Have you ever looked at a work of art and asked yourself: “I wonder what life is like in there?” There’s something about what you’re looking at that makes it feel as if you can just walk right in, past all the ink and paper, and experience the life living in it. This is exactly what Tyler’s art is: real objects, people, and places turned into an alternate reality on paper, one that you would want to step into or interact with if you could. His works have emotions and a soul, and you can’t help but be drawn to them.
We hope you like our interview with our second creative, Tyler Dahl!
Hey there! My name is Tyler, and I’m an artist and paramedic currently living in Texas with my beautiful wife, our two year old daughter, and another baby on the way. LOCHBY has graciously asked me to answer a few questions and do one of my favorite things: talk about art!
How long have you been doing art?
Actually not that long! I began having an interest in art back in 2018. I was initially fascinated by digital painting, concept art, and environment design, even trying to create some digital paintings back then. I purchased my very first sketchbook a few months later, along with a few pens, and began filling it out. After my initial interest, there was a slow period where I barely did any art through early 2019 (school does that), and then by the end of that year I committed fully to the hobby, and have been drawing pretty much daily since then.
You can definitely see how committed Tyler is when you check out his mostly regular posts on Instagram. As of writing this article, it looks like he’s joined Inktober, too! More amazing art for all of us to see!
Can you describe your art style?
I would describe my current style as somewhat loose with a bit of restraint, sketchy, and very much inspired by the world around me. I have never been incredibly gifted in terms of pure imagination and character design, but I find immense beauty in nature, humanity, and the things we’ve built as a species. Architecture, trees, and portraits easily build out my top three favorite subjects to sketch, and “sketch” is the ideal word for my art. I rarely, if ever, output what I would consider a “finished” studio piece. For one, I’m far too impatient to spend 20-60 hours on a single art piece, though I applaud those that can! My pieces typically take 1-3 hours to complete, and over time I find myself simplifying and upping the pace of my art overall.
My style has continued to loosen-up and become more focused over the years. When I first began sketching I was all about the details. I loved my fine-liners, my hatching, and spending arduous amounts of time detailing out little sections of my sketches. These days however, I ask myself “what can I get away with leaving out of this?”. The faster I can capture the essence of my subject in real time, the more successful I feel as an artist. That’s a very personal thing to me, and an aspect of sketching I really enjoy.
“There is something immensely satisfying about catching an expression, or capturing the feeling of a location, with the very first pencil marks on the paper.”
Here’s something we love about Tyler’s art journey: it proves that just like any other skill, art can be learned through loads of practice! If you were born to create art, then that’s just a bonus.
What was the turning point that made you realize this was something you wanted to do?
Well, for one, art is an escape for me. A place where I can zone out my often hyper-active mind, and focus on a single task without worrying about anything else for a while. Most importantly however, was when I realized that anyone can become an artist, and that’s when I decided that I would indeed become one. Like many others, I grew up under the assumption that only those born with innate “talent” for drawing could become artists. I’ve come to realize that could not be further from the truth!
For one, art is art if you enjoy making it, no matter how well it conforms to traditional standards of beauty, proportion, color, etc. Also, practice is everything! Art is a never-ending learning process. I assure you, if you could only see my first few pages of my sketchbook back in 2018 when I started… well you’d be embarrassed for me. They looked quite rough. I’ve since spent thousands of (very enjoyable) hours studying, reading, watching, and honing my craft. I have so much more left to learn, and that’s half the joy of the hobby for me.
Do you have a “day job” or are you a full-time artist?
I do have a day job! I am a paramedic, and have worked in the medical field either on an ambulance, or in an emergency room for about 8 years now. It’s a job I do love, and I’m not likely to give it up anytime soon. Art is actually something that really helps me to cope with stress related to my job, as it’s a way for me to detach from work and simply relax. I often sketch on my lunch breaks these days, as a nice little reprieve from a busy shift.
How do you find time for your craft?
I ask myself that all the time. With busy 12-hour shifts, a 2 year old, another baby on the way, and a mild love for cooking and a few other hobbies, you can definitely say I’m low on free time! Nevertheless I do believe we can always find a way to make time for our priorities, and right below family, art is my next priority. It’s usually late nights after the rest of the house is in bed, or simply trying to squeeze in a few pen strokes while my daughter is off galivanting about the living room. Regardless I find a way to work in at least one little sketch a day, at least 6 times a week.
The trade-off/reward of working longer 12-hour shifts is that I get more days off work per month, so while it’s very hard to find time to draw after a long shift, I do have time to make up for it in between work days.
To any aspiring artist out there who’s worried about work/school and life getting in the way of their hobby, let this be an example that if there’s a will, there’s a way! Find time to do what you’re passionate about.
Are you a self-taught artist?
