One Minute With…
Hi Dave, thanks for taking time to chat with One Minute With. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.
Hi Conor, I am a dad, husband and illustrator in Ohio. I work from home and am currently focused on illustrating children’s books. Another big focus is working with autism, there is tremendous potential in how illustration can help with communication. When I’m not working, I’m sketching, making up movie plots, coloring with my daughter, and trying to fix things around the house. I’ve worked at different ad agencies as a designer for years, hoping to someday go full-time on my own and here I am.
Walk us through a typical day in the life of Dave Mott.
Usually, I get up pretty early, have breakfast with my daughter: we have a nice little hangout time before the day starts. Get my 1-2 cups of coffee. Next, take her to school. Then, I sketch for an hour before I dive in to work. I try to get the communication, billing and any revised work done early. Work ’til noon, then get some type of exercise in – even if it’s chasing my dog around. Finally, I have my 3rd cup of coffee, and hammer on the rest of the afternoon. Then, once everybody gets home, I disconnect from work and we hang out. After everyone goes to bed, I stay up late and draw.
How did you get into illustration?
I was always in it to some degree. Illustration was always something I loved doing since I was really young. I worked as a designer for a good while, then I learned I could make opportunities for myself if I did the design and brought my illustration into it.
There were some things I needed to understand before I could tell if I was serious about it. One thing I needed to understand was this was a career choice. Secondly, I had work to do, tons of it – you must be prolific. Once I accepted that, I felt ready to pursue illustration as a career. Also, I felt I could make a difference with illustration and that’s a big goal for me.
How do you approach a new project? What’s your creative process like?
I start with research. Every project is unique. I’m being hired to help someone tell & sell their idea, so I have to learn about who they are as much as possible. Once I have some knowledge, it’s easier to determine what I can bring to the table.
After I feel like I have an understanding, I start drawing things out. Drawing gets me thinking. I’ll do as many sketches as I need to do to capture what is on my mind. I’ll share the sketches and talk through where the concepts are headed.
Lots of collaboration, keep it open, keep it transparent. The best jobs are the ones when my clients and I work together on a shared goal.
You, like many designers and illustrators, run a store, in which you sell various products. In an industry where work can fluctuate so greatly, how important is a passive income source, do you feel?
I think it’s very important. But it’s also very important to be innovative. If everyone is selling prints, what can I offer that is completely different? I’m still figuring that one out. It’s on my mind all the time.
Many of your illustrations seem to feature animals – Do you have a particular affinity with them, or are they just easy to draw? How much of your style is intentional, and how much simply evolved?
Yes, very much an affinity for them. They’re honest.
I did my first internship (after that, I was hired part-time) at a MetroPark, working with Park Rangers and Conservationists. I spent 2 years surrounded by live animals (owls and turtles) and exhibit animals (bears, wolves, foxes, even a Raptor sculpture used on Jurassic Park.) So that helped fuel my love of animals.
My style is evolving because there is so much room for improvement. The intentional things vary, sometimes they come in later in the process.
If, in some Freaky Friday-like situation, you could live the life of another designer, illustrator or creative, for a day, who would it be, and why?
Martin or Alice Provensen, they were an amazing team of illustrators. Can’t say enough about how they inspired me. Their work is amazing, I have worn out the binding, admiring their books.
What design tools could you not live without?
I have a Cintiq and I really love it but, I still need pencil and paper. I draw everything on paper first and when I feel it’s ready, I bring it in digitally. Photoshop and Illustrator are key as well. I get asked about what type of paper and pencils I use. The fact is, I buy the cheapest mechanical pencils I can find, and I draw on whatever I have in front of me. So must-haves are pencil, eraser, paper, scanner, Photoshop and Illustrator.
Also, music. Very eclectic, but Thievery Corporation and Fleetwood Mac are my stand-bys.
And finally, what tips would you give to anybody who is looking to get started in design?
Get tough and stay tough. By that I mean, develop a thick skin and know what YOU want. It also means have confidence, not having confidence will lead to bad decisions.
Be kind. It is very possible that anyone you help will be helping you someday.