cup of coffee and I’ll light a cigarette. That’s when I get inspired, and set down the smoke to work, and never get back to smoking it.
Do you believe art can change the world? If so, how?
Don’t know about changing the world, but certainly make it a better place.
Do you believe that connecting with your creativity, or helping others to do so, can positively affect the world? If so, how?
I think that if people have that creative place to go to instead of that angry place or that violent place, and use that place as their outlet, then they may be less likely to “do bad things.” But….then again….Hitler was a painter and it didn’t do much for him. But, then again, he wasn’t a very creative painter.
How do you help and support Creatives in your local art community?
We check out each others work, and offer opinions. We share the same life/art struggles.
Do you surround yourself on a daily basis with creative, inspiring people?
What effect do you want your art to have on the world?
What music, if any, plays while you work? What are you listening to at this very moment?
Nothing from me. I will hear music others may be playing, but because I most likely am not into whatever it is, I don’t get distracted and pretty much tune it out. If I were to play music, I like songs I like to dance to or listen to in my free time. I think I would be distracted if I listened to it while working. I mean, I like to eat chilli and ice cream, just not at the same time.
What is the best advice you’ve been given?
Just do what you love and the $$$ will come later. And if it doesn’t, you at least were doing what you loved.
Do you have any advice for aspiring creatives?
Where can we find your art?
You can check my website mostly for pics of my work - http://www.dlavender.com/. The actual figures are all over the world - Australia, UK, Singapore,Germany, Kuwait, etc.