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Guest Post: Katie Carey Interviews Dave Murray

Introducing Katie Carey, a student currently studying at Sheridan College in the Illustration BAA! Katie has started a blog for the students there and otherwise, profiling events and interviews with recent grads. Below is an interview with Dave Murray. Enjoy!

Dave Murray - Graduated from Sheridan Illustration ‘09

Describe the kind of illustration work that you do:

My work is kind of a weird mishmash of cubism, futurism, old soviet posters… really a reflection of my interests in art.  Combine that with my love of pop culture and the ordinary things I find around myself, and it sets up some interesting juxtapostions in terms of representing these modern things in an “older” style.  

Most of the jobs I’ve gotten have been advertising, though the editorial side is starting to pick up now.

You work a lot with typography, whether it’s a hand-drawn sign or your typographic neighbourhood maps, how did you become interested in it and how do you continue to teach yourself about typography?

If you want to go way back, I always took pride in creating interesting lettering on my title pages in grade school.  More recently though, my interest in type really picked up when I moved to Toronto - there are some great old signs around the GTA, and a lot of businesses that take a lot of pride in signage, lettering, window displays, etc.  Older apartment buildings usually have amazing type - places with names like “The Skyliner” or “The Manhattan”.  There’s a certain amount of thought & care evident in these signs that you don’t see a lot of anymore.

I keep myself involved with type in a few ways.  I’m constantly doodling letterforms and words, I’ve sat down and taken the time to build a few fonts, and - probably the main way I keep myself interested - I go out and actively look for examples of type I like.  Whenever I find a nice sign, or some lettering I like, I’ll take a picture of it and add it to a growing collection of “found” type inspiration.  I actually post most of it on my blog.

How do you find inspiration and what do you do when you get stuck on a project?  Any good website recommendations?

I’ve found the best way (for myself, at least) to get through being stuck is just to work through it.  Put the current project aside and work on something else.  And then, in a bit, go back to where you were stuck.  Repeat process as needed.

Sometimes, though, I like to completely separate myself from the work for a bit.  Weather dependent, I usually just go on really long bike rides.  It’s good exercise, and it allows me to zone out and refresh my brain.

As for websites… I usually look at friend’s blogs, image congregators like  ffffound.com, and a whole ton of tumblrs.

What did you do right after graduation?

Ha.  I think I took a month off to do nothing, and continued to work at the factory job I held all through college.  I did some odd jobs for a bit, was unemployed for a while, and eventually got a job at an art supply store.

How long did it take you after graduating to find illustration work and how did you find it?

I got a few jobs here or there from friends, but I already had my map project established, which helped a lot.  One of my main projects became expanding the coverage of the maps and the stores that would carry them - it pretty much just involved going into a bunch of different shops and talking to the owners.

What is your process like when you get an illustration job?

Read, research and sketch a ton.  Usually in that order.  You only make life easier on yourself by doing the research and expanding your own vocabulary - textually, historically, visually, etc.  I find that I follow the process that was instilled in me through school - or at least a version of it - pretty closely.

What do you do to promote yourself as an illustrator?  What are the things that have worked for you and what hasn’t worked for you?

I keep busy.  Even if I’m not getting any jobs, I still like to sit down and make images that are relevant to my interests and the world around me.  The old phrase “work begets work” has become a bit of a personal motto for me.  I still send out e-mails and postcards, but nothing has brought me as much success as simply keeping busy and getting my name out there.

How do you feel your time at Sheridan helped you?

It really instilled a sense of professionalism in me.  I didn’t recognize it right after I had graduated, but being a few years older it’s evident.  Whether it’s the business side (dealing with quotes, contracts, paperwork) or the social side (meeting people, conveying ideas), I feel that Sheridan both expanded and refined my skills.  It’s always been my belief that when you’re accepted into the illustration program, you already have a good sense of how to create pictures; you’re not going there to learn the absolute basics of making art.  It more about learning the language of the business.

What would you have done differently while you were at school knowing what you know now?

I think, and this is completely honest (and I apologize to my teachers), that I really could’ve pushed myself more.  I’m completely happy with where I am now, but I would probably be just that little bit better at what I do.  But then again, I probably wouldn’t have as many good stories to tell now.

Any advice for eager and impressionable illustration students?

A short list of Do’s & Don’t’s:

Do - drink good coffee.  stop drinking that battery acid they serve at Tim’s.  There is literally no better way to start your day than a great cup of coffee.

Don’t - takes vows of silence.  Some guy actually did this in my year, and it was just stupid.  When communication is the name of the game, you’re shooting yourself in the foot by doing this.

Do - maintain some semblance of pride in your appearance.  I mean, it’s college.  Go get facial piercings and a mohawk (like I did), but don’t show up smelling like garbage and wearing a burlap sack.  You’re eventually going to meet people who want to give you money to make art for them.  It’s not the greatest thing to preach, but you’re aiming to be in a field that is highly concerned with fashion, pop-culture, and trends. C’mon.

Eventually, find a nice suit and tie (or nice dress, if you’re a girl).  It’s handy!  All of your meetings, weddings, fancy parties and court appearance problems will be solved.

Don’t - blatantly rip off anybody.  We’re all friends, and we will call you on it.

Do - keep a sketchbook.  Go through one or two a month.  Never stop drawing - the sketchbook should be a repository of ideas that you can draw from at any given time for any project.

Don’t - lock yourself to your desk.  Get up, get some exercise, go see friends, have a beer and get some sleep for fuck’s sake.

Any exciting projects coming up in the near future?  Plug yourself! :

Umm.  Some magazine stuff.  Maybe an art show?  Who knows what the future holds!


You can keep up with what I’m up to the following ways:

website:  www.davemurrayillustration.com

blog:  davemurrayills.blogspot.com

twitter:  dave__murray

Or just send me an e-mail.  I’ll probably respond.

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