BY SAM DESTEFANO
Daniel M. Granitto is a trained and skilled Colorado artist who had to throw it all away to arrive at his current style. On top of this, his work is wrapped up in existential ideals, contemporary subjects, traditional mediums and daring simplicity to create something that is modern and new. To me this is the mark of our best creative voices and it was a pleasure to interview this generous and thoughtful artist.
Can you tell us about your history as an artist? Do you remember a definitive moment when you decided this was the path for you?
My mom is an artist/art teacher and my dad is a very talented craftsman with a perfectionist’s bent, so the “art thing” is definitely in my blood. I have been drawing, painting, and making things for longer than I can remember, and my parents were always very supportive of my various interests in creativity. When I was a little kid, maybe 3rd grade, my mom told me about art colleges where people go to become professional artists. She mentioned RISD as being the best school for art in the country. From then on, I began telling people that I was going to RISD to become an artist. And, while ultimately I ended up at SAIC instead, the general trajectory that I set my heart upon in 3rd grade has basically played out.
This is a tough question for me to answer – I think about it often. SAIC gave me the opportunity to explore, to experiment, and to challenge my “default settings” as an artist. For these things, I am very grateful. Additionally, the school is connected to the museum (AIC) and having constant access to that collection was an excellent education in its own right. Why I am torn when trying to answer this question is that in the years immediately following my graduation, I basically felt the need to “unlearn” or forget nearly everything that I had picked up in school. I found myself feeling so cluttered up with creative influences, art trends, professor’s opinions, and career expectations that I could not recognize or trust my own artistic voice. All in all, I think SAIC was the right thing for me and I am excited about where it has led me thus far.
It’s a post-modern idea that your paintings are based on photos that you take “as you move through daily life.” How does this change the way you see the world on a daily basis? Are you constantly recognizing special moments that would make interesting paintings?
Yes! I do find special moments on an almost daily basis that I consider as possible paintings. I feel that I have been given the most wonderful gift (not as in talent, but as in present). I love happening upon these moments, and I find myself ever more eager to truly see. I don’t want to miss anything.
That’s a tough call for me to make, largely because I really don’t know how anyone else sees/experiences things as they move through each day. What’s more, while I tend to be very tuned-in visually, there are still countless times every day when I neglect the gift of the present moment because I’m distracted or anxious or frustrated or bored or staring at my IG feed or whatever. For myself, I think that to be fully engaged with the present moment is a worthy goal. I believe it is a discipline, and one which I intend to continue cultivating throughout my life.
On your website you state that, “when the veil of the ordinary is lifted” it reveals “the awful (awe-full) reality of being.” This is a complicated spin and play between the ideas of something being awful and awe-ful. What’s the difference and how are they intertwined? Can you explain how this concept works for you?
Oh boy. There’s so much I could say, I’ll try to be brief. For me, it has to do with the paradoxical nature of existence. The fact that we exist, in all of the unfathomable complexity of just that statement, “we exist,” and yet we are so easily bored, lulled, distracted, dissatisfied. The fact that, while experiencing the innumerable joys of living and being, we are also constantly aware of our impending death. It’s the bitter-sweet. The sweet-bitter. If you like music, listen to Casimir Pulaski Day by Sufjan Stevens. Listen to it a few times and also read the lyrics. For me, this whole idea feels almost perfectly encapsulated in that song.
In the modern art world there are so many different mediums out for artists to explore. You have stuck with a more traditional medium, but at the same time have given it a really modern twist. Why did you choose watercolor painting as your medium of choice and how would you describe the relationship between it and the modern voice within your work?
First of all, I should note that while I work in watercolors a lot, especially for my smaller works, most of the larger paintings are done in oils either on canvas or panel. I love the intimacy and delicacy of watercolor. I admire its softness, the way the paint and the paper seem to merge, becoming a unified, new substance. I love its translucency. Watercolor has always felt innate to me – it was the first paint I learned to use. Quite a while ago, I threw out the “rulebook” for watercolor painting and since then I’ve just pushed it to its limits as a material, always at the service of whatever image I have in mind.
For those aspiring artists, can you share with us information about your day- to- day artistic routines and your general process?
So, I have two little kids (ages two and three and a half) and I am their primary caretaker during the day while my wife works. My studio time comes during nap times and at night. I have discovered a few habits that make this current structure more productive. One thing is that I keep an ongoing, physical photo archive. I print 4×6’s of my photos that I’m particularly interested in and I organize these in photo albums. I have found this to be an excellent way for me to find inspiration and to notice patterns in my vision. Another thing is that I always have five or more pieces “in progress” at any given time (sometimes there’s as many as ten). This helps me to keep my work in a constant flow. When one piece is stuck, I set it aside. If I need a break from something slower and more laborious, I change gears and work on something smaller, faster and more experimental. I rarely feel “stuck” in my studio practice and I’m very grateful for that.
It’s so cool that your piece entitled, “ In This World” was featured on the front cover of the most recent issue of the Members Magazine for the Denver Art Museum. This would be quite an honor and validation for any artist. Can you tell us a little bit about this experience?
Thank you! Yes, it was hugely validating and just an incredible honor. Truthfully, the whole thing came about rather serendipitously, or so it seemed to me. A staff member of the museum reached out to me via email with the proposition. In the midst of the strangeness and chaos brought on by COVID, they had been considering how that issue could really give priority to the local artsphere here in Denver. Additionally, they felt that my piece, “In This World,” captured something of what it feels like to exist in this new reality. So, I was asked if I was interested in having my work featured on the cover of the Member’s Magazine and I said, “ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME?! ABSOLUTELY, OF COURSE!” Or, at least, that’s what I was thinking when I promptly said yes.
There is no question that this pandemic has and will inspire so much art. Not only as subject matter, but in volume as well based on the fact that artists now have a lot of time to focus on making art. Has this been the case for you? Furthermore, do you have any upcoming shows so that we can check out your latest work?
Because of the way that my studio life was already structured, I have not really seen a big change in my productivity. I still spend weekdays with the kiddos, and work in the studio mostly at night. I tend to make a lot of work, and that has certainly continued to be true throughout this pandemic period. I just had a solo show at Alto Gallery in August and currently I do not have any shows slotted for the coming months. I’m okay with this as I will need quite a bit of focused time in the studio to build up the next body of work. However, I highly encourage your readers to zip over to my website, danielmgranitto.com, and sign up for my newsletter on the contact page. That way they will always be up-to -date on any news concerning my studio practice.
Thanks so much, Daniel, for sharing your work and thoughts with us! To learn more about Daniel and his work visit www.danielmgranitto.com.