A Visit With Dan, John & Danny McCaw at Their Studio in Torrance, CA
Text by Bonnie Gangelhoff • Photos by Jeff Berlin
This story was featured in the March 2016 issue of Southwest Art magazine. Get the Southwest Art March 2016 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story.
Describe your studio. Dan: We bought our building in 1998. It was previously a ballet studio and has hardwood floors, 16-foot-high ceilings, and brick walls that we partially covered with panels to hang our art. We paint under artificial light. The space is divided into two large rooms, and one is our studio. There is a smaller entrance space that acts as a gallery and a loft that we use as our office and gym.
What prompted all of you to share a studio? Dan: My children have been around art all their lives, so it didn’t seem like much of a stretch to share a studio. It would have seemed strange not to.
What is the general atmosphere in the studio? Do you listen to music or talk? Dan: Lately we’ve been listening to YouTube documentaries on artists that Danny finds online. John: The atmosphere around the studio changes from day to day. At times there is a lot of conversation, and at other times, it is relatively quiet—each of us in our own heads trying to resolve what is in front of us. But if one of us read something the night before or saw something we want to investigate more thoroughly, we typically subject the others to the topic. On any given day we might be listening to music or self-help commentaries or programs on Middle East issues. Sometimes there are saws and compressors running, dogs barking, and music playing. It can be pretty chaotic.
What are the benefits of sharing a studio? Dan: For me it is being able to share every day with my sons. They bring their own visions, enthusiasm, and energy. It is a symbiotic relationship; they become my teachers. John: Although there may be little an-noyances or disagreements at times, the pluses far outweigh the negatives. Painting can be a lonely endeavor. I would much rather paint with the two people I’m closest to—and have a tremendous amount of respect for—than paint alone. Danny: Being an artist is an insecure, lonely thing at times. When you are constantly trying to push your art forward, it leaves you in a vulnerable place. Having people around you that you trust and respect is huge. There is always encouragement and support.
What are the challenges of sharing a studio? Danny: The hardest part for me is the distraction.
Are some neater and others messier in the studio? Dan: John and Danny are neater than I am. John: To be honest, all three of us are pretty messy. I probably work the messiest because I’m working in mixed media, and I like to have things out, ready to grab and use. That being said, I’m also the one who puts things away. Throughout the course of the day I get asked multiple times where things are. To which I reply, “If you put things back where they’re supposed to go, you would know where they are.” But of course, with three of us, things can get pretty out of control. Danny: Yeah. We all have our moments. Just imagine three little kids without parental supervision. We all have our little zones in the studio, so it doesn’t cause a problem if one is neater or messier.
Do you critique each other’s works? Dan: We generally encourage each other. If one of us asks, “What do you think?” then we will be more critical. John: Typically opinions are given when asked for. If opinions are given without warrant or too early in the process, the person hasn’t had time to resolve the issues on his own terms. We tend to be our own worst critics because we have so much invested time wise and psychologically. Danny: We critique each other’s works when it is asked. I really trust my father’s and brother’s advice. Even though we are all painting different things, we have the same aesthetics.
If your studio were on fire, what one thing would you save? Dan: My dog, Ocho, a Belgian Malinois. John: If there were a fire, we would be in serious trouble. First, we would have to find the door. Then we would have to clear a path to it! There are way too many paintings to decide what to grab. I would hate to be thinking about what I should change in a painting while the building was burning to the ground. I suppose I would grab some of the expensive camera equipment, the computer hard drive with all of our imagery, and our stockpile of paint, especially the cadmiums. After all, we are artists. Danny: I would probably save my sketchbooks. They hold all of my ideas and thoughts. They are my journals or road maps and very important to me. They are a visual diary where I develop my ideas and thinking.
Gallery 1261, Denver, CO; Coda Gallery, Palm Desert, CA; Anne Irwin Fine Art, Atlanta, GA; Trailside Galleries, Jackson, WY; The Red Piano Art Gallery, Hilton Head, SC (Dan and Danny only); Sue Greenwood Fine Art, Laguna Beach, CA (Danny only); Sloane Merrill Gallery, Boston, MA (Danny only).
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