“When you build something out of true love you can never go wrong, because true love is pure and honest. It’s like riding into battle on a unicorn.” ~ Dustin Bailard
Pretend Forever, take risks and be willing to be vulnerable. Some valuable life lessons from an artist that layers depth and meaning into his darkly narrative works. At any given moment, dashes of glitter and dripping blacks will swirl across the page, his beautiful colour palettes inviting you into his world. Dramatic, intriguing and powerful not only describe Dustins pieces, but also the man himself. We are so pleased to share his intimate interview below.
You can also see Dustins’ solo show currently on display at Future Gallery, Lake Orion, Michigan.
Let me start by saying, I am a big fan of your work (as you know) so putting this interview together was a little difficult because during my research, I would get lost in looking at your pieces! Could you tell us about yourself and how you started painting and was your transition from makeup artist to putting brush to paper an easy one, or did you always treat a face like a canvas?
My mom tells me I’ve been drawing since I was 5. I also loved watching her put on her makeup. So painting was something I did before! The makeup thing was actually not in the plan. I grew up pretending a lot, so it was a natural progression to find comfort in Goth, deathrock and glam rock stuff, as I got older. Places I still felt I could put on makeup and turn myself into the sad glittery languid creature I truly am ;) My introduction to a career in makeup was purely coincidental. One day I was walking through the mall with a turquoise tri-hawk and bright red eyeshadow and a MAC manager approached me about working for them. Initially I was put off with the idea of selling makeup in a department store however when I learned more about the creative end I got into it… plus that gratis. ;) I’ve always treated a face like a canvas. Prior to knowing anything about makeup, I used pastels on my eyes and actually stole that blue chalk from a pool table once! Ha!
I love your interpretation of characters… you take fairies and mermaids and make them fierce and powerful! I think your work is the first time I’ve seen this approach done so well. Can you tell us how you dream up your concepts and where do you find your inspirations?
My art is usually always a reflection of myself or an experience that manifests itself into a character. I have a internal map of my imagination. It’s this vast world of oceans and forests. When I feel something that one of the characters inhabit, they usually poke their heads out at me. Sometimes it’s a mermaid that pulls me under or other times it’s a pixie that flutters up and touches the tip of my nose. I really never know but I let them guide me.
You certainly bring people, particularly women to life in your pieces. What are your opinions on beauty? Do you think portraying beauty in art is important?
I think a genuine connection is important. How an artist chooses to do that doesn’t matter. I have been moved by many things that aren’t typically beautiful. In a way I think that’s beautiful – maybe on a another level.
I would love to take a journey into your thoughts and what you are thinking about and interpreting from your surroundings? What is your work space like, and how about your surroundings in Palm Springs? Do you find inspiration from where you live, or somewhere else that only exists in your imagination?
My surroundings are pretty much nothing like my art (at the moment) I live in a hot, flat Desert. In a lot of ways I think this has intensified my work. It makes me want to escape, which fuels my imagination even more! Usually though where I’m at physically has nothing to do with where I’m at in my head. Which had actually lead to a lot of problems! Haha! My workspace is currently a disaster. A lot like a fort that you had to halfway tear down.
You appear to have a strong connection with both your parents that seems to play a role in your work, can you elaborate on that relationship if it has inspired you, and do any of your childhood memories or stories play a larger role in the narrative of your pieces?
I’m fortunate to have two AMAZING parents. My dad has been a pastor my whole life so I grew up in churches and very aware of my mortality. This idea of heaven and hell, light and dark has always been very appealing to me. I think it’s something that I try to strike a balance with in the things I create. Being saved or rescued by something that you can’t physically see but you know is there through your faith and belief is also something that has really resonated with me. In a way my art has really become my religion because it’s saved me on numerous occasions.;) I think it’s safe to say my parents are a lot like gravity and without them I truly feel my world would collapse.
My childhood has greatly influenced my art. Pretending was EVERYTHING to me when I was a kid. I designed treasure maps of my neighborhood with my friends homes being castles we’d have to conquer- dividing each room into a separate level. Including dungeons with stuffed clothes as people and paper chains.ha! We all had bikes that were our named dragons. I put on plays regularly where we dressed up as pirates or gypsy witches for my family and friends families. I built extensive forts that became dark cavernous tunnels or burrows for mice and other creatures. They would take up most of the downstairs. I also loved making whirring noises faking fluttering so I could become a pixie. Babysitters would be appointed as some creature or villain. At one point my best friends brother was a ogre and I made my rock collection sacred stones with powers. A point system or levels were always implemented. ;) I even wrote my own spells on stained burnt paper that I scrolled and saved under my bed “in case of emergencies.” Pretending really consumed me it was the one thing that made my life exciting and unpredictable. It also aided in making my imagination a tangible reality. Growing up I never wanted a car. I didn’t care about dating or wanting to have my own money. I was never eager to experience “adult things” who wants that when you have pegasus wings to unfurl or a comb to tailor for your mermaid friend in house next door? I think I also felt you had to let go of that part of you. But I’ve realized through my art it’s still possible and it can be even better and on a much grander scale!
