An Analog Artist in a Digital Art World: Daniel Herwitt


Elizabeth Perry, Photography Editor

An Analog Artist in a Digital Art World: Daniel Herwitt

By: Elizabeth Perry

During a lunch block at Poly Prep, art studio 1 is occupied by three students: each working on personal projects. Their works vary in mediums and skill level, but each student have the influence of their art teacher, Daniel Herwitt, in common.


A 12th-grade student sits on a stool, staring at the airbrush in his right hand. After several failed attempts, he admits defeat in trying the new material. Herwitt pauses his work, and walks towards the student. He kneels to the level of the student’s seat and borrows the airbrush to model the instrument. As he takes the airbrush towards the paper with grace, he says “this is a learning process. The more you practice, the easier it will get.”


Herwitt wears a white champion crew neck with light blue jeans and his long hair pulled back up out of his face. His style often reflects his natural artistic manner, typically ranging through color palettes. He opens a small blue sketchbook and pulls a .05-sized micron from his collection. Holding the drawing pen in his right hand, the artist begins to start sketching on the blank page. Though Herwitt found his love for art in a completely analog field, artists around him were beginning to use digital mediums. However, Herwitt continues to exclusively create art by hand.


An artist nearly his entire life, Herwitt developed a love for art at only six years old. In the first grade, he created a maze in his art class, impressing his teacher and alerting his parents of his natural talent. Herwitt’s father, an artist himself, made sure to provide him with all opportunities available in his hometown of Boulder, Colorado. The young artist soon began learning outside of school classes, studying under artist Alexis Pendle. “She just sort of took me under her wing. I learned all these different mediums very early on. She supported me through classes and verbal positive reinforcement,” Herwitt grinned, recalling the presence of art during his adolescence. 


Herwitt’s passion continued throughout his educational life, following him to high school where he worked with his art teacher, Ms. Harmon. “I didn’t love high school. But she gave me free space to be creative and do what I wanted. She just sort of believed in me and eventually wrote me a wonderful letter of recommendation for college.” The influence of Ms. Harmon followed him through his path to eventually becoming an art teacher. 


For college, Herwitt attended the Art Institute of Chicago majoring in Fine Arts. After earning his bachelor’s degree, he received his master’s from Yale University. Shortly after graduating from Yale, Herwitt began working at Anna-Maria College as an adjunct professor, teaching drawing and painting. “Since high school, I really admired my high school art teacher. I thought that becoming a teacher was a natural progression because I could allow the time to create and I could always be engaged in the conversation of art.” Herwitt caps the Micron pen in his right hand, taking a break from his sketch which has transformed into what appears to be an oddly shaped pipe. 


While figuring out his teaching career, Herwitt continued to invest in his own artwork. However, for a long time, he was against using new forms of social media to promote his artwork. He preferred to share his art through his own personal website and other gallery opportunities. However, the pressure from his peers to join some form of social media made him realize it was the only way to grow as an artist. According to Statista, “As of January 2022, roughly 71 percent of surveyed art buyers worldwide claimed to use Instagram for art-related purposes.” Herwitt knew he needed to showcase his artwork online. 


After his tenure at Anna Maria College, Herwitt worked as an academic coordinator at the School of Visual Arts. Soon after, Herwitt worked as a librarian assistant at Providence College, just before he began working at Poly Prep. Although some of these jobs were outside of his career field, he was willing to take any job he could find. During a late-night shift as a library assistant, he finally decided to join social media. Herwitt sat back in his chair, adjusting the sketchbook in his hands. “I was always skeptical because I never was a strong user of Facebook or MySpace,” he said. 


In the quiet library, he downloaded Instagram, which still had the traditional camera icon at the time. He opened one of his sketchbooks and took pictures of his work, uploading a few of the images online. To his surprise, his art work started to receive attention. This led to Herwitt connecting with various individuals and bands, eventually beginning a partnership with the Grateful Dead. “Social media has been very helpful because it’s a very easy democratic way to make artwork accessible to everyone. But obviously it’s social media. So that comes with a caveat,” Herwitt said, reflecting on his premature judgments. 


Herwitt picks the Micron pen up and continues sketching. “Now, I do a lot of work for different brands in terms of aesthetic creation and different logo designs and different graphics. I also do artwork for a lot of bands, especially psychedelic rock and hip hop bands.” Despite his original misgivings about using social media to promote himself as an artist, he eventually formed connections with different bands and advanced his career. Though he agreed to join Instagram, he remained self-conscious about his use of social media. “My own embarrassment comes from me being an introvert. I’m not naturally social, and with social media, the engagement can be ridiculous. I just want to put work out there. I’m not really interested in starting a following or becoming an influencer,” Herwitt said. 


Preferring a more traditional approach, Herwitt continues to create all of his art entirely by hand. With his illustrations and paintings, he is unable to go back to edit or delete something as other artists can do in digital art forms. “With one client, I finished a piece and I felt like I followed their instructions. But, when they reviewed it, they were not happy with the color scheme. They thought it was a tad too rainbow and they wanted it a little more muted and I had to just redo the whole thing. After that experience, I have to be very specific now with instructions. I now have to color proof everything before I start the final version,” Herwitt said. Though he often struggles logistically due to working completely analog, Herwitt prefers all of his art to be created by hand. According to The Guardian, “the work of analog artists is born of a dissatisfaction with digital culture’s obsession with the new, the next, the instant. It values the hand-made, the detailed and the patiently skilful over the instantly upgradeable and the disposable”


As the art world continues to evolve, Herwitt emphasizes the significance of creating art by-hand. “With my students, I still stress the hand made just so that they have an understanding of how it was once done. I feel like if you have a lot of practice in the analog, it helps you considerably more when you start making digital artwork,” Herwitt said. 


Throughout all of his classes, Herwitt values the importance of creating a comfortable environment for all of his students. “He brings a sense of unity to our class because he is very in tune with the teenage style. I never feel like I am being talked down by him. He is just always willing to work with the students,” said Junior IZ Nissen, a student in Herwitt’s Advanced Drawing and Painting Portfolio class. 


“As a teacher, I’m taking little snippets from my teachers during my adolescence, teachers during college, teachers during grad school, like I’m just a sort of amalgamation of all these different teachers in the sense of their techniques and their styles,” said Herwitt.


Though Herwitt struggled with constant changes in the art world, he continues to encourage his high school students to embrace their love for art, whether it is in an analog or digital format. Herwitt puts the cap back on the Micron pen in his right hand. He looks down to the detailed ink drawing of pipes, setting the pen down next to the sketchbook and closing the cover.