SS: What are your favorite colors to work with and why?
DZ: Yellow. I love yellow. I remember being told yellow was a bad idea—that a yellow canvas would never sell! I love yellow. I also love reds, blues. White is a great color. I’m learning to play around with it. Colors are a very important part of my work. I use colors to emote what I’m feeling. It’s the only language we all speak.
SS: What does Batman signify to you? And Bambi?
DZ: It’s very interesting that you asked about these two together. I treated both as diaries really. They sat in my studio for about a year. I would write and draw little things randomly when I felt like I needed to. It was a long process but a very real one because it was all personal to me. They opened a door I hadn’t trusted to open before, and it made me grow as an artist. Words are powerful.
SS: What does your work reveal about you personally?
DZ: Maybe that a lot goes on in my mind. I am always questioning, trying to find the core of things. I guess my work shows a mix of the emotions we all go through daily: doubt, fear, love.
SS: What era in art history intrigues you most and why?
DZ: Expressionism. I guess it’s what I can relate to the most. It’s much more expressive, free; a personal depiction, a fuck you. I also love Picasso’s cubism. Some of my favorite pieces of his are from that era. What the 1970s and ’80s brought to art is dope—Keith, Basquiat, ‘street art’—all very expressive as well.
SS: Do you approach acting differently from painting? In which ways are they similar?
DZ: Painting allows me to hide in a room and not be seen. That is, until that piece is sitting in my living room or hopefully a gallery somewhere. With painting, your emotions, thoughts and art will live on the canvas forever. With acting, you’re much more exposed in the moment. Everything is much more ‘personal.’ Both are forms of art that channel emotions and messages that you hope will affect people. In the end, artists are messengers. Whatever the format, it’s our duty to address important parts of humanity that we as society tend to forget.
“I love yellow.
I remember being told yellow was a bad idea—
that a yellow canvas would never sell!”
— Daniel Zovatto
SS: What’s your favorite book, film and music right now?
DZ: I’m reading a book about dreams. It’s pretty crazy. I’m listening to a lot of Fela Kuti and Charles Mingus while I work. The movie Inside Out is beautiful. It came out last year, but watch it.
SS: Tell me about the project you are raising money for in Costa Rica.
DZ: I partnered up with Joanne Tawfilis and Natalia Carvajal to make the first mural in Costa Rica by orphaned kids. Joanne owns the first mural museum in the world, the Muramid Mural Museum & Art Center, which has over 5000 murals. Natalia is Miss Eco Universe, and is actually a childhood friend of mine [from Costa Rica]. The three of us decided to create this program where we will help kids discuss things like, “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” “What animal would you be if you could be an animal?” We want to bring together kids who haven’t had the easiest of lives, and forget about that for a bit by connecting through art.
SS:Tell me about Art Share LA and what makes that space unique.
DZ: It’s definitely the people there who make it unique. Man, the history of that place. I had a blast and learned a lot. You also get to meet folks, like [artist] Terry [Ellsworth], who really change your life. That’s rare, an oddity. I was truly lucky to have my first show there. There couldn’t be a better venue.
SS: How do you take your coffee?
DZ: Milk and sugar. The Latino latte does it.
SS: What is your drink of choice?
DZ: Tennessee mule—basically a Moscow mule but with whiskey instead.
SS: Who was your first kiss?
DZ: I was 11. She was from Sweden. What can I say? I’m very international.