The 20-year-old Birmingham artist whose technique is years ahead of him

Deepey formally known has Dan Price has built an impressive portfolio, with a spectacular range of digital portraits putting him miles ahead of his years.

This young digital artist from Birmingham, comes with both a determination to make his mark and show why this major city should not be overlooked in any celebration of talent across the UK. His precision, accuracy and dedication shines through each digital portrait and my conversation with him that follows. He has gained attention and praise from popular entertainers, as well as platforms like Pigeons & Planes who have acknowledged his genius. Like many of us, Deepey grapples with the cons and benefits of social media – its impact on his creative growth and peace of mind. During this interview, we explore this to some extent. Unpicking some of the challenges posed by having to overcome its destructive aspects, while also having to stay informed and maintain an online presence for your brand.

Portrait of: @roywoods

Through shared experiences, we were able to connect as people with innovative ideas and a deep passion for creative expression, that we just cannot shake. Despite following different paths, we’re still tackling the same modern-day issues.

What follows is an in-depth conversation with Deepey. Not only does he share how studying fine art at university, has shaped him as an artist and a person. He also discusses how he mastered and is continuing to master this remarkable gift, what he hopes to achieve and much more. 

Let the readers know who you are and where you’re from!

My name is Deepey. I’m a digital painter and artist from Birmingham. I’m currently based in Nottingham, while I study fine art at Nottingham Trent University. I got my Wacom drawing tablet in December 2014 and started painting digitally at some point in 2015.

Portrait of: @santandave

So, how has your technique become so refined at just 20-years-old? What’s the secret to mastering digital art?

Honestly, just working hard and always trying to learn has never failed me. The sooner you accept the poorer parts of your skill, the sooner you can start to improve. I stopped looking for the golden rules and shortcuts to digital painting quite early in. Instead, I just focused on having fun. With that, it became a lot easier to invest time in to the work and with that came the improvement.

Refinement is an unusual word for me, because it suggests you know exactly where you are and know exactly where you’re going.

With creativity, you have to be as open as possible. Hold your hands up when something hasn’t worked, embrace the lesson when something goes right without expectation. That’s my favourite thing to do after every piece. Sit down and question:

 What have you learnt from the piece before? Where have you improved?

With digital art specifically, it’s honestly hard to say. I still feel like a student in painting. I suppose I always will feel that way. I guess that’s the best way to climb to the top of the ladder in any skill or art – just be the best student that you can be. I’ve never settled for what I know, because there’s always a new technique – a new method. Don’t be afraid to do something different or waste time, just make sure you’re moving forward. It’s easy to cheat and cut corners in digital art. When you’re young, I’d say embrace that and use it to help create a vision. But, don’t fake yourself.

Trace an image if you need to, use your eye drop tools and just pull colours straight from your reference images. Work with paint overs to help create concepts of your work. Never try to act like you’ve done it all legitimately, because you’ll halt your development and cheat your viewers. Set your vision in any way you need to and then work for it.

Portrait of: @jorjasmith_

On your website, you spoke about social media being “distracting” and “toxic” which is true for many reasons. Do you struggle with not allowing yourself to be distracted by social media and trying to maintain an online presence to promote your artwork?

Social Media stumps me, honestly.

It’s one of the most useful, incredible, well-used tools we’ve created as humans. While, simultaneously being this behemoth composed of hate and self-imposed importance. I used to fall for it easily, checking Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, YouTube, Snapchat, then pulling up my laptop and checking Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and YouTube again. For what worth? Even typing it out is exhausting, let alone actually doing it.

I don’t struggle as much anymore, because I’ve clocked that you’re entirely in control of what you’re seeing. I use Instagram as a networking tool and source of inspiration, only following artists and accounts that I benefit from seeing daily. Reddit is more of a tailored, fun experience that I know I can control my time on. The rest of it I just deleted. When you’ve taken steps to control your time on social media, along with your interactions on there, getting distracted is less of a worry. That said, I can’t wait for the day I don’t have to rely on or use social media anymore in any way.

Very well said. It’s good you understand both the pros and cons of being seen through social media. It’s great that you can manage your time on it effectively and block out all the unnecessary noise. Who was your first ever digital portrait?

My first piece was of Cara Delevingne!

Portrait of: @caradelevingne 

Wow and I actually thought that was one of your later pieces. What do you enjoy the most about expressing yourself through art?

Being my own works biggest fan. It sounds bad, but I’m not sure how else to word it. There’s a detachment between Deepey and Dan Price, so I can view my work a lot easier than perhaps other artists can and a far lot easier than I used to be able to. When I’m working, I’m totally engaged and consumed by the work. So, when I take a step back and out of work mode, I’m viewing the work as a legitimate viewer and fan. There’s nothing I love more than seeing the initial stages of piece follow through all the way to the finished piece. Then going on to share that and talk about that as more of an admirer than a creator.

