Online Interview with Owen Davey

Throughout the Illustration: Connections module we needed to contact an illustrator through an online interview, email correspondence etc. Owen Davey is an award winning illustrator based in the UK, for which he is known for his characters, such as lord of the Hafflings and illustrating children’s books. He was absolutely lovely to talk to and his responses to the questions were quite interesting. I contacted illustrator Owen Davey at the beginning of February and scheduled an online teams interview on the 18th of February. And despite the connection and recording issues, we managed to have an interesting conversation. I can’t thank him enough for scheduling time, so I could interview him. It was incredibly interesting to hear his experiences, through being a freelance illustrator and the different projects he has worked on. Below are sections of the online interview, of course I just put the questions and his answers. I hope you find it interesting to read. Here is the link to his illustration website: Owen Davey Illustration

Owen Davey, A safari inspired notebook image created for Djeco

Me: So Why did you become an illustrator? Who inspired you?

Owen: “So the why is literally because I like drawing, that’s all I have ever really done. Its just, yeah it was always the thing I enjoyed doing, whenever I had a bit of downtime I just draw and so I was like how can I turn this into a job. So that’s all it was really and kind of deviated from that. In terms of inspiration, it’s just loads and loads of things. When I was a really little kid I used to love getting a computer games magazines and copying characters out of that. As I kind of got older, I got exposed to more and more different people and different things. And, if you have a little look through my Instagram, the people I follow that’s often a good place. Then there’s people like Charley Harper and Dahlov Ipcar, good luck spelling that one.”

Charley Harper, Artic world, The – poster

Me: I just got Charley Harper

Owen: “Dahlov Ipcar’s stuff is really cool, its there There’s bunch of people to be honest, I’ll send you a little list if you like. Of some of the people that inspire me. I’ll make a note of that.”

Dahlov Ipcar, Caribou and wolves

Me: What is your favourite piece of work?

Owen: “What of my own work, or some one else.”

Me: Yeah your own work

Owen: “its usually the most recent thing I have done and then overtime I grow to hate it. Not hate it, but grow to like it less. The about books I have done with flying eye books, there like these non- fiction books about animals, each one is each kind of type of animal. I have just finished doing my seventh one of those, which haven’t been released. But each one of those, I kind of ones I’m very proud of. Yeah the obsessive with octopuses, which is the most recent one I’ve done, which I guess. I don’t know it changes every day. Sorry it is really a rubbish answer.”

Me: It’s fine

Me: How do you overcome a creative block? So I am at university at the moment and it Is kind of hard to come up with new ideas.

Owen: “I found uni quite hard in some ways aswell, because you set your own briefs. But when you start becoming a professional illustrator your getting briefs from other people. So that side is removed from you, which is quite useful. Because when I am just working on my own stuff, it can get quite … I do struggle as well. So usually I just go to the brief for my inspiration. I do get creative blocks. But then basically I usually have a few different projects on at once. So if one of them I am feeling creatively blocked, I’ll try to move on to one of the other ones. If I’m having a day when I’m crap at drawing. I’ll try and do some research instead or there’s all that kind of stuff with running a business as well. I just got to make sure I keep doing stuff basically and yeah sometimes I just need to take a break. That’s all it is. Usually I try a different angle or try something different.”

Me: How do you keep track of your work that it gets done on time?

Owen: “I have a little. I keep it quite simple actually, I know people that do it really organised. I basically just have a little word document that I always have open, whenever I turn on the computer. I turn that on and it has the name of the project, when the drafts are due, the finals are due and just make sure I am keeping on track of that. That’s it really. I know there are some people that do like, they assign specific times to different things, I like to keep it more organic than that. Because sometimes I feel like working on some things, sometimes I don’t.”

Me: What do you think are your greatest weaknesses in illustration? or strengths ?

Owen “So I struggle with hands. Hands are really hard to draw. Not make them sausagy”

Me: I’m glad I’m not the only one

Owen “I think hands are really hard. Feet are difficult as well. Both are tough. So I keep finding ways. I don’t know I’m getting better with hands. I keep working at hands, just to try and get better at them. Strengths I think are colour, people seem to like my colour and use of shape so. I think I am quite good with designing, like designing how something looks. I’ve got a c**p line, actually, my line is awful. It’s not awful, its too confident, which is really annoying because like unconfident lines are interesting and confident lines are. I don’t know other people’s line are better than mine, I don’t like my line. So I try to stay clear of that. But I think I can design a character quite well. I can look for shapes within it and find something more interesting than straight drawing it. That might be one of my strengths.”

Me: What is the weirdest briefs that have ever been set?

Owen “Yeah I have to draw strange things quite regularly that’s one of the things I love about the job. It means that I’m constantly having to research stuff that I’ve never heard about before. Im actually struggling with an answer for this one. I’m just looking through my through my years of work. I am trying to think of something that grabs me. I mean Usually the weirdest things are more like, its usually about how the work is being used that’s kind of weird. I designed an umbrella, which is quite a weird one. That was really fun”

Owen: ” One of my least favourite things I had to do, and is quite weird and annoying. So because I do books which are then published in different countries. These about animal books that I do. One of them, got published in, the first one, the monkey one got published in France and they decided to change the cover themselves. Using my artwork, but didn’t show it to me at all. Just printed it how they wanted it. And I hated it. And I do hate it and I’ve told them I hate it. But the problem is they wanted other books from me as well. And they want them to be in keeping with the first book they printed of mine. So I’ve had to do versions of my covers like their style, which I hate. Which, that’s quite a weird one. That sucks. They pay me for it but I hate doing it because I don’t like the way they approached it. So it’s a bit soul destroying every time I do it.”

Me: Apart from that what would you consider your favourite books you have illustrated ? Apart from the French one

Owen: “The about books are definitely are kind of up there and I also did a pop up book called Prehistomania. It’s a French book but its like a pop up one, insane amount of work because I had to do the front and back of each one of these things. Each page has loads of different pop up bits on it. Also because it was non – fiction, I had to do so much research as well, I didn’t actually write it, but I still had to look up what everything looked like. Things. But I was really proud of the result. People seem to really like it.”

Owen Davey, Prehistomania

Me: How do you see yourself in five years’ time?

Owen “I don’t. I hope I exist still. Yeah it’s something I’ve never done. A lot of people do it. I don’t bother thinking that far ahead because I don’t think you can plan life. So unexpected to be a f***ing pandemic. Which has messed all our lives up. That’s the kind of prime example. I just go with the flow. I like drawing, as long as I can keep drawing that’s my plan. To still be an illustrator in five years. It’s my plan for also 50 years.”

Me: How do you know when the project is finished.

Owen: “When the client pays me. No I mean working with clients you do, you have them as a fall back for them saying it’s done. But creating the imagery I just keep fiddling until when I make little edits, it makes it worse. That’s kind of my point. Usually it creeps up on me. Oh I have a little bit of work left to do on it. Then I’ll do something ‘oh right yeah it’s done. Then I will send it to a client, we usually have a little bit of feedback that often picks up on things I might not have spotted or something because you get too close to your work when your doing it. So clients are quite useful in that respect. But they can also really f**k it up if they have a different aesthetic thought pattern to you then sometimes they can just, they can make it a direction, you really don’t want it to go. Which is not so fun. But most of them make it better. ” 

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