A New Creative Path

Path Pals with 2021 ArtPath Artist Daniel Hogan, located at Site 18 on the Lansing River Trail

As an artist, I enjoy creative challenges. That is why I jumped at the opportunity to submit an ArtPath proposal when the time came. I feel I tend to do great work when I force myself out of my comfort zone, creatively. 

With ArtPath, I attempted something new to me as an artist: an outdoor art installation. Then I decided to add another challenge: to make my installation interactive

My first idea was to submit a proposal for a mural. But, I had never done a mural and I quickly found the concept a bit daunting. Most of my artwork is 8 by 10 inches at its largest, with the vast majority falling in the 4 by 6 inches or 5 by 7 inches range. Working in terms of feet was a new frontier, and a little scary. 

I also didn’t have an idea how to make a mural interactive at the time. So, I started over. 

Where the inspiration for my final submission came from, I can’t really say. I barely remember what pushed me in the direction I went. But, an idea came, as they often do, when I wasn’t really thinking too hard. This idea, which I ended up naming Path Pals, was a bold step for me: outdoor, three-dimensional art. 

A few rough concept sketches later, I sent off my proposal. To my delight, Path Pals was one of the 20 chosen installations for ArtPath 2021. Great! But now I had to figure out how to make this piece a reality. 

The basic idea was a “photo frame” mashed up with my usual quirky, cartoony creatures. Visitors stand inside the frame and have their picture taken, looking like they are standing in a monster’s mouth. 

Thanks to Luke from Pline Craftsman Co. I was able to get the wooden frame built. Before I even submitted my proposal to the Lansing Art Gallery, I showed Luke my concept and asked if it was something he could build if I was selected. He assured me he could handle it, and handle it he did. Luke did a fantastic job. 

The next artistic adventure for me was working with a new kind of paint, specifically exterior house paint. My usual go-to paint of choice is watercolor. Switching from watercolor to acrylic exterior house paint is a huge leap. Again, I was thankful for the challenge to push me to try something new, and work with a different kind of paint. The longer drying times took some getting used to, and I will say the small hair dryer I bought quickly became my MVP. 

After checking out where my piece would be on the River Trail, I changed my idea for the color palette. Originally, the colors were lots of greens and blues. However, I realized this would make Path Pals blend in with the surrounding trees, grass, and sky. 

So, another creative challenge! I wanted my piece to stand out among the nearby nature, and changed the colors. Gone were the greens and lots of blue. Instead, I went with yellow, red, pink, and a little blue.

I could have kept things simple and just made one side of the frame a monster, or even painted the same thing on both sides. But, no. I decided to paint both sides with a different monster. This way, regardless of how someone approached the piece on the River Trail, they would see a monster. The upside was, painting the second side was a lot faster and easier, because I had the first side to learn

After a lot of long days and nights at my studio, I finished Path Pals. The piece turned out great, especially for my first time trying such a thing. Now, I get to see photos of guests making use of Path Pals, which warms my heart. 

I’m so thankful to the Lansing Art Gallery and the rest of the ArtPath team for this opportunity. Not only did it help me grow as an artist, it also brings joy to guests of all ages on the River Trail. It just goes to show how important the arts can be to a city.

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