The People Behind Our Products: Fluid Artist Daniel J. Wolf

The People Behind Our Products

Daniel J. Wolf at Olson House

Meet Daniel J. Wolf, a friend and art contributor of Olson House. He specializes in fluid art; a form of abstract art which uses acrylics with a runny consistency to create psychedelic-type paintings. Daniel's vision for his pieces are to show nature in motion. His inspiration comes from the natural world and he creates out of a love to express all that he has learned and experienced. To put it personally, Daniel says "nature, a vivid imagination and tinkering around is my informal education." Read our interview with Daniel J. Wolf below and get to know this curious and talented artist we love to showcase at Olson House.


Olson House: Tell us a little about yourself.

Daniel J. Wolf: I'm a life long resident of the Milwaukee river parkway neighborhood and professional painter of over 22 years (professional residential painter, not professional artist painter).  I'm an endlessly curious monkey that enjoys documentaries and the Great Courses series - from biological anthropology to the origins of religion,  I eat it all up.  However, I'm at my best self out in nature, whether exploring state natural areas in the Baraboo hills or when afloat in my duct tape covered canoe on an isolated little lake in Vilas county. I enjoy dark movies by directors like Lars von Trier, Quentin Tarantino, Spike Jonze and David Lynch. I have 2 amazing cats: the female is "Cat"- age 19, and the male is "Little Man"- age 14.  I love them to pieces, but cat hair and my style of art is a real challenge considering the prolonged dry time.   I have a fiancee, her name is Heidie, and she recently said "yes" when I proposed out on a pier over the ocean in the Florida keys. Plans are to get married June of 2020.

Daniel J. Wolf and fiance

Olson House: Have you always been a creative person? Do you have a formal education in art?
Daniel: I have no formal education in art- making me an outsider artist. I consider myself to be entrepreneurial and creative and have been since early high school. Much like the British artist and sculptor Andy Goldsworthy, I'm always tinkering around in nature creating one off pieces of art solely for satisfaction in the moment and knowing nature will have it's way on my creation for better or worse.  I suppose nature, a vivid imagination and tinkering around is my informal education.
Olson House: Are you an artist full-time? Do you have a studio space in the home, outside of the home? Where do you create your art?
Daniel: I'm not a full time artist, it's a passion and escape. My profession of being a self employed painter of some 23 years is all consuming. I estimated a year ago, that so far I'd painted approximately 3,938 living rooms, 5,786 bedrooms, and 5,522 bathrooms along with many closets and hallways. It can be monotonous and the color palette extremely limited. The art I've been creating the past couple of years is a rebellion against the monotone, paint within the lines, confines of my daily work painting homes. My studio space is at home in 2 of my bedrooms. When I'm in the zone I'll create over a dozen pieces in a few days, and my art can be found scattered throughout my home drying  (48 hours minimum before handling).  Last year I produced around 200 pieces of art, much of that late at night after a hard day working.  My poor fiancee doesn't know what she's in for.
Fluid Art by Daniel J. Wolf
Olson House: Tell us about your technique! What is is called? What does the process look like for each piece, start to finish?
Daniel: My technique is commonly referred to as "fluid art " or "flow art".  I create abstract paintings on both canvas and tile, mostly tile lately, that hopefully resembles nature in some form. When it resembles nature in motion, I'm deeply satisfied.   My process is prep intensive, mixing anywhere between 6 to 10 individual colors along with 3 other key ingredients [secret] in old chobani yogurt cups.  On previously prepped canvas or tile I will pour a multitude of color cups and quickly utilize techniques such as tilting, dragging,  blowing and torching to achieve a desired appearance. From there it goes on to a level rack where it will spend the next 2 days drying. If rack isn't level... disaster!  Every piece is left to chance during this critical juncture. Each individual color paint possesses pigments of varying weight which influences what colors rise to the surface or sinks.  I find myself checking each piece every 15 minutes... My babies!  Within the first 3 hours of settling, the painting slowly morphs into its own creature as various pigments ebb and flow.  Sometimes it's a blessing, sometimes it's a curse!  Many times I've finished tilting or dragging to achieve an awesome look only for it to vanish hours later into a blah piece. Other times it's magic as wonderful globulous pigment varieties raise to the surface amplifying my original intent. After many days of curing I'm comfortable with handling it and hand crafting a wood backing with hanging wire arranged for a variety of hanging options. This is time consuming. Because the paint continues on the tiles edges, no framing is required,  it simply floats off the wall once hung. The final piece is very sleek and attractive. 
Olson House: Where does your inspiration from?
Daniel: What initially inspired my dabbling in acrylic fluid art was another local artist's work.  I saw and purchased her piece at the Cedarburg community center. Within a couple of days of hanging it on my wall I was already attempting my own.  It took dozens of attempts before I found my voice and created what I considered good art.  A trip to Monterey bay California also was influential. I happened upon a gem of a tiny beach with amazing fine grained sand that had created beautifully contoured lines of water flow.  I've been trying to recreate that look in abstract form ever since.  Also, my neighbor is an artist whom is constantly tinkering around on canvas in her driveway.   Seeing her create inspires me to brake out some colors and go to it.  We have recently begun to collaborate on art.
Fluid Art by Daniel J. Wolf
Olson House: Do you have a favorite piece or what is the most memorable piece you remember making and why?
Daniel: I do have a favorite. It's one of my larger pieces measuring 12" x 24" on heavy tile. It is titled "Penguin Falls " and for me has the wow factor when examined up close. It was also an extremely difficult painting to pull off. It took a lot of paint and manipulation to achieve the final work. I was fortunate to have "Penguin Falls " on display at the Museum of Wisconsin Art and also at "The Shoppe" in the 3rd ward for gallery night and day this year.
Olson House: Is there anything new you would like to try this year in regards to your art?
Daniel: I would like to attempt more statement pieces this year with a twist on my flow art.  I would like show the juxtaposition between modernity and nature by painting or stenciling city scapes or stiff constructs on top the free flow paintings I'm used to creating.  I've begun to dabble with it already.  I have one piece that displays the rising oceans on a  major city, it conveys a message I feel is important and timely. If I can create something beautiful but also causes one to think, than I feel my art would be more than decoration.
Fluid Art by Daniel J. Wolf
Olson House: What are your favorite things to do in Milwaukee?
By far, eating out at all the great restaurants. Such incredible culinary variety and talent out there to sample. I recently tried Morel on 2nd street and was blown away. Too many great places to mention. Also exploring little shops with Milwaukee Makers products. I recently began selling vintage items at Antiques on Pierce and noticed many creative artist's and maker's selling their wares at that antique mall - check it out!
Shop Daniel J. Wolf's pieces at Olson House in store & online, here.

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