We Chat to Blackburn Based Illustrator Daniel Davidson

by Northern Life

Life’s a Juggling Act

Daniel Davidson is an illustrator from Blackburn, who designs record sleeves, does a doodle a day on Twitter and has his art showcased on the Saatchi gallery website. By day he is a drugs worker in a prison and takes inspiration from the inmates’ stories and the world around him.

“I was a musician initially and designed the record covers for the music I was producing. Some friends and I started up an independent label and I was doing the record covers and art work. So that’s how I got into illustrations.”

Did it escalate from music to illustrations and turn into a passion from there?

“Yeah but I’ve always been interested in creating art in one form or another, be it abstract paintings or designing album covers. I’ve kind of focused on illustrations over the last two years. It’s been a natural progression really. It’s what I’ve been doing for years but I’m making more of an effort to build the website and get my work out there now.”

Daniel hopes that illustrating will be his main income one day. At the moment he is living a life of successful juggling acts between husband, father, prison worker and illustrator. He’s been working on a range of projects and entering competitions to get himself noticed.

“Recently I’ve been working on T-shirt designs for an online shop called Teezilla. It was a competition that I won actually. I entered some artwork and they used it and printed my designs on the T-shirts. I entered a book illustration competition as well, which was to design the cover for Brave New World, a novel by Aldous Huxley. On Twitter I do a doodle a day. Every day I will create an
image with pen and ink or watercolour and upload that onto Twitter.”

Where do you get your inspiration from?

“I get inspiration from all over, from other illustrators, books and music. I also read a lot of poetry, listen to all kinds of music from Nick Cave to Miles Davis. I try and keep the lines open to creativity.”

Daniel’s work is witty and engaging, taking from real-life scenarios to abstract nature scenes.

“A lot of my inspiration comes from stuff my kids say and what my kids create. They’re the best artists in the world, my two kids. Joe’s ten and Rose is three. The freedom that kids can draw with still amazes me. I learn from their work more than anything else.”

Daniel loves to watch his children draw but being typical kids, they get embarrassed and tell him to go away. His wife Bea, is a photographer and entrepreneur, with her own cupcake business, ‘Rose & Kind.’ Daniel takes inspiration from his wife and from his job, and things he sees and hears in the prison also inspires him.

It’s quite a contrast really, working in a prison and being an illustrator. How do you combine the two successfully and juggle all this with your two kids?

“I’ll tell you exactly how I juggle it. I get up very early before the kids even wake up and do a couple of hours work before I start work. On the weekend it’s the same; I’ll get up very early or pinch a couple of hours in the afternoon. When I get home from work, my wife often goes nuts because I’m very regimented. At 7.30pm, Rose goes to bed and I’ll work till 9pm, then chill out and watch a
bit of TV. I am quite regimented and disciplined I suppose because I have to be. The majority of my time, 35 hours a week I’m in a prison so out of that time I want to enjoy this kind of work, the work I want to be doing. From the minute I wake up to when I go to bed, I’m trying to sneak time in to do this.”

Daniel relies on word of mouth, which means that he is eager for people who like his work to get in touch.

“I’ve designed artwork for Blackburn band Fifth House, I designed the album and I was involved with the music side of it too, so that was an interesting project really because I was involved in the
creation of the songs and then to move that onto a visual was a really interesting process. I’ve also got my work at Saatchi art gallery online, so that generates a bit of interest. It’s about doing anything to try and get my stuff out there you know.”

How would you describe your artistic style?

“Oh, that’s a tough one. It’s simple and personal illustrations. What I enjoy doing is literally using pens, little ink rotary pens, watercolour and little letter stamps for the words. They’re very homemade, organic illustrations. I mean ‘organic’ sounds a bit weird but it’s all done in my little back room at my little desk. I do use Photoshop but it’s literally just to frame stuff. I tend to shy away from Photoshop and amending my illustrations, purely because I don’t want it to be too computerised. Using simple tools, that’s what I try and keep the core about.”

Speaking of simple tools, what gave you the idea to create the hoover wrap images?

“Well I was a bit short on cash you see, I as too skint to buy a canvas. I literally painted it on the brown paper that my hoover was wrapped in but it seems to have worked.”

These watercolour paintings aim to illustrate various scenes at the time of changing light with a northern backdrop creating an eerie atmosphere and a sense of things about to happen. I witnessed these images on morning runs. They are called the hoover wrap series as they are painted on brown paper that my hoover was wrapped in.