Doesn’t sound bad at all! I think there’s a perception today that acknowledging how talented you are, is essentially being arrogant. I do think there is a line between the two. I think there is time for modesty and humility. However, it’s also very important for us as creators to be able to openly celebrate our individual strengths and sell our talent to the world. Do you prefer using digital tools over more traditional ways of making art then?

To a degree, of course! Art has existed for hundreds of thousands of years, from the cave paintings of the Paleolithic times to now. Digital, in that respect, is entirely new. It’s yet to be pioneered and we can’t even begin to plan its future role in the art world. I like that, I like that new form of exploration. I also love the sleekness and ease of use that I’ve picked up over the years. That said, I do miss the physical feel of moving paint and colour around.

Portrait of: @jaykae10

What have you learnt while exploring art in more depth at university? How has this experience shaped you as an artist and a person?

Haha, I’m asking myself in all honesty. Not much, so far. I’m just going to get on with my own thing now, see how it goes and ignore the box ticking nature of the academic system. It sounds all preachy, but I’ve always hated school and found that just doing what I enjoy works better.

Let’s touch on your inspirations. I noticed you put up an Instagram story a while ago, showing artists which have influenced you. Can you pick three from the bunch and describe how their style has inspired you?

Just three?

If you’re up for the challenge…

That’s very hard. But I always, always big up Stazzy (@StazzyArt). His style is something I’ve always loved. I can’t even describe it either, you just have to see his work both online and in person to really understand. The combination of illustration and realism, I just love it. More importantly for me, he was like, the gateway. From just showing that you should be using Instagram as an artist to his welcoming nature and advice. None of this happens without Stazzy.

Sam Spratt (@SamSpratt), along with Richard Davies (@Turksworks) are huge inspirations digitally. The focus on realism in their work showing the amazing capabilities of digital work, really pushed me to explore and develop my style.

I really like Dave Merrell’s (@davemerrellartwork) digital work too, in a similar way to Richard Davies’ work. The style is sleek and I love the colours. I love his work around football too, showing that digital art can fit in wherever it’s needed. Being a football fan and more importantly being told early on that there’s no future in painting idols or well-known people, its inspiring to see work of this level and prestige getting the recognition it deserves. I love it.

That’s four, but I can’t cut one of them out!

That’s great. I guess we can squeeze in one more haha. So, aside from making digital portraits, what are your other passions?

Honestly, it’s all just art. I love video games, music and football, but I see the creativity in it all. I’ve found my thing. Now, I’m just trying to source it from everything I invest time in to. I might not be learning from it 100% of the time, but it all ties in together in some form and there’s more right with that than wrong.

Portrait of: @skeptagram

I agree with that and operate in a similar way. There are connections all around us. When you’re able to connect the dots, take something away from, or fuse those different hobbies together – that’s when you’re on to something special. I started understanding that fully last year, exploring film, dance and other passions more widely. How long does it take you to create a piece?

Pieces vary in how long they take. Some are easier than others. A black and white piece can take a few hours over a matter of days. Whereas, full colour pieces can take a couple of weeks. My black and white piece of Jaykae didn’t take very long, just a few hours. My painting of Milo Cuki? That took forever. There were so many different things to get right, from the lighting on the jacket to making the tattoos look like tattoos. Every piece is different, but again it’s another reason to love being an artist.

Portrait of: @milocuki

What do you hope to achieve this year?

Mainly I just want to improve as an artist at a bare minimum, that’s all I can ask for. Producing better artwork and artistic experiences, that’s what it’s all about.

I’d love to exhibit a few times. I didn’t exhibit in 2018 and I really missed it. So, I want to get more of my work up on walls. I’ll have three pieces up in Nottingham at the UKYA City Takeover this February that I’m looking forward to. So, I’m hoping to make a lot of that.

Another few features would be amazing too. Being on Pigeons & Planes was huge for me, and I got a lot out of it. Going out and securing features like that really make this whole thing worthwhile. So yeah, another few of them would work out well this year.

Lastly, I just want to start breaking down barriers for young artists, artists from Birmingham, digital artists and everyone. This sh*t is hard, people don’t realise that. One of my favourite quotes comes from Denzel Washington: “When you get it, reach back, pull someone else up. Each one, teach one. Don’t just aspire to make a living, aspire to make a difference”. I want to embody that this year and really put the work in for both myself and those that I can help push.

That’s 2019.

This year is the foundation for that…