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Artist Success Story: David Leutert

We caught up with David Leutert, an artist on the C&C roster, to explore how he's seen such success in his short time as a freelancer. What he shared with us was pretty amazing and goes all the way back to his childhood.

"I was born and raised in Nurnberg, Germany, which is this beautiful medieval city down south in the state of Bavaria. I have always loved to draw, and I [had] a very supportive, nurturing kind of household. I luckily was encouraged to pursue that talent. I didn't quite know what to do with it, but I was never made to feel bad about it."

Growing up in that nurturing home, Dave began to draw the things he loved and was surrounded by daily.

"Landscapes, birds, and flowers, pretty much the same thing I draw today, definitely not cars or anything sports-related. I think I started out just copying a lot of stuff, like most people do. Like, whenever you pick up a guitar, you don't start writing your own songs. You practice other people's songs. So, [when I] started to draw, I would copy my favorite comic books and try to see if I could replicate that style and figure out how they draw noses, eyes, and stuff. I used to be obsessed with skateboard graphics, comic books, DIY punk posters, album covers, "low-brow" art, and definitely Saturday morning cartoons, lots of Nickelodeon and stuff." 

As Dave's love for drawing grew, so did his passion for creating a life around it.

"I think when I realized that there were people who got paid to create the things I love, that's when my mind was set. [I didn't know the] name for it then, but I definitely wanted to become an illustrator. But [I went with] graphic design. It just felt like a safer career path.

When I was 18, I started out as a design apprentice at an ad agency, where I learned that I didn't really want to work at an ad agency."

After the experience of self-discovery working at an ad agency, Dave honed in on what it was he really wanted to do.

"When I moved to New York, I was 28, I think. And [I was in] grad school, right? So at that point, everyone in my class knew what they wanted. They all wanted to be illustrators, there was no dilly-dallying around. We weren't in our early twenties anymore. I really wanted to learn, and I'm glad I had all of those experiences prior because it allowed me to approach this illustration thing with more experience."

After graduating from the School of Visual Arts, Dave jumped right into his full-time career.

"I went freelance full-time in 2017 or 18, right after I'd graduated from SVA. So I've only really been doing it for four to five years. And that first year, I worked for various agencies and companies around the city, like Doubleday & Cartwright, Colossal Media, and MTV. Then in 2018, Drew (Founder of Closer&Closer) reached out to me and asked if I wanted to join the agency."

Once Dave joined C&C, he immediately jumped in to one of the biggest projects of his career.

"At the time they were working on a large campaign for Lollapalooza. It ended up being such a cool project. I think we, I don't want to make up any numbers, but [I think we created] like 120 or something illustrations over the course of a couple of weeks."

Since he's been with Closer&Closer, Dave's had the opportunity to work with global clients and excel in his career.

"Before the pandemic, I [wanted] to do more branding and packaging work, and I finally have! I don't even know how because I didn't create a portfolio for it specifically. It just kind of all fell into place. So over the past two years or so, my work has landed on beer labels, soda cans, popcorn bags, billboards, and all kinds of stuff, like Pepsi! Whenever friends from New York sent me pictures of my illustrations on Pepsi bottles, it's like, is this real life?"

"Another major milestone this past year has been creating my own Domestika course, which is about visual storytelling by combining hand lettering and illustration. So students get to really learn my entire process from start to finish: how I do my research, how I create my mood boards, how I come up with all the words, and how I start with small little thumbnail sketches in my sketchbook—then digitizing them and working on the iPad. Creating an entire hand-lettered, sixties, seventies, hippie-dippy, kind of like psychedelic-inspired poster from scratch. It's been so fun because just by having to do it, I was forced to reflect upon my process, which was both difficult and really rewarding because suddenly, you know how to work. And it helped me with jobs, you know, after we wrapped up the course, every time I got a new assignment, I was like, oh, now I know how to really approach this the right way, you know?"

Dave shared all of this and much more, like how community also played into his success and more specific skills lead him to where he is today. You can check out Dave's full interview on this week's episode of The Closer&Closer Podcast.

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