Daniel I. Yanez

Daniel I. Yanez (aka Artist DIY) is an Oak Cliff native who learned quickly how to create something from nothing after growing up poor and homeless. He was first recognized for his abilities at a young age, when he was given an opportunity to take a few art classes at a local college by his elementary school art teacher. Yanze pursued higher education at Mountain View College, where he felt a whole new world open. After walking into a gallery for the first time, he knew he had found what he wanted to do and began to pursue art professionally. The first six years of his art career were comprised of working multiple jobs, going through the heartache and heartbreak of learning the business, and perfecting his personal style. He was challenged with the duties of being a father during the most difficult time of his career. Since 2004 he has raised six children, never allowing any difficulty to block his path to success.

In 2012, Daniel opened his first art gallery in Oak Cliff and named it The Basement Gallery. This was soon accompanied the year after by another gallery called The Attic. Although The Attic did not succeed as Yanez hoped, he used what he learned to make The Basement Gallery a shining success. Since then, he has created hundreds of works and many murals across the city. In 2013, he was featured on local TV shows "The Texas Daily" and "D The Broadcast" for his work with Musical Angels, a non-profit organization making it possible for hospitalized children to learn an instrument or take music classes. In 2014 and 2015, he was ranked by the Dallas Observer as being one of "The Top 100 Most Creative," and landed himself in many other local publishing spreads, including "El Belingue," "Show Scene Magazine," "The Dallas Maverick Tipoff," "The Advocate," and, most recently, "D Magazine-Home Edition." In August 2016, he was highlighted on CW 33’s “News Fix” for his mural work on the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Dallas. This past year, he was featured on KXAS - NBC Channel 5 and Telemundo for murals at Stockard Middle School. Most recently, he created murals for Invitation Homes and Post Pebbles Cereal.

These opportunities allowed him to create The Basement Mural Project, which beautifies vandalized walls in Dallas. He shares his success with his community by hosting countless charity benefits through his galleries and artwork. He founded the DFW Art Awards, where he celebrates the art community’s successes through awards and recognition. Daniel Yanez continues creating new works to develop his contemporary pop and typography style. Expect even more out of Artist DIY in the future as he focuses on his art and building his community!

Check out our Q & A below to learn more about how Yanez pushed through obstacles to reach new heights, and visit him at the next Commerce Street Night Market on May 25.

Q & A

What’s your artistic origin story?

I've been a professional artist going on 13 years. Born and raised in Oak Cliff, I never was exposed much to art as a kid and I didn't find art until I went to college. That was my first time stepping into a gallery and noticing there were prices under the artwork, and I thought, I can make a living off of this? Sign me up! That’s when I began calling myself a professional artist. I wish that was where all the fun began, but it was hell the first 6 years. It was heartache and heartbreak trying to learn the business and find my style. After the initial 6 years, I began to show in galleries and taking on commissions, as well as mural work. I was finally able to save enough money to open my own gallery. I had high expectations when I opened the doors to the Basement Gallery, but I faced a learning curve since I didn't have anyone to ask for advice. No one in my family ever owned a business, and because I was the first in my family to graduate high school and attempt college, I had no guidance or knowledge. I struggled, but like any success story, persistence was key! The Basement Gallery was a strong presence until 2016, when the Fire Marshals paid a visit and said I was not in compliance. Compliance meant a lot of money, which is no problem for wealthy individuals. I’m from a family that grew up poor and at times homeless. Since we lack resources and good education, the city got what they wanted. It took me a year to reopen The Basement, only to be burdened with more obstacles. The city’s demands meant I could not afford to reopen a gallery, so I got creative and began to use The Basement as a shared space. It was a struggle again trying to figure things out, but I believed in the new vision and felt promise. That’s when gentrification hit.

My building got sold to a businessman from Cali who was going to revamp the whole building, with no room for me. Luckily, the former owner of the building was a good friend and let me know what was happening, so I was already preparing for the worst with other locations in mind. I was in good contact with a collector of mine who happened to own properties, and we worked out a deal to make this shared space idea happen together. A new chapter was born in September 2017, when, sitting with two friends (Robert Garza & Elva Chavez), I decided to call the new endeavor "Elevate Dallas." In November, me and artists involved with The Basement began renovations in the new space. We all pulled together to get it done. Robert Garza became the manager, Elva Chavez became the marketing director, and now we now have an awesome team with Michael Houlihan and David Reyes. I believe everything happens for a reason and everything always works out, as long as you don't give up. This is only the beginning of Elevate. I know it will bring many opportunities for our community and local artist-entrepreneurs. We hope you will be part of our story. 

What is your mission?

My mission is always to bring awareness. I want to reach the masses with my content to hopefully change the world in a positive way. Sometimes the best way to change something is to simply bring awareness there is a problem. 

What inspires you to create?

I am inspired by many things, but my biggest inspiration are my kids. Without them, I would have never tried as hard as I did. My other inspiration is fear. Fear has been the one thing I can always count on to push me—the fear of letting down my family, the fear of failure, the fear of being forgotten, and the fear of death all made me push harder. The only way for me to combat these fears is to face them straight on. 

How do you #connectwithcommunity?

This is my favorite thing to do as an artist. I love my community. I believe I have to leave my community in better shape than when I got it. I’m leaving a legacy and world behind for my kids and I want them to be able to have something beautiful and great they can improve on and give to their kids. I do this a lot with public art, talking with local schools and volunteering at local juvenile centers. It’s always fun!

Why is your art important?

I’m not one to say how important my art is, but I like to believe it serves its purpose. I hope I bring awareness to issues in some of my more serious works. I also hope some of my fun murals create smiles. If I can continue to succeed, I believe my art will leave a mark in someone’s life and make this tough world a little more bearable.

What has your art practice taught you?

More than anything, my art practice taught me to be more patient. It taught me to be more vigilant about the world. Overall, it taught me to calm down. Everything works out when you put in the work.

How are you different from other painters?

I would say most painters are in this game for more or less the same reasons. Our messages and styles may be different, but overall the goal of expressing our ideas or translating them to the world remains the same. Some artists are just better at communicating through the language of art, and that’s where you can separate the majority. 

What advice do you have for someone beginning a similar path?

There will be good times and hard times with art. It is all about how you prepare for the hard times that makes you successful. As long as you don’t give up, most problems work themselves out!

Why do you love your favorite tool, medium, or technique?

I love the medium and tools I use because they are mostly fun and feel the most natural to me. When it comes to art, it’s all about the ideas, and I’m a believer you use any tool or medium you need to get that idea out. Some are clearer than others, but you have to get ideas out however you have to.

What's a little-known secret about the business aspect of being an artist?

The biggest secret to business is that nobody knows what they are doing. They’re just doing it and working it out as it goes. THERE IS NO SECRET!