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Dan Goodsell is an artist living in Los Angeles. The basis of his work is a fictional place called the Imaginary World which is inhabited by an odd assortment of characters including Mr. Toast, Joe the Egg & Lemonhead. His artwork chronicles the adventures and lives of these characters. A major influence on his art was "the golden age" of education; when science, history and nature were taught through state fairs, roadside attractions, illustrated books and animated classroom films. Over the last six years, he has created and maintained the Imaginary World web site where visitors can find weekly web comics, read illustrated stories and purchase Mr Toast books and toys.
When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/ illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?
My path to work in graphic arts was not at all straight forward. I come from a very creative family but at the same time we were all very interested in science. So when I entered college it was as a physics major but after taking a few art classes that all changed. As an art major I worked mainly in performance and video. I didn't have the patience to try to learn any real classic art skills. So I left school and did not really pursue an art career.
Well after a number of years working in art galleries and museums, I decided to get back into art. The project I cooked up in my mind was to create my own theme park similar to something like Disneyland. I quickly found that to make the park I need characters and the characters needed stories. I had characters from my college years including Mr Toast. So I began to paint and draw to try to establish who the characters were. Slowly I taught myself to paint and
draw over the last 6 years. Also I have never been paid to work as an illustrator. Any money I have made has been through selling my own paintings and products I have created myself.
Who or what inspires you?
I was lucky enough to attend the Pictoplasma Conference in October of 2006 in Berlin. I came back completely inspired because everyone there was really doing there own thing and everyone seemed to be finding room in the world to live and create. Life is not a competition but a giant conference where we can all share ideas.
Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
As I said before, I am self taught. I started with trial and error and now I find I look at other artists and can look at their technique and learn a little about how to perfect my own skills.
How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?
I keep fresh by observing the world and trying to bring it into my work. I was walking the other
morning and I saw a giant spider web in the tree. Immediately I was working it into a story I had been thinking about. I also like to go to sleep working on an idea and then have it percolate inside my dreaming state. Often in the morning the idea will have worked itself out or sometimes transformed completely into something new and even better.
What are some of your current projects?
Right now I am beginning to put together a little book of my work which I will self publish. I have a show of my paintings coming up in May that I have to start work on. Also I will hopefully begin work on a Mr Toast children's picture book to be published by a "real" publisher. This last one I am both excited about and terrified since I will not be in total control but you have to let go at some point.
Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
I am proud of the books I have self published - Mr Toast at the Circus, Imaginary World Comics #1, GAGS and The World of Mr Toast. I am really proud of them because I did everything in them from the writing and illustration to the design. It is great because if you choose to you can do it all yourself with the help of a computer. It cost some money but by doing it myself I have learned so much more.
Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
I am about to give gouache a try. I want to try to do some classic old school magazine type illustrations. I have no idea if it will work out but it will be fun to try.
Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?
Work, work, work. Try to figure out what it is you care about and follow it through. Never quit just keep moving. Art is about momentum and once you get going you won't be able to stop (at least until you run out of room to store all your stuff).
What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?
As long as you are happy with a piece, it is a success. When it comes to my weekly comics, if I show it to my wife and get a laugh, I know that it is successful. I also benefit from getting feedback via my blog and Flickr and it helps me assess which things seem to strike a cord with people and which seem to fall flat.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
My main motivating factor is my age. I am about to turn 42 and I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do since I spent about 10 years not doing my art. Maybe at some point I will be satisfied about where I am at but right now I can't seem to get enough done. There are always plenty of paintings and drawings that need to get done. I used to be afraid of running out
of ideas, now I just want to find the time to get them all done. It drives my wife crazy because I have 5 projects all in progress throughout the house (I use the kitchen as a painting studio).
And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?
I am really excited about the new season of Rome on HBO. The HBO series like Rome and the Wire are my favorites.
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