Cultivating Creativity with Daren Todd
We’ve had the pleasure of partnering with Portland-based artist Daren Todd for a few digital art projects recently and were delighted to sit down and get to know Daren better through this little chat.
Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m Daren Todd, I am a Portland local muralist, designer, and musician born in Lompoc, California. I moved to Portland in 2017 and have since spent my time making music, learning design, and practicing art. In March last year, I was able to launch my full-time art practice and business called Art Larger Than Me and got to work doing community-oriented commissioned pieces and murals and painting residential and commercial artwork for installation in work and living spaces. I also curate a gallery space called The Downstairs Gallery, which focuses on showcasing works from BIPOC artists, LGBTQ+ artists, and artists with disabilities, located in downtown Portland.
How long have you been a full-time artist?
I have been practicing art full-time since March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic gave me an excellent opportunity to practice art daily while stuck inside due to the quarantine. I have always been either an artist or musician at different times for most of my life – I moved to Portland to join a small independent record label called Its Future Time in 2017, and had played in many of the music venues around Portland before most of the cities available stages were shut down last year. In the face of an uncertain future for musicians, I decided to pivot my practice to focus on painting murals and commissioned works, and teaching myself more about designing digital art. I’ve had a great year building my network and working to change people’s lives through art.
Where do you gather inspiration for your art?
I gather inspiration from all different sources – like many artists I love to flip through art textbooks and picture books from past movements like the Bauhaus School or the post-war abstract expressionists. I really enjoy making connections between the big names and paintings most people know, and the lesser-known figures, ideas, and movements that inspired them. I also watch tons of documentaries and YouTube videos about art and artists’ practices. The internet can be a daunting well of inspiration that feels overwhelming, but from time to time I like to go on deep dives, scroll through images and pieces I find interesting, and take some time to ask myself what about each image or idea draws me in, as clues to what themes and motifs I can impart into my own work and practice. I also draw inspiration from contemporary artists in my network who are successfully making art or doing creative work full time.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as an artist?
The most impactful piece of advice I have received about my creative work is that as artists, we need to learn to detach ourselves from the outcome, and embrace simply practicing. Worrying about whether the resulting work is ‘good’ or not, whether our sales increased, or if we will continue to be asked to make more work should all be in the background — the most important thing is to continue to practice, hone our skill and learn as much as we can about our creative voices.
What do you do to pull yourself out of a creative rut?
I get stuck in creative ruts often! It could be a side effect of doing creative work full time, but there are weeks every few months where I feel like every idea I have is a bad one, and nothing I see inspires me to create. That’s when the practice of making art every day really helps – sometimes I just sit down and doodle, or I turn on a podcast and try to sketch all the nouns I hear. Other times, I get stuck in a rut by telling myself that the ideas I have come up with for a specific piece or project are no good. I get frustrated before I’ve even tested any drawings, searching for that “perfect idea” I feel like is out there. Usually, this is why I try to remind myself that people come to me for commissioned art because they value my creative voice. As artists, the ideas that come to us and the unique ways we choose to implement them into an artwork are what make each artist’s work valuable to the right buyer.
Do you have a favorite piece you’ve created?
It’s hard to narrow it down, I’ve done so many cool projects for other people and also have been through a handful of different phases in my own work where the style or aesthetic changes in a distinct way. Currently, I’m working through using geometric shapes as a form of abstraction, and just recently I’ve begun to add a 3D component to the work and think about textures as a way to add depth to the forms I paint. Check out this piece below that I recently worked on – I’m excited by all the possibilities and opportunities to fill spaces in interesting ways.
Are you a kombucha fan? What’s your favorite flavor and why do you love it?
I LOVE kombucha! My favorite flavor from Brew Dr. Kombucha is definitely Ginger Turmeric — it’s the perfect balance of sweet and sour, and the ginger turmeric combination has a perfect spiciness that I can never get enough of. When I first moved to Portland I had no idea how kombucha was made. I would visit friends’ houses and see these giant gallon jars sitting on top of bookshelves or tucked away on kitchen cabinets with really strange white spongy goop growing inside and totally think to myself “Why are Portlanders so weird?” Now, I totally brew my own kombucha and have a SCOBY hotel on top of my fridge — needless to say, I’ve become a “weird Portlander” myself, and I’m stoked that kombucha brewing is a part of that tradition.
What’s your favorite expression of art?
While music will totally always have a special place in my heart since I grew up playing music and studied it throughout school, painting really has my attention these days. I’m learning so much about what is possible through the manipulation of paint on all kinds of materials, and constantly looking for new and interesting ways to express myself and my experiences through the pictures I create. If I had to narrow that down further, I most enjoy painting murals. The entire process from design and approval, buying materials and matching paint colors, and implementing a multi-day project typically by myself is always a welcomed change of pace from painting in the studio. What’s also awesome is that a lot of the murals I paint I do in the summer – Portland summers are beautiful.