Looking for Robb Report UK? Click here to visit our UK site.

Artist Daniel Dugan on His Signature Continuous Line Pieces and How Travel Inspires His Work

His singular, labyrinth-like system has sparked interest from major art collectors around the world.

Daniel Dugan Zach Ellis

Cuban American artist Daniel Dugan is known for his singular artistic style of one continuous line, crafting a labyrinth-like system with curved, equidistant lines that never intersect and connect from beginning to end. The Los Angeles–based artist has adapted his line art from ink on paper to several different mediums, while attracting interest from some of the world’s major art collectors along the way.

Dugan, who grew up in a rural southern town called Russellville, Ala., was 10 years old when he conceptualized his art form. The left-handed artist—a self-proclaimed perfectionist—became fixated on the idea of drawing one continuous line that is perfectly spaced and is linked from start to finish. It was a personal style he never considered art until he was in his 30s. Through his self-imposed rules, it became a meditative practice he would draw on notebooks, napkins, or any surface he could find.

Daniel Dugan
“Heart to Heart,” ink on paper 16 x 20 inches. Daniel Dugan

“I was valedictorian in high school and wanted to become a surgeon or doctor,” Dugan tells Robb Report. “I majored in biology at the University of Alabama and spent summers in college working in the operating room and assisting on certain procedures. When it became time to go to medical school, it didn’t feel right. I moved to New York to study theater and performing arts.”

Eventually, Dugan found his way back to his art and set up a studio in L.A., where he discovered a variety of new mediums, such as carved blocks and wire, to construct his line art. Today, he splits his time between L.A. and Mexico City, as well as St. Barts and Bali.

“My inspiration was my curiosity—I was playing around and experimenting,” he says. “The aha moment occurred when I was on my first snorkeling trip on an island off the coast of Honduras. I was underwater by myself and saw these huge spheres of what looked like my line art. I learned they were brain coral, and there’s a mathematical formula for the perfectly spaced line over a spherical shape. It was a pivotal moment where I realized it must mean something, or there must be some alignment with nature.”

Daniel Dugan
“Yes Please” ink on deckled paper, 48 x 34 inches. Daniel Dugan

It was then that Dugan’s art started to symbolize something greater than simply a line, and the meaning of his work slowly began to reveal itself over time. 

“I started a quest to figure out what this line meant, and I found it related to a lot of sacred geometry archetypes I found,” he says. “I’m able to perfectly distance the line with my eyes. I realized I was making a puzzle. It’s not a pattern, because a pattern repeats itself. What I’m doing is seemingly making chaotic moves, wandering to one side of the page and working myself into a corner and seeing how I can get out of it. And for me, that’s quite fun and satisfying. As a perfectionist, I learned it’s quite a good test to let go of the control of where the line should go. It’s a puzzle of my own creation.”

His passion for storytelling, which had, at one point, led him to acting, became important in his art. For example, his 2017 drawings of a brain, heart, and skull is an homage to his biological studies and a way to tell the story of how math, science, and nature converge. 

Daniel Dugan
“Julien,” a hand-embellished design on cotton cloth. Daniel Dugan

“The message I began to learn from my lines is that life is like a labyrinth—because I was making labyrinths—and the spiritual meaning of a labyrinth is a unicursal path with a beginning and an ending and no intersection,” he says. “The reason I started reading about labyrinths from different eras, particularly from China and Italy, and the function was to allow the inhabitants of a space to wander through a path without any worry, to meditate and to travel without geographically traveling. Because you’re essentially traveling in your mind.”

Dugan’s open-mindedness and desire to follow his own path has led him to create with a variety of materials, philosophies, and cultures in mind. 

“My fascination with history, culture, people, and materials can inspire me to create something and learn a message from other lands and put it into visual form,” he says. “For example, I was commissioned by a Buddhist woman in Shanghai to draw a figure called Ksitigarbha. I started reading more about Buddhist philosophy where I learned that nothing is good or bad, it’s just what it is. It helped me create a narrative around accepting all the moments in your life as valuable, functional parts of a beautiful complex life we get to live. This idea has certainly pushed the development of me as a human being, and I love that the line represents the idea of this unknown wandering path and that accepting that is key.”

Daniel Dugan
A carpet featuring one of his designs. Daniel Dugan

In addition to ink on paper or paintings, Dugan creates art in the form of land art, sculptures, and decor. He has designed made-to-order wallcoverings, limited-edition rugs, and has created murals for hotels and restaurants. In St. Barts, he drew a labyrinth in the sand on a beach then photographed it with a drone. For another piece, he created an art piece with 1,250 shards of sea glass collected by a client in the Bahamas. Travel is a major inspiration, and his goal when visiting a new destination is to collect local materials, draw his continuous line in the sand, or host art days with kids. He has worked with the Bali Children Foundation, where he created canvases with all proceeds from the sale benefitting a rural school. He has worked with foundations in Cuba, L.A., and St. Barts, where he gives back to the local community in some way.

Dugan has also created pieces for Diane von Furstenberg; worked with renowned photographer Daniella Midenge; and showcased his art at top art festivals around the world. Mexican art collector Eugenio López Alonso, who has pieces from Damien Hirst, Louise Bourgeois, and Cy Twombly, recently purchased several pieces of Dugan’s, including the original Yes from 2014, one of Dugan’s most notable drawings that was inspired by an acceptance of the present moment; American Reflection (2016/2017), an outline of the U.S. flipped in response to the 2016 election; and two other pieces of his earlier abstract work. 

Daniel Dugan
Dugan with schoolchildren from the Bali Children Foundation standing in front of his artwork. Bali Children Foundation

The creative is currently planning a variety of international collaborations, such as an event during Frieze New York with Ruinart, an interactive experience during Formula 1 in Monaco, a residency in Dubai, and more.

“I enjoy creating work that can be experienced in a more varied sensorial capacity, as opposed to passive viewing,” Dugan says. “This inspires me to constantly evolve my practice to connect with people in new and exciting ways. Although my intuition leads me to direct the line’s path, like the viewer, I am also its subject, as I do not know where the line will take me next.”

More Art & Collectibles