Artist’s Spotlight – Dave Williams

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.

DaveWilliams

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.

Underwater-LightRO: 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.

engarde_avantgardeRO: 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 carnivalswingswith 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.

fishman-atpartyRO: 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?redrhino
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?
rivercurvesDW: 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.

Dave, thanks so much for sharing. Love your perspective on art and the creative process! If you’d like to see more of Dave’s work, check out his blog, Zazzle store, and Society6 prints.

Artist’s Spotlight: Jeff Maksuta

So, remember when I started the new feature of the blog called Artist’s Spotlight?  I’m bringing it back to stay this time!

Here to revive the almost-gone-but-not-forgotten section is animator and cartoonist, Jeff Maksuta.

The professional shot

The professional shot

The artist in his natural state: playing!

The artist in his natural state: playing!

Roaring Out: How long have you been creating art and in what mediums?
Jeff Maksuta: I’ve been drawing since I was little, but I would have to say I didn’t really get serious about art until late in the game, which is around when I was 21.  So 7 years. As far as the mediums I work in, I like to start my work using an HB pencil and some computer paper.  Then once I get my drawings to a good point, I scan them into the computer, and ink and color them digitally.  When I shift over to the computer, I use a Wacom Intuos 2 and Adobe Flash.

CucumberMan_final

Cucumber Man

RO: What first inspired you to art?
JM: I was raised on video games, cartoons, and comic books, so those things really inspired me to start drawing.  I remember collecting those 1990’s Marvel Cards and being really fascinated by all the different superheroes and villains.  Reading up on their back stories and powers, in combination with their visual appearance, I thought was really awesome.  The Mortal Kombat games also had the same effect on me.  Each character driven by their own reasons to enter this fighting tournament, and want to kill each other, was/is pretty freaking cool.  So really, it is this combination of visuals and story that I’m passionate about. Sure, art is good on a strictly aesthetic basis and writing a story can be fun, but the combination of the two…well, let’s just say I nerd out pretty hard.  I could list a bunch of cartoons and other things that have inspired me over the years, but my biggest inspiration has come from my good friend Marc Basile.  He is the one I really attribute to helping me open that door to becoming serious about my art.  I cannot thank him enough for how much he’s encouraged me and how much he has taught me over the years.

RO: What mediums are your current favorites?
JM: An HB pencil is where I like to start (Staedtler Mars Lumograph is my favorite brand).  Sometimes I’ll start laying things out with a non-photo blue Prismacolor pencil.  As I mentioned earlier, I like to draw on copy paper and then bring it over to the computer.  If I was to do everything minus doing it digitally, I would finalize my work using Prismacolor markers and/or Micron Pens.  When I go digital, I feel most comfortable using Adobe Flash, because it gives me exactly what I like; I can get graphic with it.  The brush tool in the program, in conjunction with the Wacom tablet, can be compared to a brush tip marker.  I usually work in a limited color gamut; often times, I use flat colors with some minimal cell shading.  I’m also a big fan of applying heavy, black outlines to my figures.

A work in progress - Predator

A work in progress – Predator

RO: Could you please talk a little about your creative process?
JM: Usually my creative process begins with just a simple idea.  Then in this almost automatic, ADD kind of way, my brain runs with the idea, throwing in nonsensical twists and filtering through “what if’s”, which ultimately leads to a point where its spun into something I like.  So the story aspect is built on this snowball effect.  As far as the visuals go, I like to start off by designing my characters, and then once I figured out their look, I start roughing the story out with some thumbnails to get a feel of what the overall composition is going to look like.  Once that reaches a good point, depending on the project, I start the full-sized pages or storyboards.  Then I’ll scan everything, and digitally ink and color.

RO: If you could spend the rest of your life focusing on one art form, what would it be?
JM: Any form of sequential art.   As I mentioned earlier, I like the combination of art and story, it’s what I get really passionate about. So as long as I’m making cartoons and/or comics, I’m king of the world.

