The downtown apparel shop and gallery Blonde Grizzly has helped out a lot of local artists, but the shop has also branched out into the national scene since their first event last year. --- It's not only bringing in unique artists to display works on the walls and various T-shirt designs, but the shop has now included illustrated books and manuscripts from up-and-coming names around the country.
The most prominent work currently being showcased is that of Dave Correia. The California-based illustrator and co-owner of ZeroFriends has been a fixture of the West Coast art scene for years, both with his intricate designs and series of art books like the two-part Play With Knives. But his work has reached a national audience in recent years with his jittery creatures and b&w art finding their way into promotions and commercials. I got a chance to chat with Correia about his career and work, thoughts on other artists and finding national success.
Gavin: Hey, Dave. First thing, tell us a little bit about yourself.
Dave: I’m a 33-year-old freelance artist living in the San Francisco Bay area. I also co-own ZeroFriends, a clothing and print company based in Oakland, California.
Gavin: How did you first take an interest into art and what were some of your early inspirations?
Dave: I’ve been into art for as long as I can remember. I have vivid memories of being in third grade and drawing in class when I should have been doing other work. When I was in seventh grade, I got in trouble for drawing violent images on the back of my English papers. My earliest inspirations, the ones that got me motivated to actually pick up a pencil and draw, must have been comics and video games, probably when I was in second grade. I loved Calvin & Hobbes. I used to draw the scenes when he pretended he was a dinosaur or I’d draw him as Spaceman Spiff. I’d also draw the characters in my favorite video games, like Link from Zelda fighting monsters, or Mario punching turtles.
Gavin: You received your degree in computer animation from Cogswell Polytechnical College in Sunnyvale, Calif. What made you choose CPC and what was its program like for you?
Dave: When I got out of high-school, I knew I wanted to pursue art on some level, I just wasn’t sure exactly what I wanted to do. Computer animation seemed like a newer, more lucrative path to travel down. I went to Cogswell because it was the most affordable and had smaller classes, compared to some of the other schools that were offering similar degrees. It was an OK program. The degree was relatively new, so the classes were kinda all over the place. However, there were a couple of teachers who were absolutely amazing. They definitely helped nourish my style and work ethic.
Gavin: Considering the degree you earned, what drew you more toward illustration rather than 3D work?
Dave: While I was taking mostly computer classes at that school, I was always sneaking in a painting class or figure-drawing class every semester. Toward the end of my college career, I was definitely enjoying illustration more. All along, I felt that I could work more fluently in illustration -- it was much easier for me to get an idea or feeling out with pen and paper, rather than on a computer. Illustration has always felt more natural.
Gavin: You originally started your art career in California. What was it like for you breaking into that art scene?
Dave: Hard ... fun ... tedious? When I got out of college, I met up with Alex Pardee, who was just starting to exhibit at small comic-shows in the SF Bay Area. We had similar interests in how we wanted to pursue our work, so we just kind of started showing together. He really took me under his wing and introduced me to other artists who were all trying to promote their own work. A small group of us quickly became close friends because we were always pushing each other to do more work. If a comic show or gallery show came up, we’d make sure that we were all a part of it -- in fact, we still do.
Gavin: What influenced you to do more comic-book creations and eventually start making books.
Dave: Definitely the group of guys I met while exhibiting at comic-shows. Alex Pardee, Rob Bowen and Jon Wayshak are all directly responsible for pushing me to make books and hustle my art. It was expected from each of us to have new books and new illustrations/paintings for each comic show we exhibited at.
Gavin: When did the first Play With Knives book come about, and where did you get all the short stories and material to go with your illustrations?
Dave: I think the first PWK book came out in 2003 or 2004? It was more of an experiment than anything else. It was a mixture of drawings, paintings, poems and short stories. I think most of the stories and poems started off as jokes or doodles. I just wanted to have a collection of random drawings and other nonsense that I could take to shows and sell or hand out.
Gavin: What pushed you toward more freelance work rather than finding a company to join up with?
Dave: I worked for a couple of design companies before I got any well-paying freelance gigs. The companies were lame. I was doing boring design for boring clients. Everything I was doing just looked like average design. It didn’t have style to it. Good freelance work is so much more rewarding. It feels great to have someone seek you out based on your own style.
Gavin: Your work has shown up in several ads and Websites, and you've even had a few commercials. What is it like for you to see your work showcased on a national level?
Dave: The first time I saw my stuff commercially was when I went to see Transformers in theatres. Before the previews started, they showed a Scion commercial that had a bunch of my characters running around ripping up cars. It felt a little weird to see it on such a large scale. I’m always super critical about my stuff after I see it over and over again. I’ll think to myself, “Why didn’t I move the arm just a little bit to the left”? But it’s definitely very rewarding.
Gavin: What's the process like for you in creating a new piece, from concept to final product?
Dave: I always start off with a few thumbnail sketches on paper with pencil, usually 5-8 sketches no more than a couple inches tall. I also write down a bunch of ideas, too; I’ll note shapes and colors I want to incorporate or possible techniques I want to try. When I finally decide on a composition I like, I’ll redraw it larger and with much more detail. Then I’ll scan the drawing into my computer, maybe add some more detail, size it up to the substrate I’ll be working on and print it out on transfer paper. I prepare a wood panel with a couple of layers of gesso, then tone it a neutral color at about 50% value. Once the image is transferred, I begin painting. My process is pretty traditional. I start off with the darkest values, then mid-tones and lights. I work with acrylics, so sometimes I glaze in other colors and re-do some of the mids and lights. But that’s pretty much it. I guess I spend about a week or so on an average painting.
Gavin: Considering the detail involved with some of your art, do you find yourself going back and making changes and additions or do you tend to stick with the idea you started with?
Dave: I’ve never gone back on a drawing and added anything. Most of the detail is pretty spontaneous. I’ll work on the detail toward the end of the piece, and once it’s done, I’m over it.
Gavin: Your work has recently been featured at Blonde Grizzly here in SLC, both on the walls and in print. How did you come across the shop and how has it been for you featuring your work there?
Dave: I met the owners of Blonde Grizzly a few years ago through some mutual friends, and they’ve been very supportive of my work. They have an amazing gallery and do a great job of selling my pieces.
Gavin: You're still publishing books of your work, the last being Art Book #4 in 2010. What have you got planned for your next book, and have you given any thought to creating a full comic-book series?
Dave: I actually printed a few hundred copies of Art Book #5 this summer and sold them all. Art Book #5 was compiled from scans from my sketch book, but I really like that kind of stuff. I feel my pencil work is my most loose, uncontrolled work. It’s fun to make those books. I don't think I have the attention span to make a comic-book series. I have a few ideas for stories, but I almost want to hold on to them for something more along the lines of a stop-motion animation, or some sort of short film.
Gavin: You've also started selling prints via your Website, both b&w and color. What kind of works have you got on the way that will be available for purchase soon?
Dave: I’m always making new pieces. Not all will become prints, but every couple of months I’ll put one on the site. I did a bunch of work for In Flames a few months ago, and we’re working to make some of those pieces prints soon, too.
Gavin: What can we expect from you over the rest of this year and going into next?
Dave: I have my first solo show later next year! I just prepared dozens of panels to paint on and I’ve already got one painting done. I’m really excited about it, and want to spend most of my time over the next year working on images for my show. I won’t be sharing any of the images until the show in August 2012, so please be patient. But they’re larger, more colorful, and more detailed than any of my older stuff.
Gavin: Asidefrom the obvious, is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
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