Library . Dan Tranberg Interview
Faculty Member Dan Tranberg Interviewed by CIA student Adam Kujawski
With the invention of acrylic paint and continued improvement of the medium, artists have been allowed to work faster and safer than ever. This versatile polymer can function in ways that oil mediums and other water and solvent-based mediums cannot. At the same time it is able to mimic the appearance of many other mediums. Artist and critic Dan Tranberg’s book, Acrylic Fusion, highlights selected techniques that show the range and versatility of this 20th century medium. Many of the techniques incorporate other materials in addition to the traditional paint and paintbrush and provide the reader with dozens of possibilities for experimentation in surface treatment on and off the canvas.
AK: What led you from being an art critic to writing a technique book?
DT: I had never written about technique. I’d never written DIY stuff. I’d never intended to. I was an art critic. A publisher approached me after seeing my paintings. She said, “I like your paintings, can we write about them?” I said, well actually, I’m a writer. That’s when the conversation started. I thought about it for a while and was apprehensive in the beginning because these types of projects are usually geared towards amateurs, and I didn’t want to be pigeon holed. So I considered the possibilities and came to the conclusion that I wanted to use my own work and adapted the idea to fit what I do in my studio.
AK: Whom do you think this book most applies to; a novice, advanced beginner, a competent artist, a proficient artist or someone at the expert level?
DT: I tried to write it so it could be marketed to serious amateurs, but could also be useful to a broader range of makers.
AK: How did you choose what techniques to include in the book?
DT: I made a list of ideas that I had and then got a bunch of technique books and looked at what was out there already. I wanted to include some techniques that had not been written about before, or that were my own invention, and I wanted to include some that were already out there, but put my own spin on them. I also chose techniques that were useful, which was a tough decision because I had to have some that were easy but then there are ones like the marbling technique that require materials that you can’t find at your local grocery store or even most art stores. It was an ongoing investigation and some were cut from the book simply because I couldn’t condense them down into about eight steps. I also took all of the photos for the book and invested in a camera and a program where I was able to control the camera as I was doing the techniques. But there were some techniques that didn’t photograph well so they were omitted for that reason.
AK: What makes this book different from other technique books?
DT: I hope that it’s more sophisticated than other technique books. And I hope that it’s useful for serious artists. I think all the techniques in the book are useful. Some of the technique books that I’ve bought over the years have techniques that I could never imagine why you would want to do. I tried to include techniques that would have a creative, interesting application in a piece of art.
AK: What value does this book have pertaining to current issues in art and art making?
DT: What I have found is that techniques that come out of the craft world, or things that aren’t traditionally associated with high art have become popular in the art world. Things like embroidery, faux finishes and macramé are hot in the art world, and having done this book I was more sensitive to that. But I didn’t plan that, it all happened so fast but I do believe the techniques relate to current practices.
AK: How did your background as a critic and studio artist contribute to the creation of this book?
DT: As far as being a writer goes, when I was writing for the Plain Dealer there were times where I’d get an assignment, see a show, sit down and write the article and turn it in. I was able to generate quickly and cleanly. My undergraduate background was in ceramics. I began in photography but was dissatisfied with the program and went into ceramics because I enjoyed playing with materials. I liked the tactile nature of all the different powders and clay and spent three years making ceramic work. Most of my time was spent formulating my own glazes and making test tiles. I didn’t want to make finished pieces. I just wanted to experiment. That is how I continue to work in my studio; I do a lot of playing around like a kid with a chemistry set and see what happens.
AK: Where can we find your book?
DT: The book is currently being sold on amazon.com, most major art stores, and can be checked out from the CIA Library.
Thank you Adam and Dan for contributing to the library blog!!