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Danny Quirk: Anatomical Self-Dissections

The Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy student beautifully mixes the human body's anatomy with watercolours

In his final year at the Pratt Institute, New York, Danny Quirk worked on a series of paintings that he called ‘Anatomical Self-Dissections’. Now, having graduated and as an aspiring medical illustrator, Quirk has continued creating these surreal and beautiful portraits where he explores our perceptions of what’s under our skin.

I've always been interested in anatomy and the body. In terms of engineering, it's beautifully constructed, and I've always loved understanding how things work. I took a Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy course, and got to see firsthand what a lot of these

The artist employs a traditional use of watercolours along with classic poses from his subjects yet this contemporary twist where the figure dissects their own body is so original and captivating that he manages to reignite our love for watercolours. The originality of this project, along with his other military themed work, suggests Quirk is set for big things, regardless of whether he becomes a medical illustrator or not. Here he talks about his fascination with the anatomy and why he values the skill in painting more than photography.

Dazed Digital: Where did the inspiration for the Anatomical Self-Dissections come from?
Danny Quirk:
The inspiration actually came from a threat. I'd been working on the military body of work, but with the addition of a new senior year project from my teacher Tim O'Brien, I had to come up with a new body of work. Initially, I'd been wanting to do this series of 'pun paintings' informed me the work was not up to par with what I was capable of and said I had to redeem my name and come into class with something 'awesome'. The next week, I came in with 'Skin Bra', and a thoughtful, provocative body of work was conceived.

DD: What interests you about anatomy and the body?
Danny Quirk:
Well, I've always been interested in anatomy/the body, both humans, and all other animals. In terms of engineering, it's beautifully constructed, and I've always loved understanding how things work. This semester, I took a Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy course, and got to see firsthand what a lot of these structures look like, I’m just finishing the last of my prerequisites before yet another round of applications, fingers crossed I get accepted into the medical illustration program, and I can be on the road to what I want to do to make a living, versus what I have to do to make a living.

DD: Why do you prefer using painting as a medium? Does it allow more freedom in terms of your ideas than perhaps photography would?
Danny Quirk:
I like painting because it's more of a 'human' means of creation. Not to say there's not talent in photography, but, it can't be done without the aid of a machine, you know? Paintings are conceived in the mind and translated into tangible imagination. I feel for me though, not only does it provide means of creativity, it also provides a challenge.

DD: You’ve said you’re an aspiring medical illustrator - do you still feel you’d be able to be creative, or is the structure and realism what interests you most?
Danny Quirk:
I think it's just the 'love of the sport' that draws me in. I just so happen to be a technical/realistic illustrator, so it’s a perfect niche. For me, I really want to get into doing surgical illustrating for medical malpractice cases. Both are fairly lucrative, and it'll be something I'd be interested in.

DD: Do you paint your figures from life models, photographs or just from using your imagination?
Danny Quirk:
A bit of both actually... Everything is conceived in the mind. From there it is roughly sketched out, from there a photo shoot takes place, pictures are cleaned up in photoshop, and that 'digital sketch' is what I work from. From there, about 3-4 days later, a picture is finished.

DD: You just finished a solo show, called ‘The Requited’, at The Northampton Center For The Arts -  What work were you showing?
Danny Quirk:
It was based on past emotions that lead into imagined aspirations. The series as a whole, artless in its conception, and artful in its execution, was meant to make those callow emotions tangible, and hopefully connect to a greater audience. The exhibition overall was made to be viewed as one large piece or experience. Like a progressive album, each piece leads into the one following it, progressively building to a symphony of sentiment, and a chorus of culmination in the end. This is a whole new body of works... initially, I wanted to name it ‘(Un)Requited’, but, new year, figured I'd go with a happier approach. It starts dark, but eventually gets happy in the end.