Today’s Artist’s Spotlight features an artist and blogger I’ve been following for a few years: Dave Williams. I never quite know what to expect from Dave’s blog, and I love that! He was gracious enough to let me interview him. His answers feature his delightful simplicity and humor.
Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what types of media?
Dave Williams: In the mid- and late 90s, I wrote a lot of fiction—but then stopped to focus more on graphic design, which was paying the bills. About five years ago, I started drawing cartoonish stuff and writing silly poems in the attempt to make my twin daughters laugh (some of it was actually successful). Doing this led to the wonderful habit of sketching and writing regularly. Somewhere along the way, I picked up a paintbrush after one of my daughters was finished, and I really enjoyed painting with it, so I bought some acrylic paint and canvases and did some more. Then, a few years into my blog, I rediscovered writing through flash fiction. By simply having fun creating things, my kids inspired me to try out my personal creativity rather than just using it for client projects in my graphic design work.
RO: What first inspired you to art?
DW: I had a couple of influences as I was growing up (although some would say I haven’t done that yet). Having an artistic mom who creates beautiful artwork and who encouraged my brother and me to draw was a huge influence. She still continues to come up with projects that amaze me. The other big influence was growing up working in my grandparents’ bookstore. I filled many an hour with my nose stuck in a book when there were no customers in the store. That was usually in the middle of the day, as we were in a beach town, and all the tourists were soaking up the sun then (some possibly reading as well). All that reading caused me to fall in love with the stories and adventures of books. And it made me want to become a writer to make up my own stories.
RO: What types of media are your current favorites?
DW: I feel most comfortable with a ball-point pen and a sketchbook. These help me turn down that inner skeptic that throws doubts at me while I work. With lots of sketching, I’ve grown to enjoy making mistakes. They become part of the process. Screwing up over and over has helped me avoid striving for perfection or “just right” and instead focus on simply drawing and writing, and then seeing what comes up. There are surprises and frustrations in that. I keep coming back for the surprises. The frustrations are just part of the deal.
RO: Your blog is not only delightfully quirky, but also has a great name: Zooky World. What inspired that name and what does it mean to you?
DW: I wanted my blog to be something different from my name, so it might be easier to remember. I first thought about calling it Chewy, since that’s the nickname my daughters have called me for many years, and it’s more fun than my name. But since a large part of my effort to make money with my own work has been through t-shirts, I worried if Chewy T-Shirts would cause people to scratch their heads and wonder if the shirts were supposed to be edible. Zooky World came out of my wish to have something easy to remember and sound fun. A wide variety of animals at the zoo, and a variety of projects I publish on my blog. It reminds me of my want to keep pushing myself to create new things.
RO: As mentioned in the previous question, your blogs a very unique flavor to it. That is in part because of the name, but also because the entries range from flash fiction and poetry to cartoons and photography. Is it difficult, delightful, or a mix of both being able to work with so many different types of media? Is there one medium you feel you work best with or is a personal favorite?
DW: Delightful, for sure. Since I started working on my own projects, I’ve enjoyed experimenting with different formats of expression. There are times I like getting outside with my camera and seeing what my eye is drawn to that day and taking lots of photos. Or I’ll draw for a couple of hours. I probably draw more often than work in the other formats. Ideas hit me when I’m at a sketchbook or walking or driving or any time, and it’s a curious journey to see in what form these ideas will end up. Some drawings I jolt out, and I like how it looks. Other times, the ideas I thought would be a simple cartoon shifted, as I continued drawing, into a strange illustration that was different in mood than when it began. Working in these various formats has helped me keep asking questions of how I feel about things, and they give me avenues to come up with different answers. Lately, I’ve been trying to blend formats. Could an illustration or photo with a sentence written on it become more like flash fiction and give a hint of a larger story that the reader conjures? Things like that.
As for favorites, I’ve mentioned sketching being comfortable. Beyond that, my favorites would have to be writing and painting. These are the ways I’m most likely to fall into the page (or canvas), like how the writer in Stephen King’s novel Misery described. When the work clicks right, I lose track of time, and my focus immerses in the project. It’s a beautiful thing. Doesn’t happen every time I’m working, but it’s a great high when it does. And I’m usually proud of the result that comes out of it.
RO: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
DW: It all begins with sketching. Throwing down ideas lets me capture the things bouncing around in my head. Lots of sketches aren’t used later, as I’m not satisfied with how they look. Yep, a lot are corny and childish as hell. The ones I’m satisfied with are published on my blog. Often, an idea leads to another idea, and I explore some “what ifs?” and the second and third images are more interesting than the initial one. This is a big reason why I enjoy working in different modes of expression, as an idea can go in various directions, and I can try them out and see which sticks. I suppose the process in a nutshell is try, try, try, and make tons of mistakes until the project resonates for me on some level. Could be a simple laugh or could be making me think about something in a way that’s different than before. There’s the hope it will resonate for someone seeing it, but that’s a whole different matter.
RO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
DW: I spent many, many months writing a novel in coffee shops. This was in the late 90s, and I never finished the novel. It was a very personal thing, and it helped me work out some of my feelings about different relationships at that time in my life.
RO: Is there anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?
DW: Loads of artwork done by my daughters. I love their creativity and their willingness to run with it. A cartoon of an alien creature who devours princesses? Check. Mobiles of neon pipe cleaners? Check. Jackson Pollock-type abstracts? Check. Anything seems possible in their art. I want to keep encouraging that. I fear the day they say, “Nah, that doesn’t make sense” and start putting limitations on themselves, the kind that seems to come with growing up.
RO: If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
DW: The ability to fly. I’m seriously jealous of those damn birds up there.
RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
DW: Creating art has helped me see things literally and figuratively. In drawing and painting something, I’ve noticed details I didn’t see before. That was first the case when I painted a sunflower, and the design of the flower’s center stunned me. As for the figurative “seeing” part, art has helped me explore questions to work out some of my feelings. There’s certainly a therapeutic aspect to it. I recently read Miriam Engelberg’s graphic memoir, Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person, and it’s a good example of this. Miriam used the combination of handwritten text and simple, direct drawings to simply, directly convey her experience of undergoing treatment for breast cancer. In it, she talked/showed about how others in cancer treatment were finding comfort in activities like meditation and yoga, but these didn’t click with her. What did click was drawing. I think she was brave for publishing her artwork. It was open and vulnerable, and it resonated with me. I bet it resonated for many others, too. My thought to share would be that creating my own art and viewing the art of others has been wondrous on many levels. If you try it, don’t worry if it doesn’t look “perfect.” Push for something genuine instead of perfection. Have some serious fun with it.