Daniel Lewis Wise aka ‘Don’t Worry’ is an Australian artist creating highly colourful, creative and humorous works inspired by his love of sci-fi, anime, role playing, and classic video games. Aspects of nerd / geek culture that Dan was exposed to at a young age, thanks to a mother interested in sci-fi, a grandfather into computer games, and early exposure to anime via Australia’s government owned SBS television station.
With Dan elaborating,
“I never had a family home; my mother was a single parent and we were constantly moving.
I always tried to be a social child, but I much preferred to be alone with a compelling role-playing game, or some hectic cartoon.“
Enrolling in art school straight out of high-school, Daniel found himself disillusioned with the world of fine art and instead turned to film-making. A medium which Dan loved, but promptly found it hard to find steady work in the barren landscape that is the Australian film industry.
Moving from Adelaide to Sydney in his late 20s, Dan has recently returned to his first passion – art, and has promptly found himself many admirers locally, and internationally.
So, with Dan currently working on his debut comic book and continuing to work on his craft; we thought now was the perfect time to ask the man himself some questions about life in Australia, art, graffiti, tattooing, and a whole lot more!
Read it all in the interview below….
Name and D.O.B?
I’m a little annoyed the Chernobyl nuclear factory meltdown overshadowed my birth, but here we are 33 years later and it’s still stealing the spotlight.
City, State and Country you currently call home?
Currently residing in Marrickville, NSW, Australia.
City, State and Country you’re from?
I hail from Elizabeth, SA, Australia.
Hometown of Jimmy Barnes, the now dead Holden Factory and countless adventures.
Please describe some memories from key stages of your life: concerts, art, toys, romance, hunting, school, politics, crime, religion… ANYTHING really!
* Age 5 – beginnings:
I’ve always been a child of digital entertainment. When I was really little, I used to play video games with my Grandad on his Commodore 64. It’s hard to explain the concepts of some of the old school games, but I recommend playing Mr Do’s Castle.
You’re an old dude who lives in a castle who’s woken up in the middle of the night by these monsters who repel into your castle and the only thing you have to defend yourself with is a wooden spoon.
* Age 10 to 15 – continuations:
I never had a family home; my mother was a single parent and we were constantly moving. I always tried to be a social child, but I much preferred to be alone with a compelling role-playing game, or some hectic cartoon.
I used to really dig watching Des Mangan’s Cult Movie night on SBS, it was always some sick foreign film or anime, that’s where I was introduced to the great anime’s: Akira, Ghost In The Shell, Castle Of Cagliostro. They fucking blew my mind, adult cartoons which pondered transhumanism and the direction of humanity.
Rugrats had some great moments, but it’s not the same, they were the best.
I used to be obsessed with Jackie Chan films. He had the tightest choreographed action films, and he’s just effortlessly entertaining.
My mother was a big influence on my cultural tastes. I didn’t realise until later after society had told me she was a huge nerd, she had all these fantasy, sci-fi books, LOTR, I was reading Le Guin before I knew who she was.
* Age 18 – getting serious:
I went to art school out of high school, it was the best stereotype: sex, drugs, non-graded passes.
I used to spend most of my time in the library learning about new artists and studying their work, Goya was a massive influence to me, dream inspired Hell monsters, all done with these intricate line works on lithographs. It was amazing how he materialised all the images he saw during the French invasion of Spain.
I wasn’t a huge fan of the institution though; a lot of the education was how to talk art bullshit and market yourself. I still don’t know how to do that, I was more into the punk scene that was in Adelaide at the time, you should check out Stolen Youth and Hightime.
* Age 20 – young adult:
After I’d given up on art, I thought I’d try my hand at my second passion movies, so I went to film school.
It was way harder. Writing a short film and putting yourself out there is so confronting it really makes you re-evaluate your life, who you think you are, what are your beliefs, your values? What makes a good person in society, then the superhero script you wrote doesn’t make it through the pitch stage and you’re left staring into your jug of Coopers at the pub.
Making a film is a collective effort and I’ve always had a problem with saying the first thing that came into my mind so working with others isn’t my strong point. I’m more tempered in my older age, I’d like to think after a while everyone starts to learn how to think before they speak.
I tried getting into video production in Adelaide but the industry is so small you basically have to wait for someone to die, so I took a few hospo and retail jobs to get some “real life experience”, to which I mean paying for my drinking habit.
There are times when I can’t find the direction my life should be taking, and I fell into a rut of daily beers with friends as a way of putting off working on myself. My reckless abandonment came to a crescendo one spicy morning… My girlfriend in the latter half of our relationship, had become a stripper and had decided to continue on her journey alone. I was single, lying in my bed at mother’s house I’d recently moved back into.
My hangover was a throbbing celebration, I’d done it! I’d alienated everyone, including myself, my ego was stripped.
