My name is Dave Mottram. I live and work in Ohio. My family is my wife, our daughter and our black lab.
My website is www.davemottram.com and my blog is www.monkeyworks.org
Also Dribbble and Instagram.
I am a fulltime illustrator working for Duck Duck Moose. We make learning applications for kids. Currently I am working on some character design. Most of the stuff I’m working I can’t show, so I try to post daily sketches and personal projects when I can.
When did you first decide to become an illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?
It’d be nice to say there was a moment but there wasn’t. It’s just a boring story. I drew so much as a kid, when my mom ran out of paper, I drew on paper plates and then paper bags. Maybe there was that day my Dad came home from work with comic books. Those were so inspiring to me. Soo many Spiderman crayon drawings.
It really never mattered what my job was. I worked at a grocery store and I worked in a warehouse. At the end of those days, I wanted to go home and draw something. I drew on my lunch breaks or my days off. Both my parents worked so I never thought it strange to just have a job. But to have a job
making things/drawing? That would be something.
Making money as an artist seemed worlds away. I was terrible and knew there was SO much work to do. I decided to go to college for Graphic Design. I knew I would have to work my way through. I worked 2 part-time jobs and went to school. It kept me balanced and loan-free. I wouldn’t trade the life experience I had during those times for anything.
Who do you look up to? Who are your heroes in the industry?
I really admire the work of Martin and Alice Provensen, Mingjue Helen Chen, Ryan Lang, Cory Loftis, Jamie Hewlett, James Jean, Ian McQue. Honestly, I could fill this page with artists that I look up to.
Heroes for me are people who are using art to make a difference. Some that come to mind in this
regard are people like Help Ink and Design vs Cancer.
Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
Mostly self-taught. I went to college for Graphic Design with a minor in Illustration. I had a few painting classes in college. However since my focus was Design I didn't take as many as I felt I needed.
Training never stops, I’m still taking painting and anatomy classes.
How do you keep it "fresh"?
Walk- away, breathe.
I understand that deadlines are deadlines and we aren’t afforded that luxury often. You can’t sometimes. There is an overwhelming amount of talent that fills our Pinterest, Twitter or FB. Personally, I just need to walk away from all of it sometimes.
What are you currently working on?
I really try to do personal projects outside of work. Mostly because I can’t share my work from my fulltime gig as much as I would like. I enjoy doing those so I can challenge myself. Sometimes, I’ll do a series of pieces that are a common theme. I did a bunch of pieces inspired by Disney’s Haunted Mansion. What’s fun about these projects is that sometimes you meet people who want commissions based on personal pieces.
I love Sketch Dailies, so I’ll challenge myself to do an inked or painted illustration every day.
Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
I’m not really impressed with my own work.
I did a Letter Project back when my daughter was learning the alphabet. I ended up making/selling prints of them. From that libraries started asking to buy them for their children’s reading rooms. It was nice to know those pieces ended up in reading rooms like that.
Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
Sure, there’s a bunch. I am still learning gouache painting. Also, there are some watercolor pencils that I have been messing with. I love creating Photoshop brushes out of random textures I make. It’s always fun to experiment with them.
Any advice to the novice designer/illustrator?
I have talked to artists starting out who are paralyzed with fear. They are afraid to show that they are new and their work needs improvement. All of our work needs improvement. Dive in. I admire people who show their struggles and journeys.
Accept criticism, welcome criticism. But discern constructive criticism from bullshit.
Your work is valuable, avoid spec work. There are numerous organizations preying on artists. If you are offered “Exposure or Opportunity” remind them these are not currencies in our society. I have yet to meet an electrician, plumber, carpenter or any other career that only works for “Exposure.”
What makes an illustration successful?
I’d say the ability to tell a story. Telling a story in a simple, beautiful way is a trait I have always envied. I’m still trying to figure out what will make my illustrations more successful. For me, there needs to be some kind of emotional connection.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
Although I don’t do it nearly as much as I’d like, it feels so good to work out and come back to it.
If at all possible, get away from the computer, phone, whatever. (Easier said than done.)
Motivation comes from the amount of talented people doing great things. That always keeps me wanting to get better.
Finish this sentence. "If I weren't a designer/illustrator I would have been a..."
Woodworker working for my Dad. I still haven’t ruled that one out. My father and sister are
wayy more talented.
And finally, what is the best thing on TV right now?
I’m still looking for something to fill the void left by Breaking Bad and True Detective. Oh wait, there’s a True Detective Season 2? So, I guess we’ll see.
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