I suppose I would say yes. Definitely no art school so far. However I am incredibly grateful to live in the “age of information”. It’s actually baffling to me how much free content and learning there is to be had, and we barely take advantage of it! I pretty much devour YouTube videos about art non-stop when I can find time. I’ve watched a few courses when I wanted to learn a specific technique. Read lots and lots of books.
I think one of the bigger challenges of self-taught art is judging your progress. Are you studying the right subjects? What is your overall goal/focus? Are you learning the right techniques that apply to your field of interest? What if you miss an important “thing”!? These are all questions I’ve pondered, but in the end I just keep learning something. As long as it keeps me drawing, trying fresh new things, and honing my beloved craft, I’m happy as can be.
Another trap that I find self-taught artists are particularly susceptible to; Feeling like you have to be good at everything. You don’t. Pick a few subjects you love and focus your study on those. You don’t have to practice drawing airplanes if you don’t ever enjoy drawing them. Likewise, if you enjoy drawing animals or people, then it’s okay to really zone in on that specific area.
“Treat yourself to the kind of learning you’re most interested in. Learning should be fun, not a chore.”
What’s your typical day like whenever you’re in the middle of completing a piece of art?
Well, my art pieces are usually done pretty quick, and are broken into segments. Early mornings when I’m still groggy and the baby is at full throttle, I will just sketch in pencil. Set up a few pieces for later.
Midday I hit my stride, and I may ink a piece up during lunch, when my daughter is quietly (not really) eating her lunch in her high-chair. This frees me up to do a slightly more detailed type of work.
Lastly, after the house goes to bed I will sit down and do one of two things. I may either finish a piece off with color and polish, or I may simply sketch really loose and just relax before bed. Depends on my mood that evening!
What materials did you start with? What materials are you using now?
Well, it took me a solid year or two to discover what I love, but now I have my baseline. I began using cheap sketchbooks and Pigma Micron fineliners. I worked for a good year or so almost exclusively in black and white with hatching. I haven’t touched those in some time, but they’ll always have a special place in my heart.
Over time I moved exclusively to using fountain pens. I could talk literally forever about my love for fine writing and inking instruments, but I’ll spare you for the moment! I own cheap pens that I love, and yes, I own some pretty expensive fountain pens that I also adore. For the fountain pen nerds, if you’re out there, my personal favorites are my Sailor Pro Gears, Pilot Custom 823, and my Indigraph fountain pen, which is a new discovery to me that can actually use india ink and not clog.
My most commonly used sketching supplies are medium to heavyweight sketchbooks, (as I personally dislike loose leaf paper), fountain pens primarily with black ink, and my beloved watercolors. This has been my go-to for a long while now. I love testing out new mediums and overall I love making mixed media pieces, but I will always fall back on classic line and wash techniques. I enjoy just sketching directly in permanent pen ink. There is a freedom in knowing you simply must accept your mistakes, and there is no erasing. I am too often a perfectionist, and oddly enough I choose materials that force me out of my comfort zone and habits. Watercolor is unruly as ever, but beautiful in its chaos.
Recently I have also been getting into ballpoint pens, Posca paint pens, and markers, trying to branch out and try new things. I love all these, but they definitely won’t ever take me away from watercolor and ink.
Overall, my art equipment has to meet two very important criteria. One, functionality and speed of use. No fiddling with clogs, easy to refill, portable, etc. Two, it needs to be aesthetically pleasing to me! Yes, I like my art supplies to be beautiful and artistic as pieces of their own. My pens, my paper, my cases, my palettes, etc.
I stumbled upon LOCHBY a year or so ago, while I was on the hunt for a sketchbook cover. I had gone through quite a few ranging from cheap to obnoxiously expensive, and they all had some serious hang-ups for me. LOCHBY’s offering looked lovely, and the price was right, so I sprung for it on a whim. I have always used a cover of some kind, as it adds a ton of utility to what is normally a blank canvas slapped onto your art. LOCHBY was at the time, and still is to my current searching, the only sketchbook cover I could find that both lays flat, and also accepts any A5 size sketchbook. And I do mean any.
I’ve tried tons of covers that claim to fit an A5 sketchbook, and come nowhere close. My LOCHBYField Journal holds softcover, hardcover, and even non-standard A5 sketchbooks. I like to keep my current sketchbook, my favorite fountain pen, an eraser, and a mechanical pencil all bundled up in my field journal. It’s fantastic to have everything in one place, and I’m a huge sucker for waxed canvas and the whole aesthetic. My Field Journal is now lovingly stained with watercolor, and probably a little tree sap, but it’s all the prettier for it and has held up remarkably well.
