Photo by Andrew Foster
You may know UK illustrator David Litchfield from his year-long Drawing A Day project, which ran from July 1st 2010 until June 30th 2011 and kickstarted his career as an illustrator. From cute, weird to downright freaky, his drawings are as varied as they are endearing. The entire collection of 356 Illustrations was displayed in David’s home town of Bedford. View his TEDx talk about the project at the bottom of this post.
David is now a full-time illustrator, represented by The Bright Agency. I got to ask him a few questions.
David Litchfield: illustrator, dad and all round nice guy. Let’s start with that. You’ve said in interviews that you think it’s important to “Just be nice to people”. Sounds like good advice. Care to elaborate?
David: I have met so many nice people in the short time I have been working in the industry. In other professions I have been in, people are always wanting to get one over on each other or have a really ‘dog eat dog’ approach to work. But illustrators all seem to be in it together, encouraging each other, collaborating, sharing ideas, etc. It’s a really lovely profession full of lovely people.
From: Granddad’s Secret Giant
Before you became a full-time illustrator, you worked as a lecturer in Art and Design for over five years, completing commissions in the evenings and at the weekends. Do you have any advice for budding artists who are in a similar situation right now?
David: It was a risk ditching my full time job and focussing on being an illustrator, but it was a risk worth taking. In fact I always say to people that it got to a point where it felt more risky not to do it. I think I would have driven myself crazy with lots of ‘what might have been’ type thoughts.
What I would say is that if you are thinking of doing the same, then you have to be really realistic. It took me a lot of stress and hard work, working long nights, weekends, holidays, etc. to build up a portfolio and client base that made me feel confident enough before taking the leap in to full time freelance.
Having said that, I still do teach and run workshops on a freelance basis. Teaching is something I will always do alongside my illustration. It feels like a natural thing to do and I see both disciplines are very much connected with each other.
From: Blend in Brendan
You’re now working from Animal Studios Ltd which is part gallery, part co-working studio space. Sounds like an inspiring place to be. How did it come about?
David: My wife and I are both freelancers and when we lived in our flat we worked in our bedroom, which was not a great situation to be in at all. And then when Ben came along things got even more crazy and cluttered. A few of my friends were in similar situations, so we put a request in to the council to take over this great space in Bedford. It was actually the space that I held my first Drawing A Day exhibition in 2011 and since then it’s remained empty. So it felt right moving into there.
Illustration can be quite a secluded job, so its great working around other people once in a while and being able to throw ideas around. It reminds me of being in art class back at school.
Also, we’ve had some great exhibitions and parties there so far. It’s good fun.
You include photos of your family online too: you guys just seem to have the best time! How do you combine work with parenthood?
David: Yes, I probably share too much on Instagram etc… We do have a great time, but yes juggling everything is sometimes tricky. Obviously Ben comes first every time. In fact when we had Ben, it really made me focus and become much more determined.
Having a child and then soon after quitting your full time steady job sounds like madness to most people (and to be honest, it probably was), but Ben was one of the main reasons I did it. I didn’t want him growing up with an unhappy, bitter dad.
Rue Royale album artwork
Besides listening to music while you draw, what else helps motivate you and how important is a sense of community?
David: I get motivated by other illustrators obviously, but just the sense of creating new things and having an opportunity to do that is what really gets me going in the morning. Y’know, most days all I do is draw which is something I am very grateful for and something I will never moan about.
There is a sense of community with other illustrators. Twitter and Instagram has bought us all together and it’s great that we can communicate and discuss our work, no matter where we are. That’s something else that I try not to take for granted.
From: The Bear and the Piano
Your first picturebook ‘The Bear & The Piano’ will be published later this year. Exciting! You’ve been posting your progress online, which is really fun to see. Can you tell us some more about the project?
David: It’s been brilliant. I’ve just finished the last tweaks and now it’s ready. It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done and I’m so super proud of it.
How it got started was that an editor at Frances Lincoln Publishing called Katie Cotton saw my work and really liked some pieces in my portfolio, so she invited me in to discuss wether I had any ideas. I pitched The Bear & The Piano to her and it went from there really.
It’s been such a creative process, involving input from a lot of really brilliant people. I started it 6 months ago and it’s developed so much and gone to places like the Frankfurt and Bologne Book Fairs and it’s had all of these clever, important people look at it. And it’s just bloomin’ amazing really.
Thanks again David!
Watch his TEDx talk about the project here:
Images: © David Litchfield, used with permission.