Daniel Ibañez is a contemporary realism artist, illustrator, and instructor of Traditional and Digital Arts from the state of Colorado in the United States. With an education in photography, ceramic arts, film, and digital publishing, Ibañez’s talent and experience in the arts enables him to create work that is both captivating and profound.
– Can you tell us how you got started in the arts, your education, and career?
Art was always in my family. My great grandfather advised my mother to only let me have basic tools like pencil and paper, as things like coloring books would stifle my creativity. I have been told I drew a balloon before I could walk and that I was drawing complex designs and naming them before I was a year old. My grandmother, an oil painter, and my mom always put me into classes and workshops. When I was 13 years old, my grandmother took me to a painting workshop with Ray Vinella – a famous southwest artist and former top Disney publicity artist. I painted with him every summer after that. I sold my first oil painting when I was 15 years old. By the time I was 19, I had won awards, had solo shows, displayed work in galleries from Denver’s Abend Gallery to Rich Designs in Colorado Springs, and was blessed to have some shows and galleries as far away as Taos, NM. With this, Southwest Art Magazine selected me as one of the upcoming young artists in America.
I entered university to pursue my childhood dream of teaching art. After graduating, I landed a dream job and continued to create art while teaching. Unexpected success arrived when Google launched its social network Google+ and found my digital painting instructions to be a vibrant use of its social media toolkit. I was placed on its recommended users kits and gained wild renown. I had 1.5 million followers overnight and later did a Ted talk about the experience.
At the time, I co-owned a gallery called Rendition, in Old Town Fort Collins. It was then that I fell in love, got married, and life swirled in a new direction with a child expected and a new home to renovate. Years later and facing new challenges with my wife who is heroically battling a chronic illness and a toddler running rampant, I have had to find a reentry point in my career. I chose to dabble in social media again, starting from scratch with Instagram. I have been creating daily paintings and illustrations as often as our turbulent days permit. It has been a blast so far finding new work, new friends, and making authentic connections on a new platform for myself.
– You have extensive knowledge of art and its different forms. What inspires you to create and keeps you motivated to continue?
My work is inspired by beauty, longing, hope, and the delicate moments of brushing against the Divine. I also find inspiration in pop culture, science fiction, the Wild West, fashion, and industrial design. I love to paint the human figure and portraits. I just love to paint.
I admit I can lose motivation during moments my heart cannot find the reason why I’m painting, and my mind doesn’t know what it is trying to learn. The antidote is simplicity. Paint what grabs you, without shame, without deliberation. Delight in the things that you love to bring closure and when done, move on and find new things.
– How do you manage to stay both personal and original in your creative endeavors?
The best thing I can do is to paint every day. I have to. Not only is that the only way to improve, but also it is the only way good ideas come. Like a good relationship, it takes a daily investment. My most personal, expressive, and important work comes from when I am very close to my tools. The key is not trying to be unique, but letting yourself love. By this I mean not being afraid to work, to create, to fail and from this place, interesting things begin to happen. Things start to come to life.
– Have you ever doubted your talent? If so, how did you work through your doubts?
There are times when maybe I haven’t sold work in a while, or I am in a slump. That doubt can creep in especially when working with unfamiliar mediums, but most of the time I try to keep my focus on what I am trying to learn and do my best. There is always so much room to improve. It is inspiring to see the mountaintop calling to you!
– Are you ever afraid or concerned about being judged by others or worried about how your creativity is perceived?
Yes. Sometimes I have had to paint what I needed to paint. To sort things out sometimes emotionally or intellectually, and other people do not always understand that. However, I think it is essential to be where you are and let the process play out. Sometimes the painting is about finding a way to work through and release something. That process can be hard for others to understand; the progression of exploration can take some strange turns. I think the key is to let yourself think through and explore what is on your heart.
– When discussing your career, what is the best advice that you have been given, creatively speaking?
“Everything is a study!” This advice from my mentor was crucial. It means that there is never a reason to stress in your work because everything is learning, practice, and discovery. The outcome is not the focus and in that mode of working there is no stress. Only joy.”
– What do you feel has been your most significant achievement as a professional artist?
“That is a tough question. My career has had distinct seasons. When I was young and not juggling teaching, it was just that I was able to make a living as an artist. Then, it was the Google+ fame. However, recently, it was getting back to painting every day! With the burden my family is carrying in this challenging moment (major family health crisis), simply surviving is an achievement! Being able to paint and dream about painting is a big part of surviving for me!”
– What advice would you give to people following in your footsteps?
“There is no road. Just find a way to paint every day. That is a must! Also, learn everything you can from the best people you can. There are no days off. When I take days off, nothing good comes of it. You have to grow those roots over many many years. Don’t give up! It will take a long time to become a great artist. However, it is worth it! I am still on my way there. I will let you know if I ever arrive!” – GM