I also use the LOCHBY Tool Roll, and I could go on at length talking about how much I love this thing. It’s simple, it looks good, and it’s incredibly functional. Once again it filled a void in my load-out that was not being met by other cases. I like to load mine with 2-4 fountain pens of my choosing, an eraser, 2 mechanical pencils (including a lead-holder/clutch), a water-brush, a portable full-size watercolor brush, a ballpoint pen, and then whatever else I’m in the mood for. I won’t carry my fountain pens in a normal pencil case because they bang around and can leak, but in the tool roll they stay separated, scratch free, and well protected when they’re tossed into my bag.
Both items have accompanied me on quite a few sketching adventures, and of course every single day they go in my work bag. They’re faithful companions to me now.
Field Journal Refill
How do you find inspiration?
It’s pretty much all around me! I love sketching plants, buildings, locations, etc. I am working hard to actually sketch outdoors more, though I often simply catch photos and take them home. I live in Texas and there is nothing appealing about attempting to sketch in 100+ degree weather with 90% humidity. My sweat ruins the paper faster than I can draw some days! In nicer weather I get out much more often.
Instagram is also a huge source of inspiration, and I follow quite a few amazing accounts that post stunning photos that inspire and provide reference.
While I love the work of those who draw purely imaginative scenes, I think there is just as much beauty and wonder to be found in capturing the mundane things in life. Little roads, old trees, tiny little hanging plants; They all beg to be sketched.
“The secret is of course, putting your own twist on the scenes in front of you. Letting the character of each landscape and object speak. Ever tried doing gesture drawings of a building? Try it sometime!”
Love this advice! Art is all about your interpretation of the world around you.
Who are your favorite artists?
Wow, that’s so hard to actually name just a few! If forced to pick some names, in no particular order: James Gurney, Paul Heaston, Marco Bucci, and oddly enough Zdzisław Beksiński, who’s art I do not recommend viewing for the faint hearted. There are probably so many more I could list, but I’ll limit myself there. Each of them has elements within their drawings that definitely influence my style; Gurney and his fantastical realism, Heaston and his way of elevating the mundane objects we see everyday, Bucci and his mastery of brush-strokes and marrying colors within a painting, and while artists like Beksiński are nowhere close to my personal style, I find the message he portrays with his art so engaging and captivating, I can’t look away from his pieces and could spend hours studying them.
Any advice for people who are just starting out and still finding their own art style?
Well, I hardly feel qualified to offer others advice, but I’ll do my very best. I think the most important thing you can do is just keep drawing. Every day. As often as possible. Showing up to your hobby, and putting in the work even on your off-days; That’s what turns you into a dedicated artist. Style will come to you in time, but don’t sweat trying too hard to be unique and stylistic. Just do what comes naturally. You may not notice it, but other people see that your art is unique to you, and your style will show through with time. I didn’t even realize I had a style until I reviewed my own body of work and realized I do approach most of my art the same way.
“Let your art be an enjoyable hobby. There’s a fine balance between pushing learning and truly trying to improve as an artist, but also allowing yourself days, and even weeks, where you just draw the things you enjoy.”
Creativity comes in cycles, and I have weeks where my drive to learn is high and I’m cramming in as much art as possible, trying new techniques. I also hit weeks where motivation is low, and I fall back and just doodling trees and faces. That’s okay! You don’t always have to produce your next “masterpiece” every time you touch your sketchbook.
One of my very best practical tips I can give is this; Own three sketchbooks. Keep a nice sketchbook, for your finished pieces, and things you want to turn out well (doesn’t mean they always will!). Keep a second sketchbook for learning new things. Force yourself to try new mediums, new subjects, etc. Lastly and most importantly, everyone needs an ugly sketchbook. A place that no one else ever sees, where you can allow yourself to put whatever marks you want on the page, with no judgment from others or even yourself. As an artist, sometimes you have to be able to just create, without the need to post to social media or make your art presentable to others. Maybe that sounds silly to other people, but for me it’s been a huge boon for overcoming the mental block of the blank page. When I can’t think of what to draw I will grab my “ugly” sketchbook and start scribbling something in front of me, even if it’s just my keys or a coffee cup. It’s enough to keep the habit of drawing up every day, and that’s what matters to me.
I think that about wraps it up. I just wanted to say thanks so much for the opportunity to talk about art! I don’t have too many “art friends” in real life, just a few, so whenever I get a chance to chat about such things, I really let loose. Art is an overwhelming passion and hobby for me, and the more I draw, the more deeply I’m invested into this lifestyle. It can be consuming at times. The days where I can’t produce anything good can haunt me, but the days where I’m pleased with my art take me to a place that few things can. I hope someday I can pass along a little bit of my love for art to my daughters, and maybe to some of you out there as well.
Much love, and may you always find time for creativity,
You can find Tyler and his amazing artworks on Instagram here.