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Washington State University
CAS Connect February 2015

Artist’s avian visions land at CUB

Two playfully titled paintings, “Owl-bert Einstein” and “Stephen Hawking” by recent master of fine arts graduate Daniel Tate, landed in the permanent art collection of the Compton Union Building (CUB) on the Pullman campus.

Daniel Tate’s “Owl-bert Einstein”; photo by Ryan Pierce, The Daily Evergreen
Daniel Tate’s “Owl-bert Einstein”; photo by Ryan Pierce, The Daily Evergreen

A pun enthusiast, Tate created the paintings—of an owl and a hawk, respectively—for his MFA thesis. He worked with a member of the WSU Raptor Club to gather ideas for the paintings.

CUB Senior Associate Director Karee Shaw, a member of the committee responsible for the CUB’s permanent art collection, such as the hanging “Yellow Knot” sculpture near the entrance to Holland-Terrell Library, said Tate’s paintings stood out to the committee.

“I think they’re creative and fun,” Shaw said. The paintings now hang in CUB conference room 206.

Working with photos he took of birds in the WSU Raptor Center, Tate used water colors in a nontraditional way, he said. The imperfect and almost sloppy-looking brush strokes counteract the typical contrived water color medium, he said.

Finding his voice

Through his master’s courses and thesis work, Tate said it became clearer to him why he paints. The whole process—mixing paints, starting out simple and getting infinitely more complicated in a painting—appeals to him, he said.

“I find that my voice is clearest in painting, too.”

Originally from Colorado, Tate lived in several different states before deciding to come to WSU to pursue his MFA. Many factors contributed to his decision, including the fine arts faculty’s impressive body of work. He knew he would be challenged here, he said.

“The fact that they gave you an opportunity to teach while you went to school is pretty special in my mind,” Tate said. “If you get the art side and the teaching side all at once, you’re pretty lucky.”

After earning his bachelor’s degree in studio arts from the University of Colorado, Boulder, Tate didn’t see himself pursuing a career in the arts. Instead, he set off with his brother to work in the movie industry, where they wrote screenplays and pitched ideas.

“I was a personal assistant to a producer,” Tate said. “I really hate name dropping, so….”

As cool as it was to be working for someone world-famous (okay, it was Adam Sandler), ultimately Tate found doing someone else’s errands grating and unfulfilling. But he realized that he would never stop painting.

“It was something that I just did compulsively and will always do compulsively.”

Another bend in the road

Coming from a long line of teachers, Tate thought he would enjoy teaching, too, so he started working toward his K-12 license.

“First, I went to Texas, and was working and trying to figure out how to even be an artist, and that led me back to education.”

However, he also knew from his family that teaching can be a time-consuming and stressful profession, not conducive to making art for a living, he said. Still intent on becoming a working artist, he applied to the WSU MFA program. He was accepted just as his stint as a student teacher was ending.

“That brought me here. And even though I made the biggest strides on my own after I graduated undergrad, it was obvious to me that I still had a lot to learn.”

Being surrounded by other artists created a great working environment, Tate said. His teachers made him question what he was saying with his art, why he was saying it, and if he could say it more effectively.

“You can either treat it like a hobby or you can try to really invest yourself in it and see how far it can take you.”