RO: I know you are a part of a comic group you helped start called Sideshow Comics.  Can you talk a little bit about what led you to create this group?
JM: Well, I remember talking to my buddy, Chris Mitchell, about wanting to create a web comic, and being that Chris is like a bother to me and knowing he has a great sense of humor, I asked him if he would be interested in creating a website together where we can post funny comic strips.  He was all for it, and so Sideshow Comics was born!  Actually we were having a hard time coming up with a name for the site.  I remember Chris said something about how it would be cool if we had a name like Sideshow Comics and we were both like “Alright…yeah -that sounds good!”  Haha. So yeah, me and Chris write and draw our own comics that we post on Sideshow.  We’ve also had Marc Basile and Joel Casimiro contribute some of their work to the site as well.  As of right now, Sideshow is slightly on the back burner, but it’ll be rockin’ socks once again…by which case I mean, it’ll make people explode because they can’t handle the awesome, which usually happens when I just walk down the street and people look at me.  But that’s a story for another day.

Mortal Combat Haiku - from Sideshow Comics

Mortal Combat Haiku – from Sideshow Comics

RO: What is the longest time you’ve spent on a piece of art?
JM: Actually the longest I’ve spent on a single project was about 3 months.  It was an animation I did for my thesis project, titled Onion Boy.  The whole process from writing the script to animating the visuals took a good chunk of time to finish.  But I had a lot of fun with it, and I am thankful that my very talented friend, Dan Kypers, could hop on board and do all the voice acting.  So overall it was pretty time consuming project, but seeing everything complete and in action is an amazing feeling.

RO: What do you enjoy when you are not arting?
JM: I like to eat bags and bags of cheese doodles…Haha, nah other than arting, on my free time I like to watch a good movie, read comics, play some video games, be a dinosaur, fly a spaceship, make a burrito, eat that burrito…mmmm Taco Bell. I don’t really like fast food, but T-bell is one of those guilty pleasures of mine; just like Ghost Adventures, which is actually the only TV show I watch…Well, now I’m going to put my sunglasses on, because I realize how cool I sound!  Free time well spent.

RO: Do you have anything handmade that you own that is particularly meaningful to you?

Last Laugh

Last Laugh

JM: Not to talk so much about my own art, but it’s really nice to hold onto old sketchbooks.  Thumbing through them not only helps me realize how much I’ve progressed over the years, but also it helps me appreciate a lot of great memories through the art I’ve created.

RO: To conclude, what is a lesson you have learned from creating art that you would like to share with others?
JM: I think its really important to set deadlines for yourself.  It’s something that I need to do, otherwise I’ll procrastinate like crazy.  Sometimes the hardest thing for me is to get started on a project.  Once I get going, I don’t want to stop; I have a very obsessive personality.  So setting deadlines kind of forces you to take on this challenge of pushing forward with your initial idea instead of being tied down to a strictly mental projection of the project having to be some grandiose masterpiece.  Other than that, I’m going to reiterate the famous artistic proverb of draw, and keep drawing!  (Or, do the art you enjoy most on a consistent basis).  It’s important to build a good foundation, studying things like anatomy, perspective, lighting, texture, etc.  Study your favorite mediums; study artists who really speak to you.  Most of all though, have fun with it.  Don’t get bogged down by not creating something perfectly or not producing exactly what’s in your mind onto paper.  Sometimes we have great ideas in our heads, and it just doesn’t come out quite right on paper, but that’s okay.  This is part of the challenge and the fun of communicating ideas visually.  You’re having a dialogue with the page and coming to an agreement.  If you feel your art work hasn’t turned out quite the way you wanted it to, start again and try approaching from a different angle.  Also, whether you like it or not, a part of your personality is projected onto your artwork, so if you feel you’re “failing” at imitating a particular style, that’s okay. It’s in your own personal approach, your touch, that really makes your artwork yours.  I could keep going and get all artsy fartsy on you, but blah blah…just art.  ART!

And now for a quote:

“Bubble gum, bubble gum in a dish, how many pieces do you wish?”

……………………..*Cough*……

Alright fine:

“The rules are simple. Take your work, but never yourself, seriously. Pour in the love and whatever skill you have, and it will come out.” -Chuck Jones

Thanks for sharing, Jeff!  To see more of Jeff’s work, check out his website at: www.jeffmaksuta.com.