My name is Daniel (m) Davis, and I discover unusual creatures, and tell their stories. I've worked as a rock picker, farm hand, bagel baker, paint mixer, tile sculptor, t-shirt artist, and web designer.I've considered myself an "artist" my whole life, though I didn't quite figure out WHAT to do, until a couple of years ago, when I formed Steam Crow Press. Now I make creatures that want to be your friends.
What is Steam Crow Press and how was it formed? Steam Crow Press is our little factory, dedicated to creating stories about our imaginary "Caught Creatures" characters.My wife Dawna and I created it after attending the San Diego Comic-Con in 2004. I was just at a point in my life where I was completely ready for a new challenge, and it made perfect sense from where I was standing. We ran home, and I worked night and day to get my first book done in like 2 months. It was almost a religious experience, where I went "Why didn't I start doing this 10 years ago?!!!" It was sort of like licking an electric fence.
What are "Caught Creatures" and "KlawBerry" all about? Caught Creatures is a Monster-Haiku book, about the world's greatest monster hunter, Dr. Duke Davis. He captures monsters and writes Haiku about each one. KlawBerry is an original folktale, about a little monster-girl who gets her eye stolen, and her quest to get it back. It's inspired by Grimm fairy tales, vintage advertising, and Kawaii character design. "Good Girl, Bad World" if you want to distill the concept to it's simplest form."Caught Creatures" is also what we call all of our monster creations. So, KlawBerry is technically a "Caught Creature", though she's not in the book "Caught Creatures".
KlawBerry Plushie - how did you go about getting it made as a plushie? Well, it was sort of accidental. While I'm always on the lookout for product ideas, I wasn't exactly going for a plush to start out with. I was hoping to make a vinyl toy, but it wasn't really finding the manufacturers. Meanwhile, I designed some mascots for my day job, and the company that I worked for utilized a local ad-spec company to have the mascots turned into toys. The results were fantastic, so I pursued them to have my own toy made. The reality of the situation is that I'm dealing with at least 2 middle-men, so it isn't magical or anything. I just got the toys that I wanted, even if they aren't vinyl.
Were you scared of Monsters when you were a wee little one? Sure. I was raised as an only child, and I saw monsters lurking in the shadows and behind the pine trees. As I grew up, I pretty much stayed a kid, and tried to never forget the images of my youth. I try to tap in to that odd little inner-boy. Now, I just ask my son a lot of questions, as he believes in creatures too!
Do Monsters live in your closet? My closets are filled with way too many toys to have room for creatures of that sort. Duke Davis, the World's Greatest Monsterologist, tells me that a band of busk-beasts follows me everywhere I go, but I don't really believe him. That ole Duke, he says lots of weird stuff. He once told me to put honey in my eyes, and I'll "see da beasts!" See what I mean?
What is your favorite Monster you have made? Oh geeze, I don't know. I'm really not all that taken by my own work. I guess that I'm currently most proud of my "Morrow Thatch" painting. He's the real Steam Crow that we took our company name from. I was just trying to do a Scooby Doo® style painting. (Image is right on the homepage of Steamcrow.com right now)
What is your favorite monster from the movies? Why? Hum... I love Gojira, we've been watching tons of those old movies around the house. Gojira is my son's favorite. Growing up, I loved Dracula a ton, as well as Frankenstein. The Creature from the Black Lagoon is another one that I dig. I don't think that my interest in those classic characters has faded a bit since I first discovered them on Creature Feature, back in the 70's. I don't really know why. It's not like I watch Frankenstein all the time or anything.
Do you promote your work often? Oh yeah, I'm as tireless a promoter as I have time for. I certainly do what I can. This year, we did 6 or 7 conventions, though I'd really like to do more. The real trick is to balance creating with promoting. I haven't figured that out totally, but I'm realizing that spring and summer is the promotional season, and I don't really create at all. Then, I slam it hard in the fall, and get a new book done. Then in the winter, I prep for the promo season once again. I wish that I could work on my stories all the time, though I do think about them throughout the year.
Has it paid off? I guess that's a relative question. Sure, I've met hundreds or maybe even thousands of people, and shown them my work. I get thousands of people trumping through my websites every week. I'm getting exposure, but there's always more that needs to be done. I don't really focus on how well we're doing... just how much more there is that needs to get done. I hear we're big in Idaho, but...
