Daniel McClendon sits in his studio with his paintings behind him

 Daniel McClendon b. 1985 Chicago, IL

Daniel graduated from Western Michigan University with his BFA—emphasis in painting realism. Shorty after graduating he relocated to Asheville, NC, where he maintained this focus on realism and began painting full time.This continued until he came to the conclusion that his work was “fraudulent” due to the lack of a true and honest voice. This identity crisis led him to quit painting entirely. During this hiatus his mind slowly wandered back to the creative process and the important themes in his life. And, unexpectedly on March 21st, 2011 at 3:59 A.M. he had an epiphany. He rolled out of bed and wrote down the framework for how to achieve an authentic form of expression.

Daniel’s paintings are process focused and examine the connectivity of instinct, impulsive action, and identity. The work begins non-objectively in the form of a chaotic black and white abstract painting, and from there the animal— a central figure in all his works—emerges. These animals, created from a variety of colors, patterns, textures, forms, and symbols, take on the role of both a totem as well as the embodiment of instinct itself.

Artist Statement

I use a combination of painterly and illustrative techniques to articulate my menagerie of abstract animals. My work is derived mostly from a struggle with creative identity. Exclusively a representational painter by choice and training, I decided that I needed to shift to a format that would allow for me to express myself more authentically. Relying on my own philosophies is what guided this transition. My current approach is to begin each painting with total abstraction – a loose, non-objective black and white outline. This practice resonates with me in the sense that we are all dealing with the unknown. After assessing the environments on my canvases for opportunities and limitations, my path wanders with the application of color like someone who truly is immersing themselves in all the choices that unfold in life.

The animal forms are consistent visual anchors that emerge out of the black and white outline. Application of thick oil paint allows me to constantly alter the direction of the composition and take into account both the nature of the animal and the environment it’s conceived from. Along with my techniques, the animals serve as totems to further inform one’s identity.I focus on the process versus the end product, which reflects my desire to let intuition guide the composition.

Simple materials and tools are used to create this primitive yet complex imagery. The initial black acrylic paint is adorned with a large brush while the colors that follow are applied with palette knives and sculptural tools. These tools force a directness and intentionality that are perfect for the layered mark-making techniques. Simple symbols—X’s, zigzag lines, repetitive marks, and dashes—work in frenetic harmony with the animal forms that are a direct reference to natural instinct.

From a Gorilla to a Praying Mantis, and a Condor to a Great White Shark, I embrace the less prominent creatures that inhabit our world. Every species has significance in our biosphere, and the historic glamour or insignificance of an animal has little bearing on my decision to reference it.

Ultimately, when scaled back, I am referencing the human condition – the feeling of being cosmically inconsequential, but also having the opportunity to make an immediate and real impact. These values reverberate loudly in my work. I am relishing the opportunity to share them.