Artist-Daniel O'Toole

Name: Daniel O’Toole (Ears)

Instagram: @captainearwax


1. You are known for your work as both a street artist and a fine art painter. Can you tell us a bit about what these two processes mean to you, and how they allow you to express something unique?

Street art appeals to me for its community engagement and dissemination of Art as an alternative to advertising, I thinks its crucial freedom to be able to paint on the walls of our city and express ourselves. In the public space the art is accessible to everyone where as a lot of people don't visit galleries for various reasons. The gallery space can be confronting and feel non-welcoming for some people, I like how you meet people from all walks of life when you work outside, and it is much more approachable.

On the street, I usually approach things with a more playful and almost meditative way. Making fun illustrative works that look at abstraction and colour. The portrait has been the vessel for my explorations of abstraction, and the mediums that suit larger surfaces tend to influence the way mural work develops.


In the studio my approach feels different; influenced by the space and time afforded in the studio. I guess I see the studio as a sort of Laboratory of ideas, to try experiments, and play, and then develop and refine the processed to affect the outcome. I like to choose a direction for a body of work or series of experiments and then work within those self imposed parameters. Using more delicate and pliant surfaces like cotton canvas etc, allows for a great range of possibilities with mixed media and I enjoy working with this element to build layered works with semitransparent washes, this is something thats hard to achieve on a non absorbent surface like a painted wall.

I think the medium has a huge impact on how I work and I choose the media depending on what it is Im exploring. Sometimes I learn more about the subject by trying it across a range of mediums and unexpected outcomes can occur.

At the moment for example, Im working on a series of paintings that aim to capture something of the ephemeral nature of light refractions. I have been making video works using the effect of sunlight refracted through a glass of water and I see the videos as a sort of moving painting of nature. The video is then stopped at hundred of intervals and saved as screen shots to choose the favourites for painting ideas. At first I decided to limit myself to direct transcriptions of the frames and the only creative change I allowed myself was to crop in on the frame to end up with a square format. This wasn't and arbitrary choice, I am making a visual link to the Album cover as this exhibition is about forming pathways between sound and light waves, and pairs with a series of music compositions I will release as an album on Vinyl as a 12".

One of the resulting images will be used as the hero image appearing in print on the cover of the LP and the other paintings will provide support work for the listening experience along side a video projection of the reference material that the paintings were made from.

This Cyclic aspect of my work and the delicate interplay of media and ability to orchestrate an experience that involves moving image, sound and painting is obviously much harder to achieve in a mural context.


2. Was there a pivotal moment in your life when you decided to follow your path as an artist?

The first thing that comes to mind is my Art busking days.That was really my foray into Art as income. I used to set up on King St Newtown /Sydney and give away paintings on Cardboard for donations. It was much more lucrative that I could have hoped for and I was able to quit the day job as a dish washer.

3. How do you view the creative process as a contribution to greater well-being and mental health?

For me personally it feels really important, Its a meditation and my most positive way of connecting to the world around me I think. I draw every morning while I have a coffee and even if thats the only creative part of my day its super important that I do it. Sort of like Yoga is good to maintain your body (and mind) I find creative practices healthy for my mental health and on a spiritual level allow me that constant contact to other dimensions of the minds eye, the place we like to play as children and grow out of at some point. Drawing helps me stay young in that way, It takes my mind off grown up problems for a bit, and creates space for fun and play and day dreaming. Its usually when I have my best ideas. (that might be the coffee though)

4. Do you feel that play and experimentation are important aspects of the creative process?

For me yes, but every person works differently, I guess it depends what your personality is like and what your trying to achieve with your work.

5. What does the word 'creativity' mean to you?

To me it is the life force, we are all creative in my eyes. It's impossible to live a life without creating. As children we start by creating noise, mess, laughter, marks on paper, walls, play and making are our nature. As adults we often decide we aren't creative because we have an institutionalised perspective, convinced for example that 'I can't draw'. This is probably the most common one I hear from people. My answer is always, everyone can draw, it just depends if you place judgement on the outcome or not. I see dancing, singing, drumming and drawing as basic human instincts that we have had for thousands of years, its a modern idea to create rules, and value systems around an individuals performance in these areas. If you get up and dance at a party, you probably aren't thinking about how 'good' you are at dancing. Chances are you wouldn't win any contests. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't allow yourself the joy of expressing the urge. I see drawing and all creative acts the same way, cooking, gardening, ceramics or whatever it is.

Alexandra Lederman