I spoke with L.A.-based artist Dale Voelker recently. He is the first Angeleno to make an appearance in Artist Spotlight.

Our conversation was unique and I enjoyed hearing his perspective on his artistic style, especially considering that he is a graphic designer by day. If you haven’t seen his work, definitely click on one of the below links to give yourself more of a glimpse.

Otherwise, enjoy our chat.

[Featured Artwork: “Best Entertainment Line Up” by Dale Voelker.]

Dale Voelker


The following responses are lightly edited for length and clarity.

01. Rock, paper, or scissors?

Rock because it crushes.

02. What are three interesting facts about you?

A. I had open heart surgery when I was 8 years old and I still remember being wheeled into the operating room. I remember them telling me, “You’re gonna fall asleep,” and thinking I wouldn’t. I did.

B. I perfected my signature in high school and I still use the same signature, which is important if you’re signing artwork.

C. I’m still friends with people I went to Kindergarten with. I just saw two of them recently.

03. What is the main medium you use in your art?

I would say acrylic paint is the main medium, sprinkled in with spray paint, markers, oil pastels, and paper. What I’m doing right now usually has elements of collage. I find old magazines, damaged books, and newspapers. I can get unique effects with older paper versus modern paper. The older paper reacts differently to paint and water.

I stumbled on using old newspapers a while ago. When we bought our current home, the previous owners had lived there for close to 50 years. They had collected newspapers. So, anything major in the news, they’d hold onto that newspaper: The moon landing, Kennedy assassination, you name it. They left behind bins of newspapers, but unfortunately they were falling apart and not in very good shape. So I couldn’t really donate them anywhere, but I didn’t want to just toss them in the trash. So, one day I started introducing the newspaper into my artwork and it took off. They are an additional layer to my work.

04. What inspires your art?

Looking for the unexpected. Exploring things that look like they fell into place by accident. The balance of nature and urban landscapes. 

I work as a graphic designer — everything is digital and has to be in spec. Things tend to be centered and balanced. So, with my fine art, I’m able to go outside of that and make things that aren’t perfectly balanced. I like the freedom of sloshing around with paint and paper and creating unique work.

05. Are you more productive at night or in the morning?

Probably in the morning. I’m an early riser. So I like to workout, come back, have breakfast, have everything situated and then I feel like I’ve already been productive at an early hour. Then I have the full day.

06. What is the most unique thing about the city you live in? (Los Angeles)

I live in the San Fernando Valley, which is part of L.A. County. One of the good things is nature. There’s lots of hiking, mountain biking, the beach, the mountains, the desert, and it’s all drivable in a short amount of time.

07. Is art your career or a hobby? Something else?

It’s definitely not a hobby. Right now, my design business is my primary job, but I’m trying to slowly move away from that and work on my fine art 100 percent of the time. Sometimes they overlap a little bit. Sometimes I’ll use some of my fine art in my design business.

08. What kind of training do you have?

I went to school at Cal State Northridge (in L.A.) with a graphic design focus. I had fine art experience and the focus, at the time, they called it two-dimensional design. I got out of college and started working in the graphic design field and that was my career. Most of my clients were in the entertainment field — primarily music-related projects. My fine art practice is now my main focus.

09. The art is one thing, but what’s your secret to generating interest and ultimately selling your art?

Getting it out there. Solo shows, group shows, art fairs.

But the main push to getting my art seen is through social media. It really is. I can have 50 people show up at a show — which is great and they get to see things in person physically — but on social media you can have thousands of people look at it and that can turn them on to seeing it in person. That’s how I’m doing it right now. I try to post once a day. It’s not always new work. It’s not like I have a completed piece every day. I try to kind of show work in progress. Show pieces that might be sketches or a group of smaller pieces. I’ll show pieces from shows. Things that sold. But I’m trying to always post something.

I also have selected pieces in galleries around the area. A lot of times people will see one thing there that they like and then get back to me. It’s a good system.

10. Where did your passion for art start?

I kind of remember always drawing. I had a nephew and he was younger than me but we would always draw. We clicked on Star Wars. Whenever we would see each other we would draw together. I would show him how to draw characters or different space ships. I remember every time we would go out to dinner we would draw on placemats or we would bring paper with us. It was just non-stop. He went on to be an incredible artist who works in the special effects field.

11. What would be the most annoying thing about having yourself as a roommate?

Probably being too picky.

12. What is your go-to band or singer?

I’d say right now, it’s Miles Davis, Rival Sons or The Who.

13. What’s something you’ve been meaning to try but just haven’t got around to?

I’d say probably working with metal: Welding, cutting, making sculptures.

14. What household chore do you actually enjoy?

Folding laundry. It’s very task oriented. You finish and you can see something you did.

15. What app do you use most often?

Probably Photoshop.

16. What is one common misconception about being an artist?

That you can draw a perfect circle. That’s usually the line that people will say: “I can’t even draw a circle.” It’s actually really difficult.

I remember hearing this story about Salvador Dali. He was at some party and somehow they got talking about something along these “circle” lines and someone got out a piece of paper and he drew a circle; and it was a perfect circle. They even measured it and checked it with a compass.

17. What is your favorite drink?

Egyptian Licorice hot tea

18. What artists are influential to you?

Andy Warhol — I’m fascinated how he helped redefine what art can be; how subjects dropped into the right context could be art.

Robert Rauschenberg — His use of non-traditional materials really showed me what was possible. 

Kerry James Marshall  — He is on a different planet from what I do and is very political and really has something to say.

19. What do you hope people get out of your art?

For most of my work, the line that goes through it is: “Appreciate the unexpected.” So whether it’s colors, materials, shapes, balance—my art is about discovery. I try to create bold landscapes around history and color.