Denton Burrows

Fine Artist / Illustrator / Muralist

"I thought if I kept researching and feeding my passion to learn about the world, the best way to talk about it is through my art. It was a way to do both things."

We literally met Denton Burrows in the street while he was painting a massive mural on the side of a building. His unique style of "painting with coloured pencils," along with his obsession with the most minute and important detail has lent itself to an incredible catalogue of fine art. Recently, he's received national recognition with his work, which will be featured on one of America’s most popular beer cans. Experiencing Denton's work is like falling through the looking glass into a fantastic and fascinating alternate universe.

"I’ve been drawing my whole life. My mother was an artist and sort of encouraged me very young to do that. I was always the kid getting in trouble for drawing in class. Like, every class. I went to a pretty basic liberal arts college and was really into psychology, anthropology and sociology.

The coloured pencil thing kind of happened because when I started to learn how to paint, I am very obsessive and a perfectionist about my work, but I have very little patience with decision making. So I love that I can just say ‘oh, I want this blue’ and I can just use it; I don’t have to mix anything. I’m basically painting with coloured pencils. The little world in between the lines here is what gets me excited about what I do. That’s what I wake up wanting to do.

I think that the way artists work, they always want to attribute it to something magical, or whatever, but I think a lot of it has to do with their personality, who they are, what they’re patient with and what they’re not patient with. I’ve always been attracted to complicated, detailed, precise work. Stuff that, you look at it, and before you notice what it’s about, you just know that somebody spent a lot of really hard work, time and focus on it. I’m not drawn to quick art.

I did this image for a national contest for the design of a beer can by Pabst Blue Ribbon. Tons of people submitted, and I submit to lots of things, because you’ve got to do it. You don’t get into nine, and you get into one, and sometimes it’s good. I got a call in January that I won, and in August, that will be on 35 million cans in America, which is a bit ridiculous.

It’s great being here in my studio, but it can get a little other-worldly, in a sense. Being in reality, interacting with the public, making work, really for the public, but then also trying to be in your space where you can be creative is a really challenging.

I have never stopped teaching myself. I don’t just mean artistically, I mean about life, and all of that kind of stuff. Society makes some people think once you’re out of college and once you have a job or once you’re a girlfriend, then you’re done. That’s who you are, just make money and have a nice time. And if there is an 'ignorance is bliss,' and people are unaware of that, that’s fine for them, but I can’t do that.

The first book I ever made was focused art work that I made to be looked at, sold and understood. When I was getting a 'C' in drawing class and I showed the teacher some of my personal work, that was what I would go home and make after having to draw a vase...badly.

There was such a freedom when I made this, because I didn’t know anything. Now, being educated in art, in the back of your mind you’re going 'that perspective is wrong,' but in this, I didn’t care. There was no planning, there was no looking at anything, no colour theory. It’s just interesting how that evolved to what I do now. I think it makes sense to me but it's always very interesting and I wonder if I could ever work with that freedom again. I don't know if it’s possible, which I just have to accept. It’s a weird thing to think about.

The way art comes out of me without trying to do anything is this; I have to occupy all of the space, but in some sort of uniformity, while still maintaining some form of composition. This is my reality. It's not some place I escape to with a substance. To me, this is representative of what I see when I go outside.

I actually believe that the future of my work lies in this direction, but learning from the other, or some kind of combination of the two."