Following on from that, were there any significant moments in your life that influenced your desire to become an artist? Is there anything you wish you had known before choosing full time artist as a career?
It really all started with the Wizard of OZ. My mom has told me this story and it really stuck with me and I feel it sums me up from the start. When I was to little to remember I was obsessed with The Wizard of OZ. So much so that I genuinely believed I was Dorothy. I was my moms first kid and she was a bit concerned because I was so relentless about this and at such a young age. She took me to see a therapist. He asked me to draw a picture of myself. I drew Dorothy. My mom, not understanding said “What does this mean?” And the therapist reassured her everything was fine and that she had a very imaginative son. Ha!! I love this story because it shows without really any knowledge of life I still knew who I was. Dorothy Gale.;)
I wish I’d known to put myself out there sooner. I think as a artist we tend to be very self critical and I think in a lot of ways it’s a good thing because it helps shape whatever your making into something great. However there is a point where it’s unhealthy and you can be doing yourself a disservice because it holds you back. Part of life is about taking risks and in order to do that you have to be wiling to be vulnerable. Your art doesn’t belong to you. So stop holding it hostage and let the world experience it.
What do you feel are the essential messages you are trying to convey through your work? Is there something deeper that you could discuss with us, or do you just like to “play” in realms of imagery?
I think that question goes back to connection… and Dorothy! Everything I make is someone or something that has manifested itself through my emotions or experiences. Just like Dorothy I’m traveling down that yellow brick road and meeting them. What’s so wonderful though is I’ve come to realize that others feel the same and now we can meet them together.
Your paintings are beautifully nostalgic, there is a vulnerability but also a fierceness that we get glimpses of in your work. On an emotional level, do your pieces project any deeper symbolism or connection to your past?
Just like everyone I’ve gone through breakups and loss of a job or a car or worse a loved one. I’ve been stuck in the mundaneness of a day or felt like there’s no hope. I’ve given up and ate my fill of ice cream (which btw Talenti is just amazing!) There’s always these levels you go through when creating. Part of it is emotional, it definitely starts there for me. Without sounding like a total cheeseball… I usually cry at some point. It’s very much like physically meeting a part of yourself you knew was there the whole time. It can be overwhelming. There’s also a very technical aspect of it that is what makes it good. At that point I like no music, total quiet and I’m looking at my piece more objectively. Those two things for me are so important and must be in line or all I’m doing is crying and smearing around paint! Ha!
The protagonists in your paintings are often shimmery and fantasy based characters often in magical settings! Has the idea of fairytales and a fantastical universe always been a part of who you are? Are there reasons you use this imagery to tell a story in the works you create?
I have always felt fairies watch over me sometimes snickering sprites but they are there and honestly what’s a fairy without shimmer!? I’ve also found a deep connection to mythical creatures. I think being half fish or half deer you struggle feeling connected or loved and I feel that way a lot too. Sort of trapped between two worlds.
I know you have some incredible ideas swirling around in your head! How are they going and have you found the time to work on these other projects? How do you manage the influx of new ideas and inspirations with the time you have available and can you tell us a little about your upcoming projects?
This can be difficult. I find that so much of this isn’t always about creating but about business stuff and that’s when my adult has to step in. Your art career is a lot like painting. You have to have that creative side but you also have to have the technical. I still really want to do the comic!! I had made some attempts earlier but it really is so much work! It’s a lot like making a little movie and you have to tap into all areas of story telling. So in the future that will definitely be a priority. I also want to focus on merchandise. Some cameos of my vampires would be amazing. Also T-shirts and tote bags. My Tiny tales are also another thing that I’d love to see elaborated in maybe a small book? I feel like I could just ramble on about things I need to get made. So this might be a good place to stop and get cracking! Ha;) Thank you anyone who has taken the time to read about me and my art! I appreciate you beyond belief. We are here for such a short amount of time and if I can make a dent in the smallest way than all my mad, blistered fluttering has been worth it.