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POV: Interview with Dave Mott, Illustrator

By:   Date posted: April 11, 2012

Welcome to The Agency Post! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Hi, I’m Dave Mott: a dad, husband, illustrator and designer. My illustration work is featured on my blog MonkeyWorks.org and my professional work can be seen on my portfolio.

How long have you been designing? How did you get started? Did you complete any formal study?

I’ve been designing for 10 years, doing mostly site designs. I was always drawing as a kid and I never stopped. I studied graphic design and illustration in college, but the real learning came from jobs that I liked and even jobs that I hated.

What inspires you? How do you come up with concepts?

What inspires me these days is the balance of design and illustration as seen in the works of Mary Blair. There are so many great artists doing amazing work like A. Micah Smith, Jon Klassen and Tad Carpenter.

Also, illustration has a rich tradition. If you go through everything from vintage magazine ads to book illustrations, it’s really inspiring.

I draw it out first. Starting with sketches and sometimes just keeping them as drawings if I’m happy with them. But in the process, I’m always researching. It’s so important to keep in mind that history of illustration when I’m creating something.

Some of your work is a play on existing design or pop culture references. How do you go about reinventing something that is already so recognizable?

Good question. There’s the answer – it’s already recognizable. If something is recognizable, it already has traction and, chances are, a large fan base. If you have a unique voice in anything, illustration, writing, design — people will want to see your take on something. It could be something like a pop culture icon or a cult classic, but fans will get charged about it.

What is your design process? How do you start to flesh out an initial concept? Do you use traditional and digital techniques to create the final piece?

My process is a mess, just kidding. Since there are different problems to solve, the process can differ. It always starts with sketches. I spend most of the time on sketches, just trying to get it down and in the right direction. Everything evolves out of the original drawing, even if it looks different in the end. Next, I’ll work on rendering it. Depending on the goal, I’ll do it completely analog on paper or get it digital if that’s the end goal. I always try to carry paper and traditional elements in everything. If an illustration needs to be digital, there are always parts that are hand-drawn or painted.

What are your favorite tools or mediums to work in?

A nice textured paper, pencils and eraser pencils. Digitally, Illustrator and Photoshop are my go to programs. Also, Manga Studio is a great drawing program that allows me to be spontaneous with the line work.

mott-leiachewieWhat are some of your favorite projects that you have worked on? Why?

I do self-initiated projects all the time. A couple of my favorites are the Leia & Chewie series and The Letter Parade.

Self-initiated projects are personal. They should come from things you enjoy. For me, it goes back to childhood. Star Wars was a huge part of that, and it was a large part of childhood for so many kids. Especially growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s. The 1970s are rich with imagery and lifestyles that I could draw on forever. The Star Wars characters are so well-known, it’s easy to delve into to creating a different perspective on them.

How do you market yourself? What’s the best way to become know in the creative/illustration field?

Like everyone, I tweet, blog and post as much as I can. I’m still working on that. I don’t consider myself very well-known. I’m cool with that, since it gives me more time to create. Life’s too short and so is this career, I want to make the most out of it. If the work is seen as good, it’ll carry itself. I’ll just keep putting it out there.

How does your work as an artist influence the way you experience life?

I don’t think there should be a distinction. Art is life. I’m lucky enough to get to capture moments from it and that some people may want to see it.

What advice would you give to aspiring designers and artists?

You gotta love this. Thick skin, like an armadillo’s Kevlar vest. The love will help feed the work ethic. I know hard work sounds cliché but it’s true.

Respect people. You’re going to be on both sides of this one.

Mentor: Tons of virtual mentors who I haven’t met, but hope to someday. My painting professor, Al Bright, who taught me so much about seeing things differently.

Most inspirational book or artwork: I enjoyed the Perfect Bait by Bobby Chiu. Oh, and Cartoon Modern is an amazing book.

Inspired artwork by what I see on blogs like Drawn, Cartoon Brew. Anything created by Mary Blair and the Provensens [Alice and Martin].

Music that gets you in your zone: Fleetwood Mac. Any day, all day

One reason you love what you do: I get to create things for a living. It wouldn’t matter what I did for a living, I’d still want to draw everyday.

Find Dave on:

Twitter @dmott70
Dribble
Cargo Collective Network
Monkey Works Blog

Feature image courtesy of Flickr user joshuaseye.

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Jami Oetting is the editor of The Agency Post. She is an advertising nerd who's big on creativity, quick wit and good conversation. Interact with her on Twitter @jamioetting or LinkedIn.

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