How many monsters do you make in a week? Well, if I'm working at it, I can make a quality monster or two in a single sitting. But during Con season, I'm doing lots of other stuff, like taxes, designing products, filling out paperwork, updating the websites, adding product to magicskull.com... all that kind of stuff. I could get a LOT more done if I lived in a tree I think.
Give us some advice on promoting our work and getting on the road to stardom! 1. Share your work all over the web. Flickr. Myspace. Your own website. Your blog. Update regularly to build an audience. 2. Promote in person, too. Your personality is more powerful than pixels. Talk about your passion.3. Know that your success probably depends upon your skills of art AND promotion. If you want to be a commercial success, you must promote! If you don't care about commercial success, then just do your thing. 4. Give away something for free. I've given away a valentine, desktop images, articles, and even KlawBerry stencil art. People dig free stuff.5. Get involved locally. If you ignore your locale, you've lost an opportunity that doesn't really exist anywhere else. Otherwise, you're just an artist from Earth, rather than a specific place.
I write a bit about succeeding as an indie artist, over at Steamcrow.
Explain what http://www.agyris.net/ is about? Agyris is a fantasy role playing world that I made up in the late 1980's, and I developed for a number of years. It goes back to my love of story, mythology, and creating imagined stuff. I love making up places and stories beasts, and Agyris was my primary way to do that for 20 years. I'm pretty sure that I reserved a piece of my mind during that time to Agyris creation. Now, it's on hiatus, as I make stories and creatures AND illustrate them with Steam Crow. For some reason, I don't have the energy to do Agyris and Steam Crow at the same time. It must use the same brain piece or something. Agyris is actually my most popular site, even though I've not touched it for years. I'll go back there someday.
Have you always been into monsters or is this a new thing? Always. My earliest memories are of monster movies, and trying to imagine what creatures were hiding behind those pine trees over there. That said, I've never really been into gore-fest horror. Just more friendly creatures. Like Count Chocula. I like the idea of monsters with complex emotions... creatures that are sad, angry or frustrated or whatever... those are the most interesting to me. If you look at Caught Creatures, it was my attempt to document a whole range of monster emotion. I can pretty much guarantee you that my next 15 books are going to be about creatures and monsters of some sort.
What do you use to make your illustrations? I open up venerable Freehand MX, and use the mouse and pen tool to draw right in the computer. I used to draw by hand, scan it in, and then spend hours tracing and cleaning up my vectors. Now, I just think in vectors, and do it as efficiently as possible. It's nice and fast, which is necessary for me with my day job and all. If I could "think" them into existence, I would. Right now I'm trying to get hyped up to make the move to Illustrator, but it sort of kills me. It'll be much better for the long run, but right now, the transition kills my productivity. It's SO frustrating. But, it's gonna happen. It's gonna happen.
How do you get rid of creative blocks? Hum, I don't want to sound smug, but I don't really have them. Not with creating illustrations, at least. I do get stuck with my stories sometimes. I just go to my wife, and talk through the challenge with her. Or, I go out and take a swim to clear my mind. Mostly, I have time blocks, not creative ones.
What do you like to do when you are not promoting or illustrating? I love to play with my boy. We hunt goblins, wrestle, and sword fight quite a bit. I like to talk to my wife, and watch movies together. I read books, comic and others. I used to play guitar and bass, and write songs, but that had to go to the wayside. I love computer games, but I don't really have time for those either. I collect kid's books, and art books. I like to tell stories, in person, about my odd life. Basically, I fill every bit of free time with Steam Crow, as that IS what I like to do.
What has been the most important thing you have learned when it comes to the illustration/comic industry? You've got to really LOVE the business side of things as much as you love the art bit. I mean, I spend about 14% of my time actually creating stuff. The rest is promotion, designing products, answering email, posting my art... junk like that. While I'd much rather be creating all of the time, I know that the only way that I'm ever going to do it full time is to embrace the rest of this stuff... or it'll never get done.
Where do you get your inspiration? Inspiration is everywhere. I just look around a lot. I love vintage advertising design. I dig going to the Japanese market, and strolling through the aisles looking at brands and labels that I've never seen before. I frikkin' love looking at other illustrator's work. I'm an Internet fiend, so I eat that up as much as possible, looking at art. Inspiration is just a hunger, really. Like Twisted Sister says, "Stay Hungry."
What do you think of Monday Artday? I think that it's a great way to get your work seen by others. I wish that I had more time to participate in stuff like this, but I'm busy enough just tending to these pesky sideburns. Thank you for taking the time for this interview. Now, onto sleep.
Everyone please go to his site and thank him for such a great interview!