For the love of art: Long-time muralist keeps Denton colorful

For the love of art: Long-time muralist keeps Denton colorful

For the love of art: Long-time muralist keeps Denton colorful
October 11
12:00 2018

Dipping the roller into the pan of blue paint, Dan Black adds more color to the front of Andy’s Bar & Grill. Cars drive past on North Locust Street as he works from the lift that mechanically moves him across the front of the building.

He re-dips the roller.

Looking at the reference on his phone, Dan decides where he wants to take the mural next. A clear sky with slow-moving clouds is the backdrop for each movement he makes to tell a story on the blank canvas of the building.

Dan was commissioned to do a large mural a year ago, the finished product a picture of a “Band on the Run” facing Recycled Books, Records & CDS. Now he is back.

“For like a year, we haven’t done anything,” Dan said. “This is the first time I’ve wrapped a mural around a building, which is super fun. I really like hiding things in murals, so the fact there’s a rooftop and we can hide an element up there is fun.”

Dan’s art reaches far beyond the four walls of Andy’s Bar on the Square. He is the hand behind many of the murals all around Denton. From Barley & Board to Cross Timbers Church, his work is seen by locals every day.

But Dan has not become a part of Denton’s art scene for the recognition. For the 33-year-old muralist, the driving force behind his work is getting to create in the city he loves.

“There’s something special about being able to observe a painting larger than you are,” Dan said. “I think it evokes imagination, and it can be inspiring to people.”

Dan Black positions a ladder to hang up a sheet of black plastic in an effort to preserve the awning below the space for his mural. Trevor Seibert

Starting with the spray can

Dan remembers the first time he spray-painted. He was 20 years old, getting a technical degree from Letourneau University in Longview, Texas.

And he was on a date with his future wife, Sarah.

He brought home a scrap sheet of plywood from the lumber warehouse he worked at the time.

“We just spray-painted this plywood in a park and then threw it back in the truck and got something to eat,” Dan said. “She was like, ‘Oh this is fun,’ but I loved it.”

He kept bringing home pieces of plywood to spray-paint, taking photos of them and posting them on Facebook.

That is when people started to take notice.

Dan started getting asked if he would paint kids’ bedrooms and walls in various homes. When he graduated from Letourneau, Dan and his wife originally planned to move to Dallas. However, they ended up visiting his brother in Denton while he was attending UNT and fell in love with the city.

“[For the most part], I was used to painting by myself — out in East Texas there weren’t a ton of muralists at the time,” Dan said. “I was excited about the idea of moving to a town where I could meet other artists and paint with them.”

In 2013, they made the move.

“Growing up, Dan was just, for whatever reason, somebody that everybody kind of knew,” brother Matt Black said. “When he moved to Denton, I just assumed the same thing would happen, and it did. I think he connected with a lot of people right away.”

During his first couple years in Denton, Dan worked part-time at the Apple Store in Southlake while pursuing painting. Each year he was in Denton, his painting work doubled.

“I was really passionate about it,” Dan said. “I knew if I didn’t go for it, I would always wonder. So I was like, ‘Now is the time to go for it. If we go bankrupt, maybe I’ll go get a real job.’”

He has been working part-time and creating art ever since. Over the past six years during his time in Denton, Dan has completed 60 murals. With each year he has spent in the city, Dan has made connections with other artists — a big reason he enjoys pursuing his passion in Denton.

“I feel like his murals represent that quality about Dan to me – just his ability to connect with people and his murals are hopefully connecting with the community,” Matt said. “To me, it’s just kind of like an extension of Dan’s personality.”

While Dan Black has already painted a mural on the Oak Street side of Andy’s Bar, he has decided to continue the mural around the rest of the bar. Trevor Seibert

A desire to create

There is one thing that terrifies Dan when it comes to his murals.

It is not accidentally painting on the wrong spot, or the heights he sometimes has to climb to reach the top corners of a wall. What terrifies him is his name being the main focus of his murals.

“I just want to make art pieces that are among other art pieces,” Dan said. “Anytime it feels like it’s being described that my name is all over this town, that scares me.”

It has never been about getting recognition, but it’s a motivation that drives him to create.

“A purist is what I like to call him,” said Kris Hibbitts, an acrylic oil painter who assisted Dan with the Andy’s Bar mural. “He couldn’t care less and if he could do this stuff for free, he would. That’s what makes it fun to work with him because he truly enjoys the work.”

Dan’s passion for murals goes beyond having a certain style. His goal is to learn as much as possible about the different styles, forms and mediums of art instead of being boxed into a certain area. The moment a mural is described as his “style,” Dan shifts his direction completely.

“I think every time I try to lock myself into a style, it makes me feel like I can’t explore other areas because that’s not my style, and it just creates fences in this world of art that I want to discover,” Dan said.

It is a pure passion that sparked a love for painting in him 10 years ago, it is still what drives him now. Dan’s goal is to continue working on bigger murals and future projects in the works.

“It’s cool because when a big wall happens, it’s a product not only of the amount of time that it took to paint the mural but the amount of time that it took to get all that stuff ready,” Dan said. “It feels like more of an accomplishment.”

Creating art in a big, public and enjoyable way is what gives him hope that the murals he creates will spark creativity and serve the community well.

“We’ve all had moments where we’re like, ‘Holy crap, look at that, I needed that,’” Dan said. “I think probably the best thing a painting could do is just give you that thing you needed.”

Featured Image: Dan Black leans out of a boom lift to paint the exterior of Andy’s Bar facing Locust Street. Trevor Seibert

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Rachel Linch

Rachel Linch

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