Talking Art & Design with Chief Graphic Designer Patrick Dunne
Cabrinha Chief Graphic Designer and Maui artist Patrick Dunne is a man of many talents. Patrick plays a crucial role at Cabrinha and designs all product graphics. Everything you see in Cabrinha's range has probably been on Patrick's desk. He's the one who makes us look good and adds the magic! Patrick is also an amazingly talented artist, guitarist, and knows how to bring a smile on everyone's face in the office. Time to catch up with Patrick, talk about his paintings, the 'Thumbhead', and how art is incorporated into each Cabrinha product.
Hi Patrick, where did you get your start in art?
I have an amazingly talented family. Going back to my Great Grandma, I come from a long line of creative people. Art was always around me and making art was always encouraged. As an only child I spent a lot of time drawing or making stuff to entertain myself. In high school I had a great art teacher that inspired me to pursue it as a career. So I went to art school and realized I didn’t want to do anything else. School gave me the confidence to follow my dreams, no matter how crazy they were. The rest is history.
What attracted you to it?
I have always been in awe of the power of art. To be able to communicate visually is so timeless and important, and I have tremendous respect for the artists that have literally changed history. From the cave paintings in Lascaux to the street art of Banksy. Art is more than pretty pictures to me. It is an integral part of life.
Who and what were your early influences?
Besides my parents and grandparents, I have always been inspired by the surf and album art of Rick Griffin, Stanley Mouse, Victor Moscoso & John Severson. Skateboard art from Pushead, Jim Phillips, and anything by Santa Monica Airlines or Dogtown. The album art of Milton Glaser, Roger Dean and Mati Klarwein. Movie titles by Saul Bass. The work of David Carson, who changed my preception of what graphic design could be. The paintings of Robert Rauschenberg, Richard Diebenkorn, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Edward Hopper, Winslow Homer, Max Beckmann, and Georgia O’Keefe. The illustrations of N.C. Wyeth, Maurice Sendak and Dr. Seuss. The photography of Ansel Adams, Alfred Stieglitz and Robert Doisneau. I could go on, but I won’t.
Can you tell us a bit about your preferred subjects and why they resonate with you?
I am drawn to images or subjects that make the viewer think or feel something. Whether it is a more traditional landscape painting or a mixed media collage, I have always loved exploring the complex relationship between man and nature. I love using color and layers to tell a story. There can also be some twisted humor or sarcasm in my work. Everyone sees art (and life) differently and to me, that is what makes art so cool. We all have an inherently unique idea of what we see. To me the best thing about making art is that it will affect others in their own way. There is almost always some kind of personal narrative to my pieces, but I am really interested in other people finding their own narratives.
Where did the Thumbhead come from?
The Thumbhead thing came from just doodling a lot and making weird stuff in school. I have always liked drawing funny characters and creatures and making little comic books. It has been a way for me to make stuff without over-thinking it or being too serious. In a way it is like my visual therapy. There are no rules or constraints. The characters and scenes I create are kind of twisted psychological interpretations of the real world.
How has living in Hawaii changed your art direction… or has it?
When I moved to Maui, I was in my early 30’s. I had been living in L.A. for a while and was looking for a change in my life. A new chapter. So I did the cliché “one-way ticket” thing and sold all my stuff. Once on the island, I was lucky enough to meet some amazing people and stumble into some unreal opportunities. Fifteen years later, my art has changed as much as I have. The landscapes, the colors, the people, they have all influenced my aesthetic in both my fine art and my graphic design. Life is less complex here on the islands. And because of that, I am able to appreciate all the little things.
How has your art evolved and where is it headed?
My art continues to evolve as much as my life evolves. The places I have seen and the people I have met over the years are huge factors in my creative process. Living in Hawaii, having a kid, watching the political fallout of an enormously flawed President all play a part in some way.
My job as a graphic designer, using the computer every day, has a huge impact on my fine art. And vice versa. The computer is just another tool, much like a paint brush, and it is all in how you use the tools you have in your art. I love using the computer to map out paintings or experiment with compositions and colors. And I love using hand-drawn or found elements in my graphic design work. The lines are so blurry and that excites me. I don’t ever want to stop learning or discovering. Who knows what I will be painting twenty years from now, but I sure as hell hope I am still painting.
Tell us about your technique. Do you have a preferred medium or do you mix it up?
For my fine art stuff, I pretty much always use acrylic paint and mediums. Acrylics dry fast and allow me to layer things much faster. I loved painting with oils in school, but they just take too long to dry. I actually use a hair dryer in my studio all the time to speed up the drying process. I can achieve a very traditional look with acrylics, like in a landscape painting, but I can also layer photographs and fabrics with acrylic mediums and get a really cool collage effect. I really like to experiment with textures and surfaces too. The key for me is to not be afraid of experimenting. If something works, great. If it doesn’t work, paint over it and try something else.
What was your path to become a graphic designer?
I went to college for illustration in the age before computer design was mainstream. My last semester I took a digital design course using Photoshop, Illustrator and QuarkXPress. I was awestruck with the possiblities this new tool could bring to my art. I ended up getting a job out of school as a motion graphics designer for a post production house in Portland. I learned on the job how to use the computer for art and design. It was a great opportunity that set me on the path I am still on today.
Do you feel your work as a professional graphic designer bleeds into your fine art or do you try to keep them separate?
The line between my design work and fine art is very blurry. And for me that is a good thing. I am always thinking about art and design. I’m very lucky that I get to do what I love for a living.
How do you apply your personal beach and street credibility into your work as an artist?
I am not sure if I have any beach or street “crediblilty” per se. I guess I have been doing this stuff for so long that I don’t really think about it anymore. In my own mind I am an artist and a designer, and that’s all that matters to me. My confidence comes from my experience and the people I surround myself with.
You do ALL of the product graphics and brand visual marketing for Cabrinha. How do you approach such a task?
One day at a time haha. It can be overwhelming at times, for sure. It is important to have a positive outlook and a sense of humor. It also helps that I work with an extremely talented group of people. And having Pete as a boss makes it easy too. His creativity and passion push us all to do our best.
Tell us where is the overlap between your lifestyle and your work?
Living on Maui, the lifestyle is my work. Essentially, we are designing beach toys and we live in one of the most exciting playgrounds on the planet. It is hard to separate what I do for a living with what I do in my own time. It is all intertwined.
You’re quite an accomplished musician. How does music play a role in your work?
I don’t know about accomplished, but I love to play music. It is another outlet for me to be creative and let off some steam. One of the coolest aspects of my job is that I work with a bunch of talented musicians. A lot of us have guitars or ukuleles at our desks and we have impromptu jams quite often. It is a great way to relieve stress and maybe procrastinate a little.
FOLLOW PATRICK DUNNE ON INSTAGRAM @thumbhead42