Dan Landau and I crossed paths a number of years ago online, sharing a common interest in map-inspired artwork (his in paper and mine in metal). Since then we’ve shared corporate clients as well. I asked him to talk about how his creative work has changed in the past few months, admittedly expecting him to mention the drying up of commission work and other art-related experiences that we surely share.
Instead, he told a much deeper story – one of imagination and wonder, and of un-learning everything he thought he knew.
I hope you enjoy.
My creative world used to look something like this: I’d rise at 5 or 5:30 and make art in my basement “studio” for an hour or two. Then it was off to my day job at a marketing agency. Sometimes I’d spend the evening making more work after I put my daughter to bed. I was taking some cool commissions, including a portrait for the podcast Ear Hustle and a New Jersey-themed snowboard.
Exercising creativity through art was a near-daily experience and I relished the routine and its meditative effects. Then along came baby #2 in a tornado of diapers and sleepless nights and my art productivity dropped off precipitously. Then came the pandemic and suddenly my wife and I found ourselves both at home, trying to work and parent full time. Art has largely dropped off my calendar.
I live in New Jersey, near the outbreak’s U.S. epicenter in NYC. We’ve been in lockdown since early March, so on the one hand, my world has gotten a lot smaller than it used to be. On the other hand, staying home full time with my family has broadened my world in other ways. My little girls bring a sense of wonder into my world. So, while art is my default creative mode, creativity is taking different forms for me now. Sometimes it’s watching my four year old engage with the world through her limitless imagination. Sometimes it’s developing an impromptu activity to entertain her so I can focus on my day job.
My daughters rely on me to teach them about the world, but I’ve come to rely on them to help me undo what I’ve learned about the world. I’m relearning to see the world as they do – a place of endless adventure. In their eyes, the backyard is a beach, or fairytale palace, or racetrack, or all of them at the same time. This is less a time of art production and more a time of art education right now – storing up ideas and developing them in my mind as I rediscover the creativity of a child. It’s something easily forgotten in the bustle of life.
I’m made a couple small pieces during the lockdown months so far, but I’ve been too time-strapped to do much art making. I miss the time I used to have to exercise my creativity in my art practice, but I am enjoying the time at home with my wife and daughters. There will be time to make more art later.”– Dan Landau
My new favorite piece of Dan’s is the above collaboration with his daughter, a cut paper scribble. Isn’t that the coolest thing ever?? Dan, I hope you enjoy your unlearning. And when you get back to creating, I think you’ve got a great new partnership on your hands.
You can find Dan’s work on Instagram at @danlandauart
How inspiring! I admire the ability to pause, reflect, restore, and renew.
Rita M Conley-Pitts
It’s always refreshing to meet someone who literally makes lemonade out of lemons. This pandemic is causing many of us who thought we knew it all to reconsider — to disengage from what we thought was ‘always’ and to replace the always with something new. New not because it never existed prior to today but because we are approaching it from a different angle. Thanks, Dan, for reminding me that change is not only good for us; it’s essential!
So beautifully said, Rita. Thank you.