One-on-One with Dan Climan

The Sunday's Grocery brand is bold, fun, and a reflection of how the perfect Sunday should feel. In partnership with Matt Abergel, the Sunday's Grocery branding, logo, and graphics were created by Montréal artist Dan Climan. A tattoo artist and painter, Dan spent some time in Hong Kong hand painting signs and doing a few tattoos, and we caught him for a quick chat.

How did you and Matt meet? 

Matt had seen my work and wanted to get in touch with me. He randomly asked his childhood friend, Cody Rawlinson, if he knew me because we both lived in Vancouver at the time. Ironically, Cody was at my new apartment when he received the call. He passed me the phone and Matt and I hit it off. By the end of the call, I agreed to go to Hong Kong and work on Sundays Grocery. To this day it is still one of the better conversations I’ve ever had.

Where did the inspiration for the Sunday's Grocery designs, characters, and graphics come from?

The designs for Sunday's came from a handful of inspirations. I’ve done a lot of research on vintage signage and with my own style have developed a certain way that I like it to look. Matt had some really cool books with vintage album covers and we both come from a skateboard background. One of the reasons Matt wanted me to come to Hong Kong was to see the abundance of signage and design that are all over the city. I was realIy inspired by the colors and simplicity of those designs. Overall, the inspiration for Sunday's Grocery was a mix of all those things.

You're a tattoo artist but you also create hand-printed signs. What are the differences and similarities between both art forms? Do you prefer one over the other?

I guess the biggest similarity between the two is that the goal of the end product is to make something that is visually clean, although in my mind they can’t really be compared.

It’s not that I prefer one over the other, but like I said they are different. As a tattoo artist, you mentally know what the end product will look like. There isn’t much room for the unknown or experimentation. Making paintings is very much the opposite. Mistakes exist and you learn from them. Sometimes you have an idea and you’re not sure what the final product will look like but your drive is pushing you to make something. That’s the feeling that really excites me about art, following your gut and seeing what happens.

Was your first experience creating hand-painted designs with Save-on-Meats? How did that project come about?

I studied fine arts in University and did a lot of work based on signage that I’d seen around the city of Vancouver. I was very inspired by artists like Tom Wesselman, Ken Lum, and Steven Powers.

Save-on-Meats had a very iconic two-story neon sign of a pig holding a dollar sign and I created a version of that sign, which was on display at my grad show. Save-on-Meats had just changed hands for the first time in 40 years and their new owner approached me about rebranding the business in a way that stayed true to the original aesthetic. I was very excited to do it. It took six months of painting in a studio every day and I’m very happy with the overall result of the signage.

How was working on the Sunday's Grocery project different from other projects you've done?

It was different because unlike other projects that had more guidelines, Matt gave me carte blanche to get creative. I had told Matt that I’d always wanted to design a neon and we did. We even worked with local artisan sign makers to have designs fabricated out of plastic and installed a giant Sunday's text-based sign made out of metal. Hong Kong is amazing for that - if you have an idea, there is someone who can help bring it to life. Not only was the freedom amazing, I was set up in a big studio overlooking the ocean and was treated so nicely by all of the Yardbird family. Working on Sunday's Grocery was an amazing experience and I feel grateful to have been involved the way I was.

Most memorable moment you had while working in Hong Kong?

There’s so many it’s hard to say….. one of my favorite days was taking a day trip with Matt and Kenneth to a small island just outside the city to eat seafood. We started our day in a weird mall that looked like it was inside an abandoned building. I have a bunch of good photos of all of us in stupid outfits. Next thing I knew I was on a ferry and it was there where I was able to see how beautiful the cityscape of Hong Kong really is. The buildings are painted with pastel colors and it’s something you can’t really see until you get into open water. At the end of the day, it was good company, good food, and good times. Mix in some hard work and I think that sums up my overall experience in Hong Kong.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently tattooing in Montréal at an amazing tattoo shop called Bait and Schlang.

The shop is located in St. Henri in the heart of the Southwest part of the city. I work with three friends, Nick Oaks, Travis Driscoll, and JF Bourbonnais, and I couldn’t ask for a better work life.

Right next door to the shop is a New Gallery, The Letter Bet, run by my good friend Shah Kash. Shah and I also run a project called Ladder Place where we work together with artists to create silk screen prints and small runs of creative products. There are so many talented people in my circle of friends and Ladder Place and The Letter Bet create a really exciting platform to show artwork.

All lifestyle images courtesy of Dan Climan