Maybe it’s in a name.
In my early 20’s I started getting sick. I wasn’t throwing up, I didn’t have shingles, I did however start the spiralling road of finding out I had a mental illness. Now, it comes with stigma, people think your just unhappy and that you can “buck up” or “Everyone has problems”, the latter being my personal favourite, but it’s not as easy as that. When it strikes it can be the most debilitating barrage of hopelessness, self hatred and disappointment, and you have no idea why. Recently it struck again, and it lasted a while, so I thought I would write this, and tell you about someone.
I have a disorder that features depression, anxiety, panic and psychotic tendencies. I hallucinate, and it’s pretty weird. I’ve seen 30 foot pink brachiosaurs, weird lamas with no heads, small scotty dogs having good run with no legs, black cats, any may other things (old people are the weirdest). But do I let it get to me? Sometimes I do, but my contingency was to use it to it’s advantage. I turned some of these strange visions into characters and creatures in comics and illustrations. I sat down and drew them, made use of them and maybe some will appear in later comics, and some may not.
Now, going back to the title. As I said, in my early 20’s I began to show that I was ill, and through a strike of chance I came across a documentary on Film4. It was about a man who was battling Bipolar disorder (and other forms I would say) who had become a sensation since the early 80s. I hadn’t linked the person I was seeing with a t-shirt that I saw Kurt Cobain wearing in a photo, this man was Daniel Johnston.
Daniel Johnston has recently retired from touring, but the documentary ‘The Devil and Daniel Johnston’ that I watched all those years ago struck me. Here was a man battling his inner demons with art and music. So, I hoped online one evening, and discovered a back catalogue of insanely personal songs about unrequited love, self destruction, misunderstanding, and sometimes Casper and King Kong. If it was in his head, it would come out. Then I ventured into his art, everything from his trademark Jeremiah the Frog, to Captain America and then his flying eyes. It was clear that somewhere out there was a place for me, and sadly it’s taken all this time to really get to grips with my own place.
I’ve always put myself in this idea of being a “Pop Culture Blender”, my influences come from music, 80’s cartoons, 90’s skateboards, graffiti art, and things like that, dinosaurs, space, lots, but to be honest, I have never really looked properly into how much I took from that discovery of Daniel Johnston. I can relate my style to my influences, the fact I had surgery because I was loosing my sight, my own mental health, a series of impacts in my life, but never really delved into this person that has sat at the back of my mind on a piano singing out of tune, but having such an impact.
I look back at my work, all the prints, comics, short stories, and it all hits that it is an instant reaction to everything that happens inside my head. Do I struggle to make things that people will like? Oh course I do, but do I really care? Sometimes. But that’s part of it, what you do you and your friend understand, but most others on the outside won’t.
In all I will end this with a compliment I received from a friend of mine named Cherry Pie Cosplay, she messaged me after seeing me out with my girlfriend when we were on date night. It went like this…
“…and you look really smart.” – CPC
“Below that shirt was a pair of jeans and Batman trainers. All she said was wear a shirt.” – Me
“Never change Dan.” – CPC