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DANIEL M. DAVIS
My name is Daniel M. Davis, and I'm an illustrator-designer. I’ve worked as a farmhand, baker, lowly screenprint artist, web designer, and small-press publisher.
I’m messy, which means that I’m more likely to do my work digitally these days, as opposed to getting acrylic paint all over the kitchen walls/floors/table/child.
I love mythic stories, interesting characters, foreign cultures, vintage colors and a good corndog.
Currently I live in Phoenix, Arizona, where I’m slowly building a tiny vector empire.
When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?
I’ve been drawing and creating my whole life, but it hasn’t been until the last few years that I really decided to become an illustrator. I attended Comic-Con 2004 and decided then and there, that now was the time to just start doing it.
Instead of waiting for clients or “being discovered”, I’ve decided to build my own career by illustrating and self-publishing indie kid’s books. It’s exactly what I want to do, and well, now I’m doing it.
I’ve been a graphic designer for something like 14 years now, and I feel like I’m finally ready to make things happen by kicking myself in the butt.
Who or what inspires you?
I get to meet a lot of great illustrators, and really, just about all of them inspire me. Especially the Indy guys and gals. I can really relate to them, their challenge, and their hunger for success in addition to simply loving their works.
People like Ryan Claytor. Rhode Montijo. Chris Bishop. Michel Gagne. Martin Hsu. Kevin Dart. Brian Taylor. David Coleman. Jamie Baker. Ben Walker.
I also dig established illustrators like Steve Mack. James Jean. Alphonse Mucha. Ragnar. Tony DiTerlizzi. Arthur Rackham. Bob Staake. Meomi. Alberto Ruiz. Cory Godbey. Steven Silver. Mike Mignola.
Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
While I picked up a thing or two in college (art history and drawing classes), I’ve learned just about everything I know on my own.
It’s definitely faster to go to a good design school, but since I didn’t have the mentorship to find such a thing, I’ve just had to wing it and learn as I go. You can learn a great deal on your own if you stay inquisitive, passionate, and motivated. I’m not saying that I’m all of these things, but I do try.
However, if I could do it all again, I’d go to a great design school and save myself 10 years.
How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?
I “devour” good design and illustration like spicy Indian food. Be aware of the big players out there, but also watch for new and upcoming talent. Learn from them all, and be inspired by their great work. Watch Drawn.ca like a hawk, and participate in illustration forums like thedrawingboard.org. Always try new stuff, and know yourself. If you can draw deeply from your own life experiences, it can be an easier path to unique art.
What are some of your current projects?
Well, I’ve just finished my second book, “KlawBerry”, and I’m just waiting for it to be shipped. It’s a modern folktale about a cute little monster-girl on a quest to find her stolen eye. Vector artwork, with rich textures and vintage colors, I’m pretty happy how it turned out.
Right now, I’m in a “create KlawBerry stuff” mode. I’m sculpting a maquette of her, designing prints, stickers, t-shirts, a plush doll and stuff like that.
I’ve also written a draft of my next book “After Halloween” which is a Halloween alphabet book. I’ve just started to illustrate that. It should be a fun project to do this time around, since I love Halloween so much.
Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
For me, finishing a huge project (like a book) is where it’s at. I’ve spent years starting projects but not finishing them, and finding that I wasn’t making the kind of progress in my career that I wanted. Now, with a wee bit more maturity, I see the value in simply getting stuff done.
That said, self-publishing “Caught Creatures” and “KlawBerry” are two massive victories for me and my micro-company Steam Crow Press. Having something of quality that is finished really gets people’s attention, and let’s them see your full potential.
Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
Oh sure, if I just had the time.
I’d love to do everything, but I’ve found that with my limited time and attention span, vector + raster is the medium for me. If I painted, it would look just like what I vectorize. However, the painting would take 2 weeks, and the vector would take 2 hours. I’ve got too many ideas; I need to get them out… FAST.
Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?
If you commit to a project, finish it. Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t achieved “perfection”. That will come with years and years of finishing projects. Just get stuff done.
What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?
I’m always trying to infuse my work with more emotion and story. At first, I’d just try to make stuff that “looked cool”. But now, I’m really concentrating on trying to evoke a bit of emotion out of my readers. Am I succeeding at it in every piece? Surely not, but I’m really focusing more and more on these two things, the more that I do.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
Well, I have a day job sitting in a beige cube for 40 hours per week. For me, this is like gasoline laced with gunpowder, poured on a sasquatch who was being lowered into the crater of Mt. St. Helens. It keeps me spunky and hungry for something more fun and creative.
My son is also a vibrant form of inspiration… he and I go goblin hunting sometimes, which is nice.
And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?
The Office. My Name is Earl. Lost.
Though, I do really miss Firefly.
I try not to watch too much TV these days, as I barely have enough time to get half of what I need to get done.
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