07/30/14 By Olivia Bartz
Meet talented humorist illustrator Dave Garbot—author of the Walter Foster series, Cartooning for Kids! A Portland, Oregon native, Dave is currently maintaining his studio in Ohio, though he misses his home in the Northwest. He is a frequent contributor in children's publishing, advertising, character development, stylish lettering, games, fun maps, and has done work for Walter Foster Publishing, Barnes & Noble, Harper Collins, Penguin Press, Scholastic, Klutz Press, Sterling Publishing, Parenting Press, and Adison Wesley to name a few. I had the opportunity to chat with him about his latest title, Mean 'N' Messy Monsters, as well as his inspiration as an illustrator.
Question: How did you learn illustration?
Dave Garbot: I've been drawing for as long as I can remember. I remember drawing when I wasn't supposed to be drawing (when I should have been doing my homework!). I was classically trained as a painter from the University of Illinois, but after I got out of school I went into advertising and I just kind of picked this up on a whim. I always liked to draw funny stuff—I started to do it as a freelancer and it just developed over time.
Q: How would you describe your artistic style?
DG: I would [describe it as] humorous—especially in my writing—quirky, whimsical at times, and a lot of fun. Fun is the ultimate I guess. That's why I do what I do and why I've been successful with it.
Q: How did you decide to study painting in college?
DG: I always enjoyed art and illustration, and my counselors encouraged me to gravitate towards painting because it would help with my artistic skills. Sometimes it takes a while to find your style. I still think I use a lot of the lessons I learned as a painting major—as far as color concepts, proportion, laying things out on the page, and just making things pleasing visually for my audience.
Q: Where do you pull inspiration for your illustrations?
DG: It comes from my childhood. I had very loving parents who encouraged me to do what I wanted, and we went on lots of family vacations and did lots of goofy things together. My drawings come from these memories—from the quirky little things I keep in my mind. I also think each one of my characters has a little bit of me in them. When I look at this collection of sketches on my table, each one helps me communicate a feeling or idea that I don't think I could express in words, but with a pencil or paper it becomes more clear for someone else to understand. I'd be totally lost without my ability to draw. When people see my characters, I think they're usually getting a good representation of me & how I think or feel.
Q: What is your favorite part about illustrating? What are your favorite kinds of art projects to be working on?
DG: My favorite part of the process is the sketching stage, when you're coming up with the character. I really enjoy putting pencil to paper, just that physical act of seeing the mark you make on a piece of paper—that's probably the most enjoyment I get. I also really enjoy publishing projects, stuff that involves things for kids that encourages them to be interactive.
Q: What's the biggest challenge you struggle with as an artist, and how do you deal with it?
DG: Sometimes an image or character just won't work. When that happens I just step away from it and say that I'll come back to it later. Usually, I'll pick it up later and think, "Aha! This is what I need to do." If I've been working too hard on something, that can be a problem—you have to loosen up and have fun, especially with cartoons. That's what I've tried to encourage—just don't worry about it. I think that's an important fact as far as kids are concerned.
Q: What advice would you give to other artists looking to follow in your illustration footsteps?
DG: Just do it—don't worry about it, you've got an eraser. If you like to draw, draw all the time—I got into the habit of carrying a sketchbook with me all the time in case I see something funny. You don't wake up one day and say, "I'm going to be an artist." You just have to find your passion and once you do, you do it with your whole heart and soul and you do it all the time. Just draw all the time, take your sketchbook wherever you go, and don't be afraid to show your artwork to people.
Q: What are the best and most frustrating things about your field?
DG: The best part is to be able to do something you enjoy doing everyday. I had a client remark to me just yesterday, that she really enjoyed my work because it always made her smile and that my characters were always so positive and uplifting. I love getting comments like that. It doesn't matter what the age of my audience may be, that is what I always strive for. There is just too much ugliness in the world, so my feeling is if my goofy little friends can bring a little light into someones day then that's 2 points for the good side. The worst is that frustration I mentioned earlier but I really can't think of a bad part—it's a great job.
Q: Any new projects you're really excited about?
DG: These Walter Foster projects−I had never worked on a project like this before. I'm working on the sixth book now, and the process is becoming easier for me. For this project I am coming up with characters but I have to think about things differently: how to teach these techniques to kids. For me, drawing these characters is second nature, but this project is forcing me to dissect it and think about it step by step. And it gives me the opportunity to show kids they can do the drawings whether or not they turn out to be a professional.
To see more of Dave's artwork, check out www.garbot.com
Olivia is the Marketing Intern for Quarto Publishing Group USA and is excited to graduate from UC Irvine this June with a B.A. in English. She is happiest when reading a good book or writing about her adventures abroad, and continues to be inspired by all things outdoors. Olivia loves to try out new art mediums and techniques but has yet to be disappointed by a pencil and sketchpad.
Any fool can be happy. It takes a man with real heart to make beauty out of the stuff that makes us weep.
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