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Illustrator Highlight: Dave Coleman

I don’t think I’ve ever met an Australian I didn’t like and Dave Coleman is no exception. I’ve been following his work as a fan for years back when I was also a lettering illustrator. Since starting Closer&Closer he was one of the first artists to come aboard. Since then he has made quantum leaps as an illustrator, animator and lettering artist. Over the years he has work on projects for clients such as Dolby, New York Magazine, The City of Sydney, WestConnex, Nike, Amway, Lollapalooza and many others.

Over the last year we have watched Dave go from just creating lettering illustrations to designing character illustrations and cel animations! He’s one of the most curious minds I’ve ever encountered and easily handles whatever gets thrown at him. We can’t even begin to imagine just what he’ll be up to a year from now. Let alone 5! Dave is currently based out of Sydney, Australia, with my lovely wife Laura and two wonderful kids, Isla and Felix. Read on to learn all about this fascinating man.

Tell us a little about yourself and your work.
I just turned 30. I have a wife and two kids, with whom I love to travel and spend quality time. I enjoy coffee and experimenting with brewing methods and recipes. I love relaxing with a beer/wine/whiskey at the end of the day, and would like to learn more about how these drinks are made. I recently read a book about philosophy, so now I have a growing interest in philosophy. I have a sweet tooth that'll be the death of me if I'm not careful. I am grateful to earn a living doing what makes me happy—and I'm always open to my definition of happiness changing, as I believe it evolves over time. I am an illustrator, lettering artist, type designer, and aspiring animator.

Describe a typical work day for you.
To be honest I don't have a typical work day at the moment—it keeps changing as we travel to new places! I will describe an 'optimal' work day.

– Wake early, usually between 5:30–6:30am (the better routine I'm in, the earlier I'm up)

– Depending on my situation/location, I will go to a cafe (I like to find the ones that open at 6am) to start my day. Sometimes I get the opportunity to make use of a co-working space, though even then I'll usually start in a cafe for a couple of hours beforehand. I like the coffee (of course), the slowly increasing bustle as the world wakes up, the hum formed by the coffee grinders, steaming milk, and chatter of voices.

– I tend to follow up on any urgent admin tasks first; Slack messages, emails, DMs, etc, so they're not hanging over my head during the day.

– I can't manage any more than two, maaaybe three different projects on any one day. I tend to divide up the day according to what feels right, based on a combination of deadline, flow of creative juices, client rapport, and complexity of tasks. I work best in the morning, hit a slump around 3pm, then either perk up or totally crash at 5:30–6pm.

– As I near the end of the day, I make an assessment of what I got done, and what needs to happen for me to feel good and finished for the day.

– Then I go home to my family, hang with the kids, survive the mad rush of kid's dinner/bath/bed, and then relax and enjoy the quiet with Laura over dinner and a TV show. Life is good.

Which part of the creative process do you enjoy most?
That point in the exploratory / rough sketch phase, where you see something emerging that you know is going to work, and you're in sync with the client, and you get to take that rough sketch and turn it into what you see in your head. This is so rewarding—especially when it actually turns out like you'd hoped.

Was there a striking moment in your life where you knew you had to become a designer/Illustrator?
No, not really. I feel most of my development in these visual, creative areas has been very gradual, over the course of many years.

What mediums do you enjoy working with most?
It's with surprisingly little shame that I say: my ipad. Never has a medium afforded me so much flexibility. The power of this approach is that it is sculptural. I can add and subtract value from my lines (whether drawing characters or letters or anything) without having to manage layers of tracing paper and messy erasers. Not to mention hitting copy in Procreate and paste in a client presentation. I love working this way both from creativity and efficiency standpoints.

Putting aside the ipad, my next favourite medium is definitely a Posca pen. These suit my style, can be applied to almost any surface, and I enjoy the way a bullet or chisel tip translates much more directly than brushes. And the colours are fantastic.

If you had unlimited resources, what would your dream project look like?
A children's variety show. This would incorporate all the stuff I love: animation, drawing, being silly, playing characters, making kids laugh, collaborating with artists and actors, making up stories, writing music and sound effects, and all sorts of other things. It would guest star celebrities too, like Steve Carell, Amy Poehler and James Acaster. 

Outside of your work, what other hobbies do you enjoy?
A fair bit of anxiety has plagued me as a direct result of this very question haha. I have to work at not defining myself solely through my creative endeavours. Having a family has definitely helped show me that there's more to life than drawing pictures of bendy frogs and moving BCP's about. I genuinely love playing with my kids, and work fades away when I am crawling around furniture with Felix, or dancing with Isla.

Apart from this I think I mentioned most of my hobbies in the first question. There aren't many, but I'm happy with what I've got. Oh, I also like ten pin bowling!

What is your favorite show you’re watching right now?
Watching the Mindy Project and really enjoying it.

What was the last book you read that you really enjoyed?
A Little History of Philosophy, by Nigel Warburton. Fascinating read, and totally whet my appetite for learning about philosophers and philosophy in general.

What is a common creative block for you and how do you get unstuck?
I think fatigue usually plugs me up. And my mental/emotional state. Looking after myself (my whole self) is usually vital in keeping sharp for work. I am trying to eat more healthily, and I am curious to know how using the Headspace app might benefit me. I've heard good things from friends that are using it.

Outside of design, what do you do that inspires your creative pursuit?
I think everything I do that isn't my day job inspires me. I put myself into my work, so anything that goes into me inevitably comes out in my work—for better or worse.

Are you an early bird or a night owl?
Defs an early bird. I'm useless at night.

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