Cannon Dill has been working with multiple mediums for the past six years—exploring everything from printmaking and painting, to sculpture and sizable mural works. This coming Saturday, October 15th, Dill will unveil “Casual Decline” at the Athen B. Gallery space in Downtown Oakland.

Dill, originally from Florida, and a burgeoning graduate of the California College of the Arts, has been siphoning off his own personal experiences onto paper over the past few years as a means of trudging through uncertainty and, sometimes, recklessness. Many characters and objects in his upcoming show will make repeat appearances in one form or another, following works from “In My Own Time,” his prior show, which debuted at Spoke Art Gallery in San Francisco around the same time last year.

“I kept revisiting this very simple crudely drawn picture of a falling star, its edges wild with personality and fear,” Dill says in an interview with curators from Athen B. Gallery. “I kept thinking of myself being 6 again, the bright young star slowly growing older and spiraling into pieces.”

We took some time to catch Dill before Saturday’s show to ask him about some of the concepts he struggles with as he works through emotions present in his art, as well as his ideas about how he’s perceived as an up-and-coming artist.

How did you get started creating the pieces you make now and has your style changed over time?
I’d say that my style hasn’t changed drastically, but more so taken another form. When I began to create art, it wasn’t stemmed from anything specific, it was raw and just pouring out of me (I was 19 around this time) so stylistically it was really gritty—now it’s a bit more polished. And, just with any creative being, over time your practice tends to adapt to your surroundings. I have definitely gone through phases, and will always continue to adapt—my art grows with me, and the more I learn the more I can communicate to the viewer.

There are definitely some themes present in your body of work…architecture, wolves, seemingly ominous situations…where/who do you draw inspiration from?
I draw inspiration from the things around me—people, objects, scenery, smells, memories, whatever, and just mash it all together…I’d say I’m a pretty sensitive person, so in some circumstances, I will be so overwhelmed that I just know exactly what to create. Making a piece for me is almost like putting a cap on a reoccurring feeling. I go through the motions until it’s solved. Painting and drawing for me helps me overcome harder situations in my life.


Cannon Dill with work from upcoming “Casual Decline” show at Athen B Gallery

How have the subjects or themes present in your work been shaped by your experiences?
It really depends on the artistic situation. A body of work needs roots, and a lot of thought, maybe even months of prep work. When I find the roots, it could be something from the past or a current event, and you build off of that. You can either tell the story as it is or create your own. The show I’m preparing for now “Casual Decline,” was taken from the past, and then reinterpreted in present form.

What are the roots behind “Casual Decline” and how is it different from what was going on with “In My Own Time”?
The difference between the two shows is that last year’s show (“In My Own Time”) was about the conditions of present time and an overall shared feeling of changing landscape/architecture. This show is rooted from the past, before some of my more iconic characters had taken form. The “roots” started to take place when I had visited my family in Florida and had stumbled upon an old picture of myself in a Halloween costume. I guess there was something in the photograph that sparked some deep emotional surge of creativeness/sadness that needed to be resolved. The title alone says a lot about the current state of everything. It seems so dramatic, but in reality we are in a really harsh, rapidly changing environment. So for me, “Casual Decline” says a lot about what is happening around me politically and environmentally. Who knows what is going to happen: it’s the greatest form of anxiety—the unknown! We are slowly becoming more desensitized and unaware of our surroundings and with that comes casual decline.

There’s an element of mystery to your website (re: “Most articles and Information about me is misinterpreted”). What’s up with that?
I’ve just had some pretty arrogant articles or interviews in the past that I absolutely hate. I had done an in-person interview years ago before my first cup of coffee and they interpreted me as some hot-shot bad kid..Which is so not me…I was just itching for a cup. It was even published in the paper. I had some people come up to me and be like “hey I know you, I read that one article”…and really, they don’t know one real thing about me. Which is why I don’t participate in face-to-face interviews anymore—because as soon as I leave the studio I am a completely different person. It’s a front. I leave my true self in the studio, or with my close friends.


Artwork by Cannon Dill

How do you feel your art can be interpreted versus what you mean for it to be?
I really don’t know. I feel a certain way about it, it’s very critical. Other people might think of it in a totally different way, which is usually the case. There is no expectation. If you feel some type of way about it, then let it be about that.

Can you talk a little about the technical aspects of your work; i.e. what tools you use, materials, etc? How long might it take to create a piece?
I use microns for my drawings. I’m actually considering switching brands because of how unreliable they can be…But the micron red that I use is awesome, I can’t find that red anywhere. Other than that, I use whatever I can get my hands on. I’m all about using thrift art materials. There’s no way I’m paying 30 dollars for a paintbrush I can find at the thrift store for a quarter.

The time it takes for a piece really depends on how I’m feeling at the time. If I feel anxious it might only take me 30 minutes, If I feel like focusing I might spend close to a week on a piece. Time is detail, and detail is sometimes not always needed… I create the piece when the feeling is hot, once I lose interest I won’t be able to finish it.


“Last Stop” by Cannon Dill, from “In My Own Time” debut at Spoke Art Gallery

Is it a conscious choice to have different colors present at times or in different sets of work?
The main reason I haven’t used too many colors is because I am partially colorblind. Just enough for it to become frustrating. I try to keep more of a minimal/neutral palette for a show and keep the tones changing depending on the mood or theme. “In My Own Time” was primarily off-white, tan, red, black and grey, which I thought gave it a washed-out Americana feel. “Casual Decline” is almost entirely black and white, with hints of red in the illustrations. I wanted it to be bold while retaining its playfulness. As you walk through and try to read into the imagery, it’s almost as if you’re trying to break down hieroglyphics. I didn’t want the current show to be transparent in anyway, I wanted it to be in some sort of code, after all it’s much more personal in comparison to the other works I’ve made.

You’ve also created models of your work, as well as made some street art. What has working in these others spaces, with large-scale or 3D work, been like compared with painting on material or canvas?
Well, working large scale has been really difficult for me, and I’ve slowed down a lot to the point of not doing it at all. For some reason it’s taken me years to translate my 2-D illustrations to larger public works, I’d say I’m still in the process of figuring it out. My illustration work is rapidly evolving, a lot faster than my mural abilities—which in a way feels really outdated at this point. The 3-D work isn’t as serious, It’s more playful and craft-like…I’d like to keep pursuing sculptural work in the future.

You have been in the Bay for a while and most of your gallery work looks like it has been in Oakland or SF. What are your plans, hopes for future shows around here, or elsewhere? Are there any other projects you have on the back burner?
After the “Casual Decline” show I’ll be working on a few public commissions, and then focusing on shirt designs and other projects within my art/music community. I don’t have any shows booked for now, I’d like to keep it that way for a few years. I’m trying to figure out my next five-year game plan…it may or may not be involved with the Bay area…[Also] Please, stop building condos.

+++ Cannon Dill “Casual Decline” opens Saturday October 15 (7pm-11pm)
Athen B. Gallery, 1525 Webster St, Oakland CA

Related article: Oakland Art Show Pick: Athen B. Gallery’s ‘Hanging Gardens’