logo .










By Scott Brassart

Extra Signage Necessary
Continuum Gallery presents the Drawings of Dan Pyle

The charcoal drawings of Los Angeles-based artist Dan Pyle are so realistic they are often mistaken for high-end black and white photography; galleries showing his work actually post signs so patrons understand they are looking at drawings rather than photographs.
Amazingly, Dan has almost no formal art training. “It’s all self-taught and self-developed,” he says. “I thought about taking classes, but I’ve felt my way around and taught myself how to do the effects I want, and that seems more beneficial than going into a classroom and having someone tell me the way I should do it. So I just kind of do my own thing.”
Originally from Washington state, it was ballet that brought Dan to California. “I was dancing back then,” he says. “I was with the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle, and then I went to San Francisco and did a work study with San Francisco Dance Theatre. … I came to L.A. because I did a little bit of theater for awhile, and I was doing a show here. I liked it, so I moved here and now I’m rooted. I’ve been here 24 years.”
Though his initial focus was dance, he was painting, with success, at a very early age. “I played around with it,” he says. “I did some acrylic paintings, I did some oil paintings. When I was in high school I worked in a movie theater and they said, ‘Bring in your paintings and we’ll hang them in the lobby.’ Before that they had some old flowery things from the women’s guild. So I put my paintings up and about two weeks later someone came in and bought every one of them. They were cheap, like 25 bucks apiece, but someone liked them enough to buy them. That was a big deal to a high school kid.”
Over time Dan played with several different media before moving to charcoal about 20 years ago. “I did some pastels, I did some watercolors. Everybody loved the watercolors I did, but I’m not comfortable with them. You have to work so quickly, and there’s a lack of control. I guess I’m kind of anal in that I like to control my medium. Charcoal is just more compatible with who I am.”
Over time, Dan has developed his signature style. “I decide my composition, my size, sketch it out in pencil, and then I start with the charcoal. I tend to now use a technique that gives me a softer look. I take a charcoal pencil and I scribble it onto a piece of scrap board, and then I take a piece of cloth, get the charcoal on the cloth, and transfer it to the drawing that way. That way I don’t have that hard edge of the pencil on the board. The cloth makes for a softer effect, I can get the skin tones and blend with it.”
Dan says he finds it easiest to work from photographs. “I don’t ever do live models,” he says, “mainly because the process is so time consuming. I’ve got to pick it up and put it down, working when I have time.” He says he’s started taking his own photos because he can get the exact look he wants. “When I’m using something I find, I’m limited to that pose. … This way I can set up my own poses and get exactly what I want.”
He also likes photos because he can pore over the tiniest details. “What makes my work look real is the detail. I really look at and study the photos I work from, all the details. Some artists say, ‘Oh, I don’t need that because it doesn’t matter.’ Well, I put it in because it does matter. If you start messing with it, you lose the realism.”
One of the most interesting facets of Dan’s work is his unconventional composition. Typically he shows only part of his subject—a torso, the eyes, the lips. “I used to draw a lot of faces, and people would always want to know who it was. Why does everybody think it has to be somebody? So I thought if I only use part of the face, then they’re not going to wonder who it is. I started cropping like that and people really responded to it. It lets people use their imagination. If I’m leaving things a little bit anonymous and mysterious, then people can read their own thing into it.”

If You Go — “Fragments: Photorealistic Drawings by Dan Pyle,”  is showing at Continuum Gallery, 258 N Palm Canyon Drive, from April 12 - May 14. There is an opening night reception from 5 to 8 pm. For more information on the show call Continuum at 760.864.0044 or log on to continuumgallery.com. For more information on Dan Pyle log on to danpyleartist.com

© 2008 The BottomLine Palm Springs | A Division Of Saputo-Beale Enterprises, Inc.