ArtPrize artist fled Irma in ‘Sharpie Van’

ArtPrize Nine, Sharpie Van, Daniel Linehan
Three-dimensional ArtPrize Nine entry "Sharpie Van" by Daniel Linehan, displayed in the Burger King parking lot on Pearl Street. (Sept. 14, 2017)


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A man who made his way from storm-battered Florida to Grand Rapids said that while he is glad to be at ArtPrize, his heart is back home, hoping that the people and places that inspired his art are OK after Hurricane Irma.

Daniel Linehan is as colorful as the drawings on the outside of his 2007 GMC Savana van. He is a 56-year-old New York City native who got a law degree but never practiced law, then moved to the Key West area 10 years ago. He picked up drawing only after losing most of the sight in one eye following a street fight more than five years ago in Fort Myers.

“I’m a one-eyed drawer,” Linehan said. “I was kicked in the head while standing up. It knocked me out cold. Five days after that, I was released from the emergency room and the retina in my right eye started to pour out.”

He was near death, suffering seizures and vision loss.

“The day my eye patch came off, I did my first ink drawing and I really haven’t stopped drawing since,” he said.

Linehan said most of his art takes hundreds of hours to complete. When asked, he’s happy to show off the intricate drawings in his sketchbook. He has no internet presence, so you can only his art in person.

ArtPrize Nine, Sharpie Van, Daniel Linehan
ArtPrize Nine artist Daniel Linehan shows 24 Hour News 8 his sketchbook. (Sept. 14, 2017)

“The one thing I’ve learned about art is if you can’t be courageous with yourself and your art, you really deprive everybody else of who you can potentially be,” he said.

His greatest project, he said, is the result of 1,260 hours embellishing the van he bought for $6,000.

“So when I started this van, I trusted my instincts. I never did a sketch,” he said.

ArtPrize Nine, Sharpie Van, Daniel Linehan
Three-dimensional ArtPrize Nine entry “Sharpie Van” by Daniel Linehan, displayed in the Burger King parking lot on Pearl Street. (Sept. 14, 2017)

He said most of his painting is done in front of anyone who ventures down Duval Street, the famed party center of Key West.

One side is a tribute to Key West, where he says the van has become a tourist attraction. He said he has been made to feel like art royalty there, and he is worried about his adopted home.

“It’s heartbreaking what happened down there,” he said. “That damn storm chased me right out of Key West, I don’t know what that means, but I’m very glad to be here in Grand Rapids while keeping an eye on what’s going on in Key West.”

He said the rest of the van has a deeper message.

“I kind of say it’s a retro-prospective of our world today — where we were and where we’re going,” he said.

ArtPrize Nine, Sharpie Van, Daniel Linehan
ArtPrize Nine artist Daniel Linehan shows 24 Hour News 8 his sketchbook. (Sept. 14, 2017)

He said he feels that artists are needed to help bring the world out of a new kind of Dark Ages into a new Enlightenment.

“It’s a message about the direction we’re going and the answer, I believe, is in there, too — how to solve it,” he said.

You can see Linehan’s “Sharpie Van” in the parking lot of the Burger King on Pearl Street near the US-131 ramp.

ArtPrize Nine, the world’s largest art competition, opens Sept. 20 and runs through Oct. 8.