The Chocolate Cult: Interview: Painting with Chocolate

Monday, March 7, 2011

Interview: Painting with Chocolate

Your Chocolate Priestess met artist, Dan Alexander, at the annual "Art of Chocolate Event" at the Indiana University Museum back on January 30, 2011.  Since I was acting as a Docent for the museum I could not take photos for you all but Dan did agree to an interview. I hope you all leave a lot of nice comments for him, Sisters and Brothers.

Photos Art of Chocolate 2011: Alycin Beklesh

Dan, how would you define yourself as an artist?

I tend to go across the board. I started out as all young artists do drawing, then graphic design to pursue a career after school. Painting came later then animation, book illustration, and finally now,tattooing and sculpture.

Did you study formally at a college or an apprenticeship?
Yes, I studied graphic design at Indiana Sate University. Worked in graphic design for six years the went back to school in New Jersey at the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art to pursue comics and animation. Now I'm doing commissions and freelance work on top of working with the disabled.

Do you consider art to be your career?
I don't know too many artists that consider their art a career. For the most part, we all have to work two jobs (a day job and our art). Yeah, I'd say a day job is essential. To pursue art full time these days takes dedication, discipline, nerve and a fat bankroll to get through the lean times... Maybe when I'm all grown up?

How many years have you been an artist?
All my life but professionally for 13 years.

What materials do you normally work with?
Oh, gosh! I try it all. I've used use everything from graphite to Adobe Suite and clay to airbrush to screen printing. To scratch out a sketch I use a small Paper Blanks Zen acid free notebook and a Bic mechanical .7mm pencil or just a tiny golf pencil. Whatever is handy I guess.

How did you get into painting with chocolate?
We tried this at last year's event and I worked with a group of others on a much bigger canvas. We finished it so early we were able to slow down and let some of the attendees paint a bit. I saw the potential of working in chocolate and I knew that next year (2011) I would do one on my own. I just need to get in the ears of the right people.

Photos from Art of Chocolate 2011: Alycin Beklesh 

I'm sure my readers are very curious about using chocolate as a paint.  Do you have to do something to chocolate itself to make it usable as paint or were you using white, milk and chocolate paint when I saw you working on that portrait at "The Art of Chocolate"?
No, Its pretty simple. Heat to melt and milk to thin it. The coloring is my trick though. I can't give away all my trade secrets, you know?

You were using brushes at the event, correct?  (feel free to expand if you were using other tools as well)
I used some brushes and palette knives and had a hair dryer to melt any clumps on the canvas but fortunately we didn't need it.

What type of canvas were you using?  I've had readers ask me if one could eat the portrait after I mentioned the event.

I'm not sure what kind of canvas was stretched but it held up tremendously by the nice folks at Reframe. After the painting was painted it was finished with a clear coat but up to that point, yes, it technically could be eaten off the brush.

How many types of you worked with chocolate?

How many times have I worked in chocolate??? twice

Do you only paint with it?  We know that some folks sculpt with chocolate as well.
No, I only paint with it.

What's different about creating art in a public venue versus doing it in private?  Do find it frustrating to have people stopping to look at your work as you work on it?
No, Not really. I do caricatures for other events and you get over that kind of stage fright pretty fast.

What happened to the portrait that you made during "The Art of Chocolate"?  Can someone still buy it from you?
The Miles Davis chocolate painting was donated for charity to Options for Better Living . As far as I know it is still unsold. We are having it framed 36"x48" at a local frame shop and it will be held there in their front window until a buyer is found.  To inquire about purchase contact: Karol Stewart at Reframe (812)-333-6330.

Photos from Art of Chocolate 2011: Alycin Beklesh
How would such a work of art be maintained?  Would it attract insects?  Would it spoil?
I wouldn't hang it in direct sunlight but the painting from last year has held up extremely well and it was also not finished like the painting was this year. I don't think it would spoil but you cultists would know better than I.

Finally, do you plan to keep working with chocolate in the future?
You bet! It really was a hit with the crowd and its just a new and fun medium. I got tons of business cards and hopefully something good will come of it.

Thank you, Dan, for talking with The Chocolate Cult.  I was very impressed with your work that evening and I'm so pleased you were available to do an interview.

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