Charleston · Entertainment in SC · Interviews

An H and Five W’s with Nathan Durfee

Once upon a First Friday on Broad in downtown Charleston (see more about this at, I met Nathan Durfee. Nathan’s work took me back to a childhood of unconventional Muppet movies (who remembers The Dark Crystal?) and a purple-eyed Fairuza Balk in Return to Oz. Nathan himself is an accomplished artist whose cheerfulness and youth make him modest, approachable, and friendly. His work is stuff you want to take home and hang right by your coffee machine, to make you smile every morning.

Without further ado, meet the artist.

Nathan Durfee
Nathan Durfee

BIO: According to Nathan Durfee, “I have an unhealthy urge to paint honestly.” He was born in the small town of Bethel, Vermont on June 26, 1983. Nathan’s artistic aspirations first showed themselves in the classroom: a self-described “doodler,” moments of boredom became sketches and designs in notebook margins. After spending his high school years in Nevada, he migrated south to attend the Savannah College of Art and Design to become a traditional portrait artist. As his current work boldly exhibits, Nathan instead decided to take his art in a unique, wholly personalized, direction. When he’s not at work or at his studio, Nathan is busy riding his bike and sketching people and scenes in his Moleskine notebooks. He’s taken great advantage of Charleston’s picturesque downtown area, with its coffee shops, restaurants, and parks, life-watching with the same sort of constant curiosity as last-century Parisian artists sketching at their sidewalk cafes.

Onto the questions:

1) How did you become an artist?
”It all started with me doodling in 5th grade math class. If you would of seen my notebooks they would of been filled with superheroes and robots, mostly stuff inspired by the cartoons and comic books I read as a kid. In 6th grade I was paid $5 to do a drawing of the brothers from double dragon, so I guess that was my first commission. I ended up going to Savannah College of Art and Design and graduated with a BFA in Illustration. I moved to Charleston to work as a photo retoucher and do illustration work in off time. The freelance work was coming in slowly, but I wanted to create more so I started painting on my own. Five years later, here I am.”

2) Who is your biggest artistic influence?
”That’s a tough choice, but I’ll have to go with Joe Sorren. His sensitivity of brushwork and character development is astounding. He’s also an illustrator turned painter, so I can relate to his progression into the fine art world.”

Michael Seeing Things by Nathan Durfee
Michael Seeing Things by Nathan Durfee

3) What is your preferred medium?
”Oil on Panel for paintings, Ink Dip pen for drawings. They are polar opposites. The Paint dries slowly so it can be moved around and adjusted and the color and value possibilities are near-infinite. The ink is instant, permanent, and there is no middle-ground. I like playing with both extremes.”

4) Where do you get your inspiration?
”My content originates from personal observations, but they are mulled around a bit before being put to painting. I like the concepts to be more indirect, so the painting merely seems like it should have the message instead of its actual presence. I also take inspiration from graphic novels and children’s books because I try to keep an element of storytelling in my work.”

5) When are you most artistic?
”I build momentum when I work, so I’m most artistic when I’ve been painting a lot. I usually work best when there is a large block of time and there are few distractions…so 10pm-4am tends to be when I get most of my creative work done.”

6) WHY are you an artist?
”I try not to answer that question. I don’t have a grand plan or direction for my work, and I don’t think I’m at the point where I can tackle such a concept. I’m not sure if I’ll ever reach that point. What I know now is that I like to paint, and the more I paint the better I get, so I’m going to paint as much as I can. That’s good enough for me.”

Nathan’s work is available for purchase at Robert Lange Studios in Charleston, SC, and he will have an upcoming solo show there October 2nd. If you’re in the area, check it out. Amazing work. And be sure to visit his blog:

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