Behind the canvas: Damian Fulton

Fulton working on his piece “Greater than the whole.” ( Katrina Andaya)

Katrina Andaya

The Saddleback College Art Gallery is currently displaying the artwork of Damian Fulton. An L.A. and Orange County native, his unique art style intertwines urban culture with surf city USA.

Fulton’s work is displayed in chronological order, walking clockwise around the gallery, as his art progresses over the years.

On Saturday, Sept. 8, 2012, Fulton made a special appearance at the gallery where he demonstrated the painting of his current project, a mural called “Greater than the whole,” which will be displayed in his next show in Venice.

Fulton welcomed questions from any guests interested in his work. The Lariat was able to ask him a few questions about his art and where his ideas stem from.

You are known for mixing urban culture and surf culture in your art. Can you elaborate more on that?

Fulton: For me, because I grew up on the coast, and I think as a young kid, it was a period when all the surf movies were out and the Beach Boys’ music was really big.  It was very pure, joyous, clean and just a happy, happy place. When I finally started going to the beach, I realized that was non-existant. It was a dark place. The beach was a place where a lot of low lives went and surfers weren’t exactly glamorized and bikers hung out there by the beach. So I think that was a real shock for me growing up. To see my vision, my belief of what surf culture was, with the reality of the urban world spilling and meeting in one place.

Who or what are your influences?

Fulton: Early on it was cartoons, Disney, the ‘60s hot rod culture, monster movies, comics, and then as I was starting to become more aware of art I liked a lot of these fantasy artists like Frank Frazetta, the Brothers Hildebrandt, and Norman Rockwell, who is incredible. Then I started getting into more counter culture stuff like Rick Griffin, and more of the underground comic kind of stuff. The current guys I really like are Richard Williams, Todd Schorr, and Glenn Barr.

Are your pictures based in Huntington? I recognize the smoke stacks you use in your paintings and it looks like the ones at Huntington.

Fulton: It’s funny that you should say that because people in Florida, around the world, Japan, France, they all say thank you for capturing our beach. You really have nailed our beach with the ocean. But you know, I live in El Segundo and El Segundo has those smoke stacks, so I think it’s anywhere, and the beauty is those smoke stacks, this is a little artistic secret, those smoke stacks anchor often in the corner because they add weight and anchor and solidity to the composition. They’re a tool, but they also instantly say you’re not in Hawaii, you’re not in Bali or Mexico or some exotic location. You’re in the city. Right at the edge of the water is this stuff.

I know you did illustrations and comic books and worked for Disney, but now you are showing your art as yourself in an exhibit. What is easier? What you are doing now? Or being an illustrator?

Fulton: I think I’ve always in the past, to get an assignment to figure out how to communicate an idea and to have a deadline. I’ve done that my whole life and its thrilling and the interpretation of the message, to find that is nerve racking, but when you capture a visual that tells the story, that elevates whatever the project is, that helps build the point of view and that’s really exhilarating. And I’m very comfortable doing that although there’s kind of that nerve-racking period and anticipation to find out what the result will be. This for me actually came about as a way to offset the paintings… But the contemporary work was really a result of kind of a reaction to everything that was so controlled. I can paint what I love painting and what interests me and which is challenging and thrilling but there’s a certain level of personal angst and pressure I put on myself because I don’t like to repeat myself over and over again… I want to be able to expand my visual language and to be challenged.

What do you think of your illustration career and your artwork looking back at it all?

Fulton: It was really weird walking into this the first time. I felt a little vulnerable because I’ve never seen everything out in the open. All of my years sort of surrounding me. It was a little overwhelming.

When have you realized that you arrived as an artist or have achieved success?

Fulton: I don’t know if I’ll ever arrive. I don’t know what the mark of arrival would be. It seems that each step and opportunity gets me closer. I just keep trying to do things that are more significant or more challenging for me and I don’t think that will ever stop.

Lastly, what’s next for you? Are you more in demand now that you have done galleries and worked with art collectors?

Fulton: I’m doing this four-person show in Venice. I have some books that are coming out. What’s next for me is to continue exploring opportunities to do visual art that really pushes me. I’m doing some film work now and directing movies and just trying to find opportunities to expand my repertoire.

Fulton’s work will be displayed in the Saddleback College Gallery until Sept. 27, 2012. For more information on Fulton you can check out his website at!home/mainPage.

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