* Age 25 to 30 – adult mode:
With nothing left it was time to rebuild, I took off to Sydney for a do over.
It was a good choice, it really helped with my social anxiety because I had that opportunity to be a new person without all the social emotional baggage.
I went to uni and got a bachelor in communications, which took me a little longer than usual because I had to work to afford to live here, Sydney is fucking expensive. Fortunately, the lock out laws had been rolled out so there was no reason to go out drinking or do anything fun, ever again.
I tried doing some video production here which was a lot fun making original content, but I was finding what I really enjoyed was getting back into illustration, and I didn’t have enough time in the day to learn the 10 different disciplines in video production plus make my original art. In the last couple of years, I’ve decided I’m ready to embrace my passion and start taking illustration seriously, I’m really happy with the stuff I make now which makes me want to do it more.
I still have a part-time job to pay the bills, but now I’m working on following my bliss in making illustration my full-time career. Where I want it to take it at this can be anywhere, I just wanna get my art out.
If I can choose my trajectory it’ll be tattooing. Thinking that people could trust me to put something on them that’s probably for life, is an honour.
I don’t really have one, but I do believe everyone should work in retail / hospitality to learn how not to be an ignorant asshole, people on mass are the fucking worst.
Please describe the process of producing your art? – Dot point all o.k!
* Your traditional art – such as sketches?
Like most traditional artists my process starts by absorbing all the information around me. My personal preferences are movies (no specific genre), tv sitcoms, and I try to get my daily news in. Unlike other artists my process includes having an easily distracted personality which means I spend way too much time playing video games and watching conspiracy theories on YouTube.
When I’m really uninspired I’ll use classic practices like creating blob shapes to illustrate a face that emerges, much like a Rorschach, I don’t know if that has a name? Or, I’ll pick some old material to restyle. I have several sketchbooks that I’ll go through and look for old characters or themes I can revisit. This is great because It gives me a chance to throw out old sketchbooks after I’ve Adani-strip-mined it for material.
I also have a quick character generator I designed that I like to refer to.
I do all my sketches / finals in ink, I set myself a personal challenge to not use pencil and do everything in pen. It’s daft, but it’s really helped me step my work up knowing I had to get it right the first time.
My process for both digital and analogue art is to work on the one project, I occasionally will have a couple of pieces on the go to stave off fatigue, but once I get in a groove I like to stick with a piece till completion.
* Your digital art?
I love digital it’s so much easier to change the piece, the curse of that though is I may spend an unnecessary amount of time on one line.
I use Photoshop for the original sketch then I’ll import it to Illustrator for the line work.
I’ll bring it back to PS for the fill and colour, I prefer colouring the image manually rather than with fills. I’ve tried countless other ways, and I recommend everyone keeps playing with the programs and watching tutorials, because there’s dozens of combinations of line and fill and there’ll be one that works best for you.
I’m still really only starting to understand the programs and what you can do with them. When I first started using digital, I was almost superstitiously still trying to incorporate analogue art. I was really into scanning my ink illustrations and incorporating that into the digital final, but now I’m getting better with my drawing tablet I just get lazy.
When and why did you first start making art of any type!?
I just always wanted to draw on things and express myself.
My friend recently got into graffiti, and we’ve been watching a lot of YouTube footage on it. I’m starting to understand that compulsion to just splurt your name over everything.
I’m really into the world building aspect of stories, creating a space and then filling it with your own version of reality.
Any pivotal artistic moment(s) / influence(s)?
I draw a lot of my inspiration from mythology and symbology, and anything occult.
I’m fascinated by Jung and his archetype psychology. He has a whole society that catalogues images and symbology. My favourite book I own is literally called “The Book of Symbols” which is super handy for finding imagery and themes. You’d never think the sun and moon had genders, but why the fuck not. They’re always opposite genders though, you never see the same gendered sun and moon in stories and I don’t see why that has be the case.
I’m a big fan of French New Wave cinema, those cats got it. There’s the right level of meta-narrative in all the director’s work, that derives from self-reflection and introspection that was on brand with the philosophy and psychology at the time, but cut with this obsession with American cinema. Jean-luc Godard’s, Contempt is such a great film.
Sergio Leone‘s, Spaghetti Westerns are arguably the best trilogy in Cinema history. Bonus points for watching the Akira Kurosawa’s they homage/shamelessly rip off.
Worst aspect of the art hustle?
Right now, I’m banking on Instagram to get some easy exposure, however with them changing their algorithms, and restructuring their platform interface, I feel like I missed out on the gold rush.
Best aspect of the art hustle?
Getting to meet new and exciting people.
I really wanna learn how to collaborate with other people well, I’m old enough, this should’ve been a skill I learnt ages ago.
Odds and Ends
What role did toys play in your childhood?
I used to love toys as a kid I had every big brand: Transformers, Turtles, Pokeman’s et al.
