Studio Visit: Dana Slijboom


Toronto-based Dana Slijboom is an artist who makes cool silly scribbly drawings and posts them to her blog SIGNZZZZ. We visited Slijboom in her west-end Toronto studio to talk to her about her transition to painting, her motivation for creating work, and her daily drawing practice.




What are you working on now?

I have a blog called SIGNZZZZ. It’s something that I started doing because I hadn’t drawn for a long time. I’m very linked to the computer when I make paintings so a lot of it is sketched on the computer or photoshopped and there’s this back and forth of working on the computer, painting, photographing, bringing it back to the computer. I draw every day. I’m on my computer constantly and this is just a nice way to kind of to use it but still be creative.

What do you draw with?

I draw on a tablet so it’s also super easy to put drawings on a blog. It’s just a really fun way of expressing myself. Sometimes I make abstract stuff, sometimes it’s cartoons. It’s just a free for all, which I really enjoy.

How do you find time to do it regularly and consistently while having a day job and painting?

It doesn’t really take that long. It could be that I’m just making one drawing a day, but it’s not that I’m posting every day. It’s a meditative thing, a way to get on some sort of me-track. It’s been put into my daily program. My computer is close by so if it’s before bed, I just make sure that I make something, or if I come to the studio in the morning, then I take it out and draw something. It’s just a good outlet.




How do your daily drawings influence what you paint? Or do you keep that separate?

They’re not separate, because it’s all kind of coming back to the way I want to make an image. I want to make really simplistic imagery. I’m not interested in making convoluted work. I want to make something that’s just in your face. Drawing is just helping me develop my own language and style that will be reflected in my paintings and then back into my drawings.

Some of your paintings have a computer-generated quality to them.

When I make these drawings, it’s a really quick gesture. And then I translate that super quick gesture in the slowest way possible, with oil paint.  I could just print it out, but the reason I started painting is because it’s action, I’m using my hands, I’m getting dirty, I’m not just on the computer sitting on my ass, I’m actually stretching a canvas.

You mention you spend quite a lot of time on the internet…

I find a lot of inspiration from Google image searches, ads and graphic design and I have a big collection of old lifestyle magazines. But definitely the Internet is a big one. My work stems from this fact, that I am visually digesting so much stuff and that everything is readily available to me, it’s kind of just this ongoing fear and weird sensation.

Why sad faces?

That work is The Portrait of Mental Health. It’s composed of 9 paintings. It’s a funny take on a portrait of somebody and it’s again bringing it back to the iconic smiley face. For me it’s simply a work about our struggle happy or sad, a funny take on a portrait of some random human. It’s an interpretation of whoever and the struggle of mental health.




Is there somewhere specific you look to for guidance or instruction?

I look at other painters but I do try to avoid looking too much at other people’s art because I want it to come from me. I’m kind of doing it in the dark. I don’t know much about the medium and that if I make a mistake I can use it or cover it up again. I’m also using oil which is not really the easiest medium, and I don’t really need to be using it because I’m using a lot of flat colours and oil is best for blending and stuff. If I do see a painting, I’ll check it out for technique, but as far as instruction, I take a lot more from advertising or from comics or old lifestyle magazines.

Before painting, you were doing figurative collage. Why the transition to painting?

Collage was kind of just kind of a dead medium for me. I would blow the images up really big, almost life-sized, but then I had difficulties with the paper and it was kind of limiting. I was so scared of painting before but now, you can just do whatever the hell you want. A blank canvas is so many possibilities.