Dani Garreton’s childlike creativity

by Elisa Routa

Art knows no language, it speaks to the emotions so you feel touched and want to be a part of the solution. As individuals, we all have a responsibility to support a good cause we feel close to our hearts.

At number 50 Avenida de Navarra, behind the large windows of the San Sebastian-based Blue Factory, Dani Garreton draws at her desk, reminding the visitors her enthusiasm to paint daily. On one of the sunny days of an endless Spring season, the Chilean artist receives me with smiles, folk music blasting out and her adorable little Shiba Inu laid on a pillow.


When we enter the former abandoned building converted into a high ceiling creative space, we are struck by an inimitable fascination for the blue color. Seafarers, surfers, seagulls and fish canvas sit near windows that touch the ceiling. A penchant for the ocean is clearly visible through the Chilean artist's work who finds "all sea creatures so fascinating". Stuffed full with wooden planks, watercolor paint sets, drawings on paper, buckets of pencils and brushes, Dani's studio is an opportunity to better understand her innate creativity.


As a youngster, Dani left Chile for Europe. A few years later, she settled down in the Basque Country where she enjoys every single piece of surrounding nature. "Nature is my first love," she says. "It helps me keep my sanity." As we discuss  her childhood in Chile, her attachment to the Panthalassa Society family and desire to raise awareness through art, Daniela reminds us that the ocean is what keeps her creatively moving forward. "Using my art as a message for a more conscious living. Expressing myself and finding that freedom I had as a child."



Let’s get started. Can you begin by telling us how you would define yourself?

I was born in Chile, a very long country with more than 4000 km of coasts. From an early age, I was influenced by the sea. I still remember those endless summers at the beach with my little sister, collecting shells, building fantastic worlds in the sand, swimming and just having this feeling of total freedom. I grew up in a very creative family and we were always pushed to express ourselves through art.


How has your approach to drawing and painting developed over the years?

I think there is this rollercoaster with drawing and painting through the years. When you’re a kid, the creative process is very organic and intuitive. It’s purely about feelings and emotions. A splash of color, some crazy lines and suddenly you have a giraffe! Everything is allowed. When you approach the teenage years, you become more perfectionist, you try to draw realistic, you want to learn to draw and paint as perfect as possible and finally get the perfect technique. Then the challenge is to unlearn all this and find the freedom you had as a kid. Be able to let yourself go and not be obsessed with getting the perfect result but the closest to your real emotion. Feed that confidence you had as a kid. As Picasso said “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”


Based in San-Sebastian today, you tend to immerse yourself in nature. Can you tell us a bit about your daily routine?

Nature is my first love. It helps me keep my sanity. First thing I do in the morning is kiss and pet my dog, then same to my man. Then we go for a walk with my pup, I breathe, I admire the ocean, and we walk to the Blue Factory where I have my studio. I never take the car in the city, I walk or ride my bike. Being able to get to your workplace without the need of a car or public transport is a major privilege. You get to work with such a good mood. In  the evening, we take a long stroll in the beach with my pup and if the sea is gentle, I go for a surf or swim.


What does the ocean mean to you?

The ocean is life. Its change. Its constant movement. It teaches you so much. It really forces you to be in the present moment, be aware and in synch with nature’s rhythm. Life starts floating in amniotic fluid, which has a similar composition to ocean water, so I feel we have this very primitive connection to the sea.


dani garreton - seagul - surfing


A penchant for the ocean is clearly revealed through your work since you depict water, capture seafarers, surfers, seagulls and fish on your canvas. What kind of sea creatures or ocean-related characters do you find particularly inspiring?

I find all sea creatures so fascinating. After I read the book DEEP I became so fascinated by whales and how the communicate. It’s out of this world.


Panthalassa translates the ocean into stories with powerful voices. Today, you’re one of them appearing as a major member of the Panthalassa Society. Can you tell us more about this collaboration?

Panthalassa embodies all the love and respect I feel for the ocean. I have been a part of the Panthalassa society since the beginning and it’s like a family. We are all driven by the same force of blue love so it’s really a perfect match for me to collaborate with them.


Today, through your work, you bring awareness to some environmental issues. You’ve been part of numerous projects like the recent “Stop Sucking: Say not to plastic straws!” campaign, reminding us that 500 million plastic straws are used every single day in the US today. According to you, do you use your creativity as a tool for climate action?

I think communicating through art is such a powerful tool, art knows no language, it speaks to the emotions so you feel touched and want to be a part of the solution. As individuals, we all have a responsibility to support a good cause we feel close to our hearts. First hand, I see how plastic pollution is destroying our oceans, how climate change is killing entire ecosystems so I do whaterver I can to help.



Do you have a favorite artwork so far?

Probably one of the first fisherman I ever draw that was inspired by Jacques Cousteau, named “Jacques”. I hold that one dearly because it really opened some kind of doors I had locked inside.


Earlier this year, you set your studio in the Panthalassa’s Blue Factory in San Sebastian, an interdisciplinary place, crossroad of the Panthalassa Society. Can you pay us a visit?

I used to work from home and was pretty much like a lone wolf. I had convinced myself the life of an artist was that of solitude. After a few years, it really started messing with my head and I found harder and harder to draw the border between work life and home life. Having my own studio is the best feeling in the world. Having my own space is sacred. I cannot wait for Mondays because I love coming to the Blue Factory so much. It has such a nice vibe, you can breathe creativity, you can smell the ocean. Since we opened it, a lot of people just knock at the door and come in. We’ve had people visiting from all over the world and it has this awesome sinergy going on.


Looking to the future, what can we look forward to coming up with you?

I am working on some collaborations and a future exhibition next summer at the Blue Factory Gallery.





dani garreton - paroctopus


Dani Garreton - sardinas


dani garreton - sea horse


Dani Garreton - Sea Man - Jacques 

Discover more of Dani Garreton's work on her website.