Skateboarding, faith and Dalí influence the Dallas-based digital artist
Barton Damer is a Dallas-based digital artist whose hyper-detailed and dizzyingly surreal work, with its up-to-the-minute pop culture sensibility, has garnered attention from companies as big as Nike, Facebook and Supra Footwear, and from musicians as diverse as rapper Lil Wayne, Owl City and Wolfmother. "It's all over the board," Damer says of his work. "I'm pleased that it's not just one trick or one style, that only works for one genre."
Although Damer has been creating print illustrations for 14 years, his entrance into digital media was relatively recent. "I graduated from art school in 1998, but since then I feel like I've been self-taught," says Damer. "New software and new mediums are always popping up. If you're not learning something new after four or five years, you're going to be obsolete in this industry." He began experimenting with web design, but quickly discovered that instead of coding, his favorite part, he says, was "the flash animations that everybody hated."
Three years ago, Damer branched out from print and web design into motion graphics, creating 30-second commercials and TV show openers that have aired on ESPN2 and CBS Sports. His studio, Already Been Chewed, has recently expanded to include two employees, who work on creating everything from digital signage to in-store displays, to concert visuals for artists like Rihanna and rapper LeCrae, but his approach remains staunchly traditional. "As far as motion design goes, focus on design first and animation second," Damer says. "If it looks terrible, it's not going to look better when you move it around."
Damer has been influenced by unconventional artists like Salvador Dali and MC Escher, but most importantly, he cites skateboarding—Damer has been a skateboarder for more than 25 years—and his faith, as his two major inspirations. "It's easy to draw a lot of inspiration from a lot of different sites on the Internet," he says. "But when you get out from behind the monitor, original ideas pop out and there's not as much to copycat."
Damer has won wide recognition for his work and non-profit initiatives. In 2009, he was named Digital Artist of the Year by Computer Arts magazine, and in 2011 he received Veer's Creative Catalyst Award for an illustration designed to raise funds for fighting malaria in Africa.
Damer saw a lifelong dream fulfilled with one of his favorite projects, working with skateboarder Rob Dyrdek and the premiere professional skateboarding competition series Street League Skateboarding. "I emailed Rob Dyrdek and somehow it got through, and all he wrote back was, 'Let's do this,'" Barton says. "I thought someone was messing with me." That initial proposal led to a few projects, and then to handling the entire graphics package for Street League—from the arena graphics for live events to broadcast graphics. "He was cracking up. They're located in LA, you know, in the middle of all those creative studios, and he's ordering stuff from a guy in Texas," Barton says. "But [Dyrdek's] thing is, you make your own luck. I think he was pumped to find a fellow skateboarder trying to do just that."
For more information visit Damer's studio's website
Images courtesy of Barton Damer