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Printmaker Daniel Danger captures New England’s “gothic vibe”

  • Daniel Danger, seen here in his studio in Eastworks, has designed posters for movies, TV shows, rock bands and other clients.  GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Daniel Danger, seen here in his studio in Eastworks, has designed posters for movies, TV shows, rock bands and other clients. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Daniel Danger cites the “gothic, spooky vibe of New England” as the inspiration for many of his screenprints, like these in his studio in Eastworks. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Work in progress for a future print by Daniel Danger at his studio in Eastworks in Easthampton. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Daniel Danger cites the “gothic, spooky vibe of New England” as the inspiration for many of his screenprints, like these in his studio in Eastworks. GAZETTE STAFF/JERREY ROBERTS

  • A poster Danger created for the ABC show “Lost.” Images courtesy of Daniel Danger

  • “Where do you go when you go?” screenprint by Daniel Danger. Image courtesy of Daniel Danger

  • “We can no longer protect you forever,” screenprint by Daniel Danger.  Image courtesy of Daniel Danger

  • “Elk Mall,” screenprint by Daniel Danger. Image courtesy of Daniel Danger

  • “Sometimes you go to that place,” screenprint by Daniel Danger. Image courtesy of Daniel Danger

  • Poster by Daniel Danger for “The Royal Tenenbaums.” Image courtesy of Daniel Danger

  • Poster for “The Jungle Book” by Daniel Danger. Image courtesy of Daniel Danger



Staff Writer
Thursday, December 07, 2017

A vacant, crumbling house steadily being reclaimed by nature, as waist-high weeds engulf its base. An abandoned shopping mall, light streaming through gaping holes in the ceiling to reveal a floor strewn with debris. A ruined brick building overlooked by a mysterious winged figure — an angel? — that points to a sign saying “We can no longer protect you forever.” 

In Daniel Danger’s atmospheric posters, gloom and decay are a regular theme, from the dark, brooding colors to the images of urban and rural locales that have seen better days. With the occasional surrealistic touch, such as a human figure that seems to be launching into space under its own power, Danger’s work is gaining something of a cult following.

But the Easthampton artist isn’t all gloom and doom; he also has a tongue-in-cheek sense of humor.

“I’m not really obsessed with ghosts and horror and haunted houses the way some people might think I am,” Danger said during a recent interview in his studio, in the Eastworks building. “But I also grew up in New England, which has this kind of gothic, spooky vibe, so that’s part of what I’m trying to capture.”

Of course, having a last name of “Danger” doesn’t hurt when you’re building a reputation for creating spooky art. His real surname is actually “Niejadlik” — a name, he says with a laugh, that people were always stumbling over.

But in high school, he found a solution: He played in a band called The Dangerously, and each member, like the guys who took on pseudonyms in The Ramones, took the surname of “Danger.” And in his case, Danger says, “The name just stuck.”

Yet it’s his art that’s taken Danger, 35, to where he is today. Working primarily with a Texas company, Mondo, that commissions and licenses limited-edition prints for various movies and TV shows, he has created posters for a slew of titles: “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Star Wars,” “Star Trek,” “The Jungle Book,” “The Town,” “Psycho,” “Lost.”

Over the years, he also has designed posters for bands like The Pogues and The Decemberists and numerous record companies, and he has built a strong online presence that’s enabled him to sell his work through his business, Tiny Media Empire, and through gallery shows and pop-culture conventions that he travels to across the country.

Danger’s screenprints — he’s also a painter, though something of a lapsed one at the moment — are just one part of his artistic persona. He’s also a longtime electric guitarist and bass player who’s been in a number of bands over the years; he’s currently on a tour with one of them, the post-hardcore group The Saddest Landscape, in Japan and the Philippines. 

“Playing music is great — it’s a nice break from being in my studio for hours and hours, working on prints,” he said. “But it’s obviously pretty hard to do it for a living.”

He has devoted more and more time in the past several years to creating posters for movies, TV shows and comics, as well as for himself, ones that reflect his interest in the horror genre and in New England’s gothic traditions and history.

“I like the idea that things fall apart over time, that nature takes back over and memories fade,” he said. “New England is old, with its own kind of haunted history … That’s an important theme for me.”

As his website states: “Amidst old houses dead from the fallout of urban sprawl, railway bridges asleep from neglect, and trees that engulf everything, [Danger’s] work attempts to remind you of something you may have said to someone, or something someone may have said to you; back in that time period that’s just too far away to remember clearly, but not so long ago you forgot about it completely.”

Getting the itch for art

Danger, who grew up in Brimfield and went to high school in Sturbridge, got an early introduction to art, courtesy of his parents. His father was a longtime art teacher in the Palmer school system, his mother was a potter; and as a kid, he took part in family visits to museums, art festivals and other cultural events.

More to the point, he absorbed from his parents the idea that art wasn’t just something you did as a hobby. “I learned it was perfectly normal to make a living making your own art,” he said.

When he started playing music as a teenager, his friends turned to him to design flyers and other material to plug their gigs. Back then, in the late 1990s, that was “kind of crude stuff,” Danger says — drawings and cut-and-paste materials — but he enjoyed the process. Other bands starting asking him to make things for them, and after studying illustration at Rochester Institute of Technology, “I just started building on that. A lot of [the jobs] came from word of mouth … it just kind of snowballed.”

Eventually he was hired by labels like Magic Bullet Records, Island Def Jam and Polyvinyl Records to design touring posters for some of their bands, like The Pogues. When he did that one in particular, about 10 years ago, Danger said, “I was freaking out. It was like I was 14 years old again — me, designing for The Pogues.”

From music, he segued into poster art for film and TV, again gaining offers for work primarily by word of mouth.

Danger has a very specific production style, particularly for the silkscreen posters — he works with a printer in Seattle to finalize them — that are his bread and butter these days. He works mostly with clayboard, a type of thick fiberboard that he inks completely in black; then he uses a knife to etch out white lines, and he goes back and forth, inking and carving, to create his finished images.

All that carving/etching can take a toll, he says, particularly because he’ll often work for hours without stopping, and for days on end, on a single project. Over the last several months, he developed serious strain in his hands and had to take a break from a poster of a deserted ballroom he had been developing for a special re-issue of “Ghostbusters.”

The in-progress work, which offers incredible detail, is still on his studio work table; he missed the deadline for the movie reissue, but he figures he’ll finish the poster for himself when he’s fully recuperated.

“My hands were telling me I had to treat them better, and I’m doing that now,” he said with a rueful smile.

Elsewhere in Danger’s studio are many signs of his close connections to pop culture and music, such as a display case full of sound-effect pedals for guitar and different art on the walls; there’s a painting, by another artist, of Jack Nicholson as The Joker from the 1989 “Batman” movie.

For now, Danger says, he’s focused on putting his own stamp on his posters for film and TV, filtering his vision of gothic New England into the work and finding the place where his overall vision meshes with the themes and images of the movie or show.

“I want to make that kind of work consistent with my personal artwork,” he said.

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gazettenet.com.

You can read more about Daniel Danger’s work at tinymediaempire.com and tinymediaempire.tumblr.com/.