CALVENDO self-publishers in conversation: Dex Hannon about mixing up paintings and what inspires him

Yorkshire-based Dex Hannon’s modus operandi might confuse some: His website not only features his name but that of three other artists, too. But are they really ‘other’? Here, the painter and photographer tells us all about this ‘split artistic personality’, and why not being shy when it comes to promoting your work is vital for self-publishers.

Dex Hannon in his own style

Dex Hannon in his own style

1. Dex, your website, The Broken Toy Company, features the tag line ‘four artists 1 mind’. So, tell us, are we talking to one person or multiple personalities?

No, luckily this is only Dex. I should give you a brief outline of what I mean by ‘four artists, 1 mind’ and also why, I work as four artists, or at least as ‘Heteronyms’ as Fernando Pessoa would call them. These artists are not alter egos but real parts of me, the Broken Toy Company (BTC). Each creator who is part of the BTC has his own voice, his own identity, his own way of working. They only share the same vessel. So, today its only Dex Hannon, possibly the easiest to get a straight answer from.

2. How would you describe your artistic work with its mix of photography, digital and painting?

I am predominantly a painter and my work has always been around the idea of the clash of two competing forces. I never set out to work like this, it evolved. The idea of freedom versus order, foreground versus background, old versus new. My new artistic work, called Retro-Futurism, uses, as the base, the paintings from my Chaos Agri-Culture series, which are photographed, stripped down and recreated using creative software, Illustrator and Photoshop. The digital work is a ‘new’ response to the ‘traditional’ painting, digital versus painting. There was always a plan hidden in my mind that my photography would feature in my art in some way so this project seemed to fit perfectly.

3. Why did you initially take up the camera and what are your inspirations?

Photography has always interested me though I never found the time to take photographs. One day, I was walking around the area where I live in Yorkshire and I noticed in the grass a dandelion seed head, but there were no seeds except one stuck up on top alone. I wished I had a camera to shoot it. My phone was not very good quality but I still used it to take the picture, and it didn’t turn out to be a good shot. I realised at that point how interesting and exciting this tiny landscape at our feet was. Oh, and I would NEVER be without a camera again! My inspiration is nature. It is full of contrast and conflict.

4. Any top tips and things you’ve learned about how to take good images?

You can never take enough shots of something. Always take more than you think you’ll need with slight variations with regards to settings and angles of shots. Also, never be without your camera. You never know when you’re going to see something!

5. Do you have any favourite photographers or artists that inspire you?

My favourite photographer is Henri Cartier-Bresson. Artists – wow, far too many to mention. The more you know on a subject, the harder it is to give an answer to a question such as that.

It's all in the detail: 'dont' forget the little things' Dex Hannon's calendar

It’s all in the detail:  Dex Hannon’s ‘don’t forget the little things’ calendar

6. Can you talk a bit about your experience when creating your calendars with Calvendo? Any tips or tricks for first timers, things to avoid and consider?

I would say firstly take some time to go through your work, try to give your images some sort of conceptual chronology. For example, what does January mean to you visually? Cold? White? New start? What about July? Orange? Flowers? Holiday? And December? Christmas? Happiness? Merriment? Make sure the shots are the right size and shape for the calendar you choose. It sounds obvious, but take your time deciding which shape works best for all your shots. Also, the system for creating the calendars can seem confusing if you’ve never used editing software before, but it is very logical. Take your time and use the help sections if you run into problems.

I should also add, and this is probably the most important thing. Once you have created your calendar, your work is only just beginning. Use your contacts, use social media, use every method you have to hand to promote your finished calendar and keep on promoting. This is the hardest part. Don’t worry about posting it more than once.

I was given this advice from a PR company. Tell them, tell them, and tell them again! A comment on social media is there for a moment and gone. So if the person who might buy your calendar isn’t online at that moment they have missed it. You need to keep promoting it as long as you can. I also found that Calvendo were great at reposting and retweeting for me which is invaluable.

Remixing Nature calendar

Remixing Nature calendar

7. You’ve so far published two calendars with Calvendo, ‘Remixing Nature’ and ‘don’t forget the little things’ Any further plans and ideas for the next calendar season? Will there be more ‘digital remixing’?

I am thinking about this at the moment. I really enjoyed putting together the two calendars. I am thinking maybe it’s time to ‘show off’ the painting versus digital work? One calendar of the original hand painted works and one calendar of the digitally remixed paintings. Or maybe, I will be hijacked by one of the Broken Toys and they will want to see their art in a Calvendo Calendar?

8. Last but not least, what are your general comments on Calvendo as a self-publishing platform: Anything you particularly like? And most importantly, things that need improving?

I did find it very easy to produce calendars, but I know a few people who did struggle. Maybe a simplifying of the system might help those new starters, also maybe a community page for all the creators to chat and discuss their problems or projects? I also thought the help with social media and having easy contact with the Calvendo UK team by email helped considerably. I will definitely be creating more calendars in the next season, or at least one of us will!

Thanks, Dex, we’ll take your suggestions on board! And look forward to more of your work.

More about Dex and his work: