This week, we profile the multi-talented Dave Kirwan, an illustrator, animator, designer and film buff. Dave talks about how he got to the point where people pay him to draw silly pictures and the changing industry.
DK: I am today what I have been for the past forty-nine years, a commercial illustrator. People pay me to draw pictures that tell a story.
My first professional gig began on my sixteenth birthday when I was asked to augment my main duties as a cut and paste keyliner on a small weekly shopper with original cartoons and illustrations. Later on I worked at television stations, printers, publishers, was even a partner in an prominent Twin Ports ad agency for eighteen years. Yet despite official job titles of graphic designer or creative director, I have always pursued my primary avocation… I’m the guy who draws little men with big noses. Print ads, animation, even a couple of stints at national syndicated cartooning, I’ve always had a pencil in hand ready to sketch out the next idea.
Ten years ago I struck out and opened my own studio. Although I knew very little about creative computer programs I decided to learn and then produce all my work digitally. A decade down the pike things seem to have worked out relatively okay. You might see my work occasionally on a local TV spot or website, but the vast majority of my commissions are from out of market. In recent years I’ve designed cartoon mascots for the federal government, illustrated corporate e-books, created novelty toys for a Hong Kong firm (zombie nesting dolls, anyone?), supplied caricature website banners, enlivened restaurant point-of-sale advertising and have worked on books and educational material for kids. Lots of books and educational material for kids!
As noted, everything I do these days, from my first thumbnail rough to the finished product is executed on a computer, primarily in programs like Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator using a stylus directly on a Cintiq tablet. Being in the commercial realm, I’ve had to adjust my styles with the times and/or project. Today, much of my children’s illustration reflects a mid-century cartoon-graphic inspiration as rendered with contemporary tools. I can still whip out a fast pen and ink doodle of this week’s celebrity, but these days I favor a flat, geometric caricature technique.
What else? Whenever possible I try to work in my own interests and manias; old movies, old animated cartoons, comic strips and comic books. I still keep a collection of over 700 vintage 16mm films, primarily shorts, comedies and cartoons. Paraphrasing a quote I like, all my life I’ve been keeping alive traditions that were dead years before I was born!
As to finding my stuff, first stop might be my doodle blog, Kirdoodle.
And here are some revolving portfolio sites:
Here’s that Duluth animation from a couple of years ago:
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