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Daniel Anguilu on “Drawings.”

Daniel Anguilu on “Drawings.”
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By Mariam Afshar


If there is one thing I have grown to appreciate living in Houston, it is all the amazing, and sometimes not so amazing, art you see around town, on buildings and overpasses and light poles, and just about anywhere someone can squeeze a piece of themselves. Daniel Anguilu is best known for his murals, but for his next show, he is taking it down a scale. I got the opportunity to speak with him about his new show and a little about what made him the artist he is today.


What got you started in art? Where did you find this passion?


I don’t think it is a passion, I would say it has just become part of my life. I’ve always painted and drawings were always part of my life. Painting on trains and painting on stuff that didn’t belong to me, was part of my life for a very long time. If you do something as a lifestyle, then it sticks to you throughout your life. I don’t remember not painting, ever now, you know. Every decision was made knowing, ‘Okay, you gotta paint, so this is how it is going to work out’. So it is adopting painting to your life, not really knowing, that is what is going to decide most of your actions.


What did you start off painting? You mentioned trains and things that did not belong to you, what kind of pieces did you paint on those?


Just the normal, regular graffiti stuff. I had a group of friends that I painted with often here in Houston, and after a while I just traveled around to paint trains, just to do graffiti and paint on whatever. Houston was always home, I would come here, save money and go somewhere to paint, for 7 years.


The pieces that you paint now, what inspire them?


It depends, you know. I don’t really believe in inspiration, I think that once something becomes lifestyle then that is what it is. I think the projects that move me more are the ones that have some sort of social or political impact, a spiritual aspect to it, that I want to go paint. People understand that that is what my mission is. I’m involved with a lot of different organizations, some organizations, mostly people that have ideas. I think that my whole vision is now to have something that I can offer.


I read on the flyer that you are scaling down your art to refine your murals, can you elaborate?


Yea, I think since I work large scale all the time and I really haven’t really stopped for 3 years. I needed to just spend time drawing and actually focus on drawings to see where this can take me when I paint a mural. That is how I learned to paint these murals, was through the drawings that I make, cause that is where the ideas would develop and the approach to large scale came from. SO, they are more like drafting and exercises rather than drawings, because thats how I see exactly where I am going to build my ideas to paint large scale. I have plenty of sketchbooks that I fill all the time, it might just be small lines that could become something. Through these drawings I can see how I can find balance and not over do something. This time, I am purposefully staying away from painting large scale, for a little, just because I am tired and want to rejuvenate the energy large scale takes.


Are all of the drawings you are showing new or from your murals or both?


They are all new. Some are just a few a lines that I have had and then have elaborated on them. Some of them were part of larger murals. So, what I would do is, I would see a wall and if I am going to paint on that wall, before I would paint on it, I might do something in my sketchbook that would just be super simple, but that is when I would decide what is going next. Some of these drawings are just two or three lines that made a shape and I just put it away, but this time, I brought some out and just worked on them.


Are the pieces at the show going to be as colorful as your murals?


No. That is the disconnection that I have with mural work, these drawings are not like the murals. When it comes to color,I would much rather do it on site and not much on paper, or even digital. I just really like working with paint, I enjoy mixing the colors and to be able to have that relationship with color and paint. That doesn’t happen with something that small. I like seeing the can and working with the paint and working with the roller. You can’t really do that when you are working on paper.


We saw some of your artwork near one of the stops on the metro rail, how do get permission to paint on those piece, do you ask the building owner or is the city or do you just do it?


Before it was knocking on doors and asking if I could paint and before that it was just painting regardless. That piece, on the over pass, I work for METRO, so METRO actually sponsored a mural through my union. They are pushing for working with people in house and they feel like I have a skill that they want to be part of, so they are helping me or we are  helping each other out. It’s more like ‘hey, this guy that paints and he works for METRO so lets have him paint something’, and they have worked out all of the details and all the legal stuff to make sure that everything is going to work out. So instead of going to work, my job was to paint for almost a month.


Do you have a favorite piece of your own art?


You know, I don’t want to get attached to any of them. Once they are out there, they have a life of their own, and also, its the whole, ‘if I am really doing something that is for others, I can’t have that attachment’. If I am really doing something that I let build and see what its going to do on its own, I can’t say that its a favorite or not a favorite, its really not mine. Once its out in the public it is for whatever is going to happen to it. Whatever is going to be come out of it.


Have you ever finished a piece, but ever felt like it wasn’t actually finished?


Yeah, I think several times. I used to paint and I didn’t want to take more than 4 hours, cause then it would feel like a job. So I just tried to get there and do everything within four hours and then leave. You know, this is not my job, I’m just doing this just for fun and I am not going to take more than four hours. And actually that is what taught me how to approach walls faster. Bigger and faster. So its all about choosing your way, how am I going to paint this big, how am I not going to spend too much time on it. I think the decision of when you are finished really depends on if the composition makes sense to you. You let your eye decide. Something with drawing, you just let your eye decide when it is finished. When you work just with geometry, then you could actually tone it down or make it more intricate so its all about time, how you are going  to place things. If I feel like, ‘oh yeah I’m having fun here I want to spend more time on this’, then I will elaborate more, if I feel like, ‘oh I don’t like this’, I am in certain places that I don’t want to be there for 2 or 3 days just because of location. There are some places that I’m like its not even safe to be here. I think they are all finished, it just depends how intricate or big they are going to be depending on location.


Check out Daniel’s show “Drawings.” at the Commerce Street Gallery on February 6th for the opening reception and any other time from then until March 3rd.


What: “Drawings.” Opening Reception


When: February 6th, 7-10pm

on view February 6- March 3 2024


Where: Commerce Street Gallery

1701 Commerce Street

Houston, TX, 77002