Interview for Chakota Magazine

A little while ago I was asked to do an interview for the Mexican art/culture magazine, Chakota. Well, turns out they ended up not having enough magazine space to print it so they put it on their website. For those who took spanish in high school and retained some of it you can read the article right HERE.

For the rest of us… just keep reading downwards…


Nate Van Dyke.

1.- Tell us who are you and what do you do?

My name is Nate Van Dyke. I’m a 32 year-old illustrator living and working in San Francisco, California. I work in a variety of mediums and fields. I’ve worked for a variety of video game companies as a concept artist. I’m currently working from home as a freelance artist and comic book illustrator. I also show a lot of my personal work in gallery shows all over the world.

2.- How did you discover your creative talents?

I come from a family of artists. My mother was a marble sculptor so I was always hanging out in her studio and drawing or drawing at home at the kitchen table. I’m at least the fourth generation of artists from my mother’s side, all of whom were women. I was always drawing as a kid and never really thought anything of it. I don’t think it was until I was in kindergarten when I really started to take notice of my artistic ability compared to other people my age. I was a stand-out in the class and just kept doing it. At that age I wasn’t thinking it was going to end up being my career or anything like that I simple did it because it was fun.

3.- How can you describe your style?

I always have a hard time describing my own work because I usually just let my work speak for itself and let the audience decide what they think. If I were to describe it I’d say it is an agressive and heavily rendered style often tending towards a darker humor. Eventhough I do a loto f otherwise dark subject matter I always find something romantic about aspects of it in an often macabre kind of way . Then I’ll shift it up totally and draw something nobody would expect. I don’t like to pidgeon-hole myself in any way. I draw whatever I want in whatever way I see best suited at that moment.

4.- You make personal illustrations and comercial illustration, is there any difference between these two activities? I mean, in a visual terms?

I feel like when I do freelance work as opposed to my personal work there is often times a difference that maybe only I can see at times. I feel like my personal work comes out more honest and free. I don’t have to second guess anything because I am judge, jury and executioner. It’s a freedom unlike any other. When doing work for a client there are obviously more rules I may be subjected to and guidelines to follow. I’ve done a great number of freelance/commercial work that I am proud of but nothing comes close to how I feel when I really nail a personal piece. That’s the best high an artist cane get. Everything else is more like a second-hand high.

5.- Is that Chimp, always fightin with swords and knives against zombies, your main character?

Yeah, the chimp character is what I’m generally known best for. I first drew a chimp character flipping the middle finger and pointing a gun for a gallery show I did when I was 19 or so. Everyone seemed to love it and it sold right away. I could have sold that piece ten times over. That was probably when the seed was first planted. Over the years I’ve molded that chimp into the character I draw now, named Dutch. He’s a really easy going guy. As long as you leave him alone he’ll leave you alone. It’s when people mess with him that it starts to get ugly. I like to think of him as my little comedian. He does all of the violent things that I’d be locked-up for if I were to do them myself. He’s been read all over the world through Heavy Metal Magazine comics, he’s graced magazine covers in multiple countries, been made into two vinyl toys, a commercial, countless wheatpastes and so on. There is no end to Dutch. He is slowly taking over the world.

6.- You also draw a lot of skulls, do you thinks these elements choose you? or you choose these elements to create your draws?

I guess you could say the skulls have been influenced by my girlfriend. Years ago my girlfriend gave me a real human skull as a Christmas gift and It was at that point that I dove head-long into drawing a lot of skulls and encorporating a lot more of them into my work. I’d drawn my share of skulls before receiving the gift but then it just got pushed into overdrive. There is something that happens when you hold a real human skull and investigate it further. Then you start to realize that you have a similar thing on top of your shoulders and it brings it full circle. You see a lot of skulls represented in art. I think the notion of death is something we all somewhat understand and relate to. Even though a skull represents death it can also represent life in so many ways and I find that intriguing.

7.- Do you have an especial hour in the day in which you preffer to draw?

I do not like mornings in the least. I’d say my favorite time to draw is late at night. It always has been. It’s dark and quiet and makes getting lost in a piece easier.

8.- how many sketchbooks do you have?

I’ve lost count. If I were to simply count my sketchbooks (not including ones used for life drawing and concept art, etc) I’d say I have around 35. I started drawing in the standard “black book” and maintain that same habbit today. Often times drawing things in it purely for my own enjoyment. I’m finishing up a sketchbook shortly so for the sake of argument we’ll just call it 36.

9.- Do you preffer draw in black and white? And why?

Yeah, I’d say I prefer drawing in black and white. I like how simple it yet how complicated you can make it. I like to see how much depth and imagined grey I can create by simply using black pens on white paper. When I draw in black and white I feel I am trying to create the illusion of color. Create a mood and vibe that goes with it. Over the years I’ve come to notice that other artists tend to appreciate black and white illustration work more so than the average person. I think they see and understand the complexety of it. There is nothing better than the respect and adiration from your artistic peers.

I feel that I have found a way to draw in black and white that is unlike other people who use similar materials. Everyone seems to want to know what pens and brushes I use and they seem to think that if they had the same tools that they’d be able to do the same things. Not really the case. They don’t figure the source… that it comes greatly from inside. An ink illustration can be like a dance between you and the paper. A dance that could change or end at a moments notice.

10.- What kind of experiences have made your career as an artist?

It’s hard to really sum up experiences I’ve had that really made my career as an artist. I think some of the very best experiences is when I have traveled for my gallery shows or traveled on art tours to various cities with other artists. There is something really comforting and an unspoken understanding when you are thrown together with your peers for the sole purpose of creating art. Eventhough you may be with people who draw and paint in a way completely different from your own there is just that instant bond. I’d say my travels have been the highlights of my career thus far. When I was a kid I never thought that my artistic ability would ever lead to travels. It’s been a fun ride thus far.

11.- In what other projects have you participated?

There are simply far too many to count. Every week seems to be something different, especially when doing freelance work. I could get a gig tomorrow that I never would have imagined. Most recently I worked on decorating ramps for a Red Bull fixed gear bike riding event. That’s something I never could have even imagined. Tomorrow is always another gig and another adventure.

12.- leave a message for the people of Mexico that will be watching your work

I’d like to thank you guys and the people at Chakota for helping give my art a voice. Be it the first time you have seen my work or you have known it beforehand I truly appreciate the support. Thank you. Now let’s go to the bar for a few drinks…


2 Responses to “Interview for Chakota Magazine”

  1. Great interview! It’s always fascinating to me to read about how other artists work and how they feel/what they think about in regards to creating art.

    Four generations of artists….that’s awesome.

    (What is this “morning” people talk about all the time?)

  2. Hey N8, I didn’t want to pester you, but I’ve been looking all over for the flayed brush pen that you used in your Ink Demonstration video. Could you point me in the right direction?

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