London illustrator Daniel David Freeman has an enviable list of clients, from Adidas to Vice to XL Recordings; we spoke to him about advice for upcoming creatives, global influences and how to keep exciting projects under wraps...
Hi Daniel, how're you finding the year? What've been your highlights so far?
Yeah, it's been ok - spent a lot of time trying to teach myself to draw properly. Been sat in the Grant Museum a lot, making friends with old dead animals. Also just got back from Morocco, which was pretty, pretty pretty good, all the souks or little shops in the old medina part of town sell all kinds of really great stuff. I’ve recently been spending all my money on ‘stuff’ and this is a great place to go if you like 'stuff'. Hard to know if it's all legit, but there's at least ten of these places that sell museum quality African antiques. Also got to walk around a mountain for a few hours, that was pretty great, felt a bit like Rambo.
Could you give a brief background into your career?
I work mainly across illustration. but also have done a lot of graphic design work in the past and recently started animating. I try and balance the occasional corporate jobs by aiming to do solo exhibitions of my more ‘fine art’ works whenever I have time.
How do you find London as a city to work in?
Generally, most of my friends work somewhere in the creative industry so for that reason it's handy; but that said, it can be difficult to work with friends when things go wrong, so it's kind of a double-edged sword. With something like gentrification, it's hard to say - I generally don't go to the places that people see as responsible for gentrification and I much prefer places with slightly naff interiors, so don’t get that involved with places that serve food on plate-alternatives. However I get a daily reminder it's happening - they’ve been building a hotel for the past year next door and it has woken me up every single morning. It's been very hard to drown out.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a field like illustration full time?
I dunno really. Maybe don’t? Become a rapper, probably easier... Make sure you don’t just draw, or at least you don’t have just one way of making work. If you have the time, teach yourself how to use Photoshop etc. as best you can early on. Product - try and think of ways you can make money from your drawing without having to work for other people, always have stock of t-shirts or prints that you can sell, they come in handy for swapping and paying off debts. You have to stick at it I suppose, it's a cliché to say but everyone has ups and downs, so just got to keep yourself occupied - always have bigger ongoing projects in the back of your head so you always have something to do.
How do you apply your abilities to such a variety of projects while retaining your own style?
I think it's just as simple as making sure I like everything I do. I think, in moderation, being proud of the work you’ve produced is important.
How do you think your style has progressed over time? How do you challenge yourself?
As far as my drawing, I have spent hours drawing from life recently to train myself. It has made a big difference to how I approach drawing now, I’ve learnt to be free-er with it. I don’t like to take the easy option, unless someone asks for something specific. If you stay in your comfort zone too long then it's hard to get out.
Some influences on your work appear to be punk and rave culture, what do you think influences - in art or not - your work?
Aesthetically, and for obvious reasons, those things are probably what come across the most, but I wouldn’t say they are my main influences. I always look to really cheesy and really amateur fan art for inspiration when drawing, I watch a lot of manga films and of course comic books. I’m not really a massive comic book fan but there are a handful of artists I follow, not in an internet sense but as in I buy their books. However, I’m finding more and more that my real interest is in folk, tribal and religious art from parts of Africa, Asia and South America. I spend a lot of time in museums and on eBay trying to find masks, statues, figurines, paintings, prints, and just lots of old ‘stuff’ as I said before. It's a large bracket I know and I’m sure there is a better name for it, but perhaps let's just say I really like old foreign stuff. And Herzog, I love Werner Herzog with all my heart.
Have you much lined up for this year, exhibitions, collaborations etc?
I'm aiming to do an exhibition towards the end of the year and there's other stuff going on, but I don’t want to jinx anything. I've learnt to not tell anyone about things you're working on until its either finished or 99% finished.