For as long as he can remember, Dan Christie wanted to be an artist. “I have always wanted to draw. From day one.”
Dan’s story is inspiring. With passion, dedication, and a whole lot of hard work, his dreams have come to fruition. These days, Dan is an extremely successful professional illustrator and designer based in Metro Detroit- you may have seen his artwork on the Detroit Zoo water tower.
Heavily influenced by the automotive culture and the beauty of Michigan's natural spaces, Dan’s work includes magazine illustrations, advertising art, album covers, gallery exhibits, and special event logos. He has also created many designs for Peninsulas including the DNR Centennial Deer artwork and multiple Tunnel of Trees illustrations.
Peninsulas is proud to partner with Dan Christie on his most recent design, “Settle In”, the seventh piece in our Artist Series. A warm campfire popping in the crisp air, a cozy tent with a view of the forest and lake, a Sew-whet Owl softly hooting from a nearby tree all paint a picture of Dan’s ideal Michigan summer night. His design appears in our Peninsulas' Michigan State Parks Collection on a fine-art print and a plastic tumbler perfect for a cool drink outdoors.
I spoke with Dan to learn about his art, inspirations, and hear his story:
Hi Dan, it's a pleasure to chat with you!
Did you grow up in Michigan?
Yes, I grew up in Farmington Hills, and currently live in Beverly Hills. I also spend summers in Oscoda with my family.
Dan with his Grandpa Jud.
When we were kids, my dad would drop me and my siblings off at my Grandma's up north at Cedar Lake. And you know, we’ve always all got along really well, we have a lot of fun times together. My brother and I, we would go hiking, camping, portaging over the dams, fishing- we’d be on the river from sunup to sundown.
I found a photo, a silhouette of all three of us, my brother, sister and me. It’s one of my favorites. We are sitting under a pine tree looking out over the water. When you are lucky and live in Michigan, you have these kinds of memories. And we have such beautiful scenery here too.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
From day one. When I was young, I always wanted to draw animals and cars.
I have fond memories of my high school art teachers. They were very influential and led me to want to study illustration at the College of Creative Studies, CCS. And when I went to high school I made a lot of friends that were super talented. But you know, I think it’s important to realize that everybody’s an artist, I think that’s the key. It doesn't matter if it's music, drawing or creating something- it’s art.
Illustrations by Dan Christie
In 1990, you opened a studio overlooking Woodward Ave. What is something you’ve created that you’re proud of?
I illustrated the Detroit Zoo logo. I love that the Zoo water tower has become a symbol of the area, and it’s always something that I can be proud to say that I have illustrated.
Image by: @detroitdroneshots
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like spending time with my family, going up north, and working on my cars. While I work exclusively digital these days, I do enjoy painting and woodcut printing.
That’s really cool. What do you like to paint?
I have always been a fan of Detroit automotive culture and enjoy vintage racing, so I like drawing and painting cars.
What is your dream car?
I have a 1978 Porsche 911. I’ve been interested in the new Ford Bronco two door Sasquatch Edition recently too.
Do you like Mackinac Island fudge, Bettermade Potato Chips, Faygo, or Detroit style pizza better? If you like a cold beer, do you have a favorite Michigan brew?
Let’s see…I’m a sucker for the Faygo Moon Mist, just ask my kids. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale is my usual go-to, but this summer I’ve been enjoying Blake’s Strawberry Lemonade Hard Cider too.
Do you have any pets?
I have two black cats, Penelope and Vader.
The dog curled up by the campfire in the new Peninsulas design, is Goose, our neighbor’s dog.
What music do you rock out to?
I like classic punk music from artists like The Clash and also classic country artists like Johnny Cash. Lately, I’ve been listening to podcasts while I work.
What is unique about working in Michigan?
People don’t often understand the full scope of art and artists in Detroit. I've been fortunate to be a commercial illustrator, but there is so much more than just that sector. The Detroit art community is so diverse. There's music, photography, street art, poets, culinary artists. It's an extremely vibrant community.
What advice would you give someone who hopes to become a successful illustrator or designer?
Find your own unique style. And keep on keepin' on.
If a friend was visiting Michigan for the first time, where would you recommend they visit?
I would recommend the Henry Ford Museum for those who like history, and for those who like the outdoors, I would recommend they see some of our hidden gems up north, like Lumberman’s Monument. My wife Wendy and our kids EV and Scott have a tradition of visiting this lookout. My parents would take us when we were younger and now we bring our kids.
And then further down there's Iargo Springs, with a boardwalk path through the natural springs. It’s beautiful there, you can canoe, it’s very peaceful. And, you know, I think that’s where I saw my first eagle. So, that pretty cool. Good memories too.
Did memories of going up north with your family inspire your most recent design you created for the Peninsulas Michigan State Parks Artist Series?
This composition reminded me of when I would camp on the Au Sable as a kid, growing up and spending time on the water. It’s the time when the tent’s set up, the fire is going, and everyone is sitting down together. The sky opens up and you have time to see the stars and hear the trees and the water. It’s that moment in time where you settle in, relax, and enjoy everything around you.
Thank you for chatting with me, Dan! It was fun!www.danchristie.com and @danochristie on Instagram.