Interview: Bryan Dalton

Bryan Dalton is a multi-faceted artist creating a broad range of projects, from a website entitled “Sweet Gifs” devoted entirely to the increasingly popular early 90’s proto-web-wizardry of, you guessed it, sweet gifs, to a bi-annual independently published “pyschedelic field trip” ‘zine. On top of this all, he runs a freelance photo-illustration, design and animation firm in Portland Oregon. The unifying aesthetic that unites all his divergent practices is a playful irony and with a touch of kitsch-magic.

You have a pretty broad range of projects that you engage in, from a zine, to freelance photo illustration, design, animation….why do you choose to work in such a multifaceted fashion? (And how do you have the time to create so much?)

I guess I work across so many mediums, because I think each has a different means of expressing ideas and communicating. I love photo illustration because it allows me to communicate an idea or concept through a single image, but at the same time I love motion work and animation because it allows me to bring the additional elements of sound and time which totally changes everything, and allows to me to sometimes tell much more elaborate stories.

I have no idea how I have enough time to get everything done…part espresso/part lack of sleep.


Let’s start with the work on Can you talk a little bit about your process creating these works? How much of it is digital/straight photography, etc.?

My process for creating most of my photo-illustration work varies, but I try to do as much with straight photography as I can. There is nothing more real than the real thing; I really appreciate real shadows and real reflections. I want the viewer to question whether or not what they are seeing is real. But at the same time, sometimes you need that added digital touch to pull this off. There is a balance…but I try to do as much outside of the computer as I can.

Many of your works play off the backdrop color that oddly juxtaposed objects sit within. Kind of reminds of high school/graduation portraits, and the various colored backgrounds they sit within- why choose to play with color in this fashion?

I think background color/environment is just as important as the objects that sit on or within it. I put a lot of thought into the way that I use color; I want it to affect  the viewer just as much as composition itself. It’s crazy how color can make the viewer instantly feel something, whether it be good or bad–they are still feeling something.

How do you choose the objects that you photograph? They’re so quirky, ranging from rainbow colored “Gospel” letter cuts out, white garfield porcelain statues, basketball clock radios, plastic bicycles resting on levitating Tutankhamen busts, the list goes on…where do you find them all? What do you look for in an object?

I am not exactly sure what I look for in a prop or object; I often try to find things that represent pop culture in some way, and I use them to question or change their own message, or to tell an entirely new story.  And I look a lot!!! I spend a good chunk of my time in thrift stores, and Portland is good to me.

What’s your inspiration behind “Sweet Gifs”? How are they created? What do you think the resurgence in the interest in 8-bit, lo-fi artwork is about?

When we started Sweet Gifs  we wanted to change the way that people viewed animated gifs. They kind of were/are seen as a joke to a lot of people, and were basically a dying art form. We wanted to change their whole aesthetic. Most of Sweet Gifs are stop motion animations that we shoot. I think that this resurgence in lo-fi is a good thing. I am waiting for advertising to realize how much of a valuable viral tool they could be.

Your movies/videos/motion design etc. seem to function in a similar way to your photographs, focusing on a somewhat humorous object and exploring its implications…can you talk a little more about them?

I guess a lot of our motion work is definitely similar in style to some of my illustration work.  We really like the idea of objects telling a story. We find things that people often pass by as ordinary, and try to show them in a whole new light. Although lately we have been adding a lot more of the human element to our work.  We just finished shooting another music video and it has been really rad to be able to work with real actors.

How do you go about putting together your zine, Hippy Shit? What do you enjoy about print?

Hippy Shit came about as a means of collaborating with the people that inspire me most, and also as a means of continuing to do print work, when lately we have been doing a lot more motion work. Volume no. 1 turned out rad!  We are curating a “Hippy Shit” themed poster show in the fall, and volume no. 2 will be out shortly after that. We are really excited about the future of Hippy Shit.

What kinds of projects are your favorites to work on?

Lately…I am really enjoying doing more film direction/live action. But I still love creating photo-illustrations.

How do you like working in Portland–is there a good creative community there?

I love Portland. It is an amazing city, there are some amazing studios and creatives here, I feel lucky to be a part of it.

What are you working on currently?

I am currently working on way too much…2 music videos and a series of 12 short films, Hippy Shit Volume no. 2…etc. But I love what I do!

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