While on a listing appointment, I came across a painting in one of the bedrooms done by Danny Heller. Since then, I haven’t stopped thinking about it. He captures the essence of mid century architecture like no other – the lines, the color, the style are all spot on. Just the other day I thought I’d reach out to Danny for an interview. Being a frustrated artist at heart, I am always curious to know what inspires this creative talented crowd. Please enjoy our exchange below…
Who Inspires you?
One of my biggest inspirations has to be the artist Edward Hopper. The way he captured not just the details of an environment, but more importantly the feel of an environment continues to astound me. He really balanced the representational and the emotional in his work. And his compositions are some of the strongest I’ve ever seen. You can just stare at one of his pieces and never fully realize all the visual patterns, shapes, tricks he employed.
What’s your creative process?
It has pretty much remained the same for most of my professional career. I typically start by photographing subject matter that I’m drawn to and then go through the photos on my computer, cropping, photoshopping, etc. until I land on the perfect composition. Then I have to figure out if the image will have a better impact large scale or as a small canvas. I’ll then stretch a canvas as per what size I’ve decided on, with lots of layers of gesso to get the surface real smooth. Finally I’ll either grid out the photo on the canvas, or as of recently, I’ve been using a projector to project the image on the canvas where I then draw everything in. Finally I get to painting, typically with a sepia tone base layer. After that dries, I can go over it with numerous layers of color, building up vibrancy and refining the image.
What’s your home look like? And what does your ideal home look like?
My home is just a standard tract home from the 2000’s, but we happen to live next door to my finacee’s landmark Hotel Lautner, designed by legendary architect John Lautner in 1947. It’s quite inspiring to be around it everyday and that sense of history fosters my creativity. My dream home would probably be a classic Palm Springs midcentury, not necessarily huge, but large enough to contain a studio, with room for my dogs to run around.
What is the draw to architecture, landscape and furniture in your work?
Architecture, landscape, furniture, and really just good design in general all inspire me. I feel good design tells a story, and when we’re being told a story, we use our imaginations. I also feel that when you surround yourself with things that are thoughtfully crafted and skilled in execution, it somewhat forces you to meet those standards. I drive through streets of beautifully designed homes and think, “someone poured a lot of thought and dedication into making that. I should also pay that close attention into the details that go into my work.”
Being that we are an LA based e-mag, I always like to get people’s take on where they like to spend their time here in this vast city.
What is your favorite restaurant in LA?
My favorite restaurant in LA is very difficult to say because there are so many amazing spots. I love that you can get great food from a variety of cultures and a variety of chefs, new and established. One restaurant that continues to stand out in my mind has to be the Dresden in Los Feliz. I used to live not too far and would go there after every exhibit opening to celebrate. The food is good…more of a classic dining experience…but the history and atmosphere keep me coming back. It still retains the original 1950s charm, including clam shell booths, plus there’s the wonderful Marty and Elayne playing in the swanky lounge.
How would you describe your ideal day in LA?
It would have to start with a hike up to the Griffith Observatory starting from the Ferndell trail. This is like a little tropical oasis on the heart of Griffith Park, with spectacular views as you climb to the top. The Observatory has to be my favorite building in all of LA. The history is incredible and the exhibits never cease to amaze. It’s definitely an LA landmark not to be missed. Then I’d grab breakfast at Home in Los Feliz, a wonderful outdoor experience under giant trees. Next I’d head to LACMA to see anything and everything. Often overlooked is the permanent collection featuring some great work by Giacometti and the Impressionists. Just meander around and take in all the fantastic architecture, outdoor installations, and traveling exhibits. I’d then head to the Golden Road Brewing Company in Glendale for some wonderfully crafted beer and delicious food. There’s a great outdoor section with fun people-watching. Finally, I’d head into downtown for a fun night tripping around. After catching the sunset at Perch, I’d maybe grab dinner and an old fashioned at Cole’s, then meander to the Falls, Spring St. Bar, and maybe Broadway Bar.
Where can we get more information on you?
My Los Angeles representation is:
George Billis Gallery
2716 S La Cienega Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90034
And my upcoming show “Midcentury Manhattan” opens Thursday March 3rd 6-8pm at the George Billis Gallery’s New York location (Chelsea)
525 West 26th St.
New York, NY 10001
Otherwise people can find me a Danny Heller Art.