Collecting was really big when I was young, and I always thought of it as collecting. I’ve sold off most of the toys I’ve had, and now I’m just banking on my stock of Street Shark toys paying off one day. All I want is to one day say “Thank you Street Sharks, you saved my bacon”, and actually mean it.
My work is definitely inspired by the toys I had in my childhood. I love character creating, and in my art, I’m teaching myself how to paint still life using toys.
Who was your 1st crush and why?
Lena, We were both 8/9?
We were on the same military barracks. She was fun, we used to watch afternoon cartoons together.
Out of the following two mythical monsters, who would win in a fight and why: A rowdy gang of Drop Bears (from Australia) Vs. Godzilla (from Japan)?
[Please draw the battle in all its violent beauty!]
In a fight between Drop Bears versus Godzilla, I’m gonna go with drop bears.
First of all, there’s more of the Drop Bears, and they’re smaller. I think it’d be like regular fighting where the smaller fighter can get underneath their guard.
Failing that they could just get into him through his arsehole and just start tearing it up. I’ve had a haemorrhoid once, it sucked.
I couldn’t imagine the discomfort of a Godzilla sized one.
Which cartoon character, would you most like to see in a tribute sex toy, and why?
[Please draw a prototype of your design!]
A Mega Man (aka Rockman) massage wand!
Does sex change everything?
Get laid with as many people as you need, boy and / or girl.
Please describe what you think the Australian psyche / zeitgeist is today?
I dunno, after the Liberal’s won the latest election I couldn’t tell you?
I think people are too lazy to want to put the effort in to actually learn who our politicians are, and how they’re running our country. If they’re meant to represent all of us, that tells me people are only interested in business, and they’re happy to be lied to so long as it gives them deniability to not think about our planet, and our future.
We’re going to get our post apocalypse wasteland, but it won’t be radiation, or zombies. Most of the plants will die leaving us with rich people living in city sized green houses, with the poor having to fight to breath recycled air.
What are the top 3 items you own?
I don’t really have a top list of items I own.
I think ancient humanity really figured out where we should be at with worldly possessions, most of it isn’t necessary. Making us need stuff for the economy to work is just a distraction from healthy actions, like being introspective and focusing on your feelings. It’s amazing how much better you feel when you spend even just 20 minutes alone listening to yourself.
I’m still struggling with practising asceticism, I have a whole apartment worth of crap now, and I’m terrified for the next time I have to move.
My reading glasses I wouldn’t be able to live without though, they’re pretty handy.
Drugs – waste of time or gateway to the universe?
Drugs? Uhhhhh… Everything in moderation, but definitely do them. I’d say try all of them, but do your research first.
I’ve not done some of the heavier stuff like heroin, ice, but that’s because I know I have an addictive personality and I don’t want to take that risk. I love weed; I could smoke it every day. For me it makes everything new, like I’m seeing for the first time. Music sounds better, I’ve listened to Dinosaur Junior dozens of times and the first time I heard it high there was so much more going on, the sound was fuller, there were instruments I’d never heard before. I listened to it the next day to be sure I hadn’t fried my brain, and they were still there.
I don’t think it’s a gateway drug. I’ve never been high listening to the audio book of Joseph Campbell’s, Hero With a Thousand Faces and thought “Maybe I should rail an 8 ball today.”
But I really do stress if you have prior health conditions, physically or mentally you really should consider what you’re taking and do the research before you take it. As Hunter S. Thompson said “You can turn your back on a person, but never turn your back on a drug. Especially when It’s waving a razor-sharp hunting knife in your eye.”
Please describe your latest dream in detail…
I don’t remember, I’m sure it was pretty pedestrian.
I usually have pretty normal conversations, with friends in dreams. Every now and then I’ll dream about flying, magic flying, not in a plane; I love those dreams.
Every now and again I dream about a ghost that’s trying to kill me, but I’ve had the dream so many times it doesn’t even disturb me while I’m dreaming it.
Of everything you have done what would you most like to be remembered for and why?
I don’t have that yet. One day I’ll have it, but not yet.
If people wanted to work with you or buy something – how should they get in touch?
I’m working on a website, but It’s not quite ready yet. Once I start it, I’ll let you know.
Any collaborations on the horizon?
I’m in talks with a few brands, but nothing to add to my portfolio yet; however, my consciousness is open and I’m ready to receive anything / anyone that comes my way.
There’s so much great talent here in Sydney I’m happy to wait for something to come my way.
Any major projects you want to hype?
I’m in the process of making an independently produced comic. It’s gonna be called Quest, and it’ll be a comedy like Futurama meets Adventure Time.
I’ve played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons, and I feel like I need to justify my time playing rpgs, by creating something out of the stories I’ve experienced. Plus, fantasy is fun, it’s easier to justify creating some weird shit like a centaur: what a shittily veiled metaphor for alcoholism.