7 Morals; An Interview with Artist Daniel Davis
Posted June 26, 2010on:
I recently had the opportunity to interview a great local artist, Daniel Davis. He and his wife created Steam Crow Press, their publishing company, in 2005 after going to the San Diego Comic-Con. Since then, they have produced 4 books and a free web comic called Monster Commute. We spoke about knowing what your dream is and then living it. Below is what I learned:
Moral 1: Follow your dreams!
When I asked how Daniel knew he wanted to be an artist, he answered simply that he’s been drawing his whole life. That is a pretty common with artists, so what really got me what the rest of his answer: His family didn’t want him to be an artist. In his words, “When I was turning 18, I was getting a lot of pressure from my family in deciding what I wanted to do with my life and they kinda told me that art wasn’t one of those things… [so I decided that I would] pursue the crazy things I wanted to pursue.”
Moral 2: Adapt!
Of course, as a comic artist, I had to ask how Daniel got into comics. Turns out that was based on practicality. Comics are a good way to tell stories because pictures alone just aren’t enough. Though Daniel read comics as a kid, he’s gotten more into them as an adult.
Moral 3: Look for silver linings! (aka, When life gives you lemons, make lemonade!)
The idea for the Monster Commute comic came from an actual commute Daniel would make to work every day. Poor Daniel used to commute from North Peoria to the airport, which if you are unfamiliar with Phoenix geography is a 2-3 hour commute. One way. On the plus side of this long commute, we got the Monster Commute comics! Daniel thought, “What if the comic’s universe was about everyone commuting and living in their cars?” In some ways, it’s a monster version of Star Trek, or “Monster Trek.”
Moral 4: Don’t try to separate the various things you love. Mix ’em all together!
Daniel has a family, friends, a “day job” and his growing comics and art business. How on Earth does he balance his time? Daniel told me that you almost have to be unballanced a bit. He pointed out that if he spent a sensible 2 hours a week on his art, he would never get anywhere. So he justifies spending huge amounts of time working, and not necessarily with his son, by realizing that he’s doing his art for his son, which I personally found the most endearing thing I’d heard all day. The reasoning is that Daniel wants to actually create something while he’s alive so that way, after he’s gone, his son can go “Wow, look at all this stuff that you’ve made!”
Now, to put this in perspective, when I called Daniel for our interview, he was finishing up a regularly scheduled pool-time with his son. His son also gets involved in his work and plays with Dad’s modeling clay, makes 3D models of the drawings out of tinker toys…
Moral 5: Learn from the people around you
I also spoke with Daniel about pure business stuff, like where he learned about marketing. Turns out that Daniel’s “day job” to which I alluded earlier, is being a graphic designer for an in-house marketing team. Granted just working with marketers does not confer marketing mojo, but it does get a person into a good position to ask questions. That’s what Daniel does. He pays attention, listens, asks questions, and even gets informational interviews with folk, gathering knowledge he then applies to Steam Press. He also has Tiny Army, a local Phoenix illustrators group that he founded, where other local artists can get together and share what they know. They’ve been meeting for over 2 years, fostering a community of comic artists, designers, and illustrators. It’s Daniel’s way of becoming “one with the community.” Daniel’s all for learning the proven ways of doing business and developing his own creative ways. He shares his views on marketing at WebcomicMarketing.com.
Moral 6: Focus! Focus! Focus!
Daniel always knew he would have to do his own promotions. That’s why he goes around the convention circuit. (He’ll be at San Diego Comic Con Booth #4207 July 21-25!) He goes to various comicons or pop culture shows, gets a booth, sells his prints and books, and, if possible, speaks at panels during these shows. Self-publicity at its finest. This all requires a ridiculous amount of planning. To be a vendor at some of these shows, Daniel has to send out packages and applications to impress the juries that decide who gets vendor space and who doesn’t. Daniel is always planning 8 to 10 months ahead. This takes a lot of focus. But Daniel has that. He knows what he wants to do, what he wants to get out of it, what type of life he wants to build. He credits having his son for giving him the focus to succeed. In his own words, “It’s pretty vital to know what you want to do.”
Moral 7: If you want spoilers, ask the creator!
Finally, because I am a spoiler fan, I begged spoilers from Daniel. Turns out that in the long-term the story of Monster Commute will get a bit darker. Authority is going to claim a larger role, bringing everything to a head. It’s kind of bleak, but Daniel’s Daniel and will show off the friendship and loyalty the characters share. We will be getting a new character, though. Or old, depending on how you look at it. Klawberry is a character from one of Daniel’s first books, Klawberry: Good Girl, Bad World. We’re finally going to get a female character! Yay!
While Daniel works on the story, we, the loyal online readership, will enjoy some guest scripts. They’ve already started and are quite entertaining!