Anderson Design Group founder Joel Anderson is always on the lookout for talented artists who share his passion for classic 20th-Century-styled illustration. Recently, Joel invited digital painter David Owens to collaborate on a year-long project to create a new collection of artwork depicting National Parks and other iconic American travel destinations.
Joel raves about his new friend's work: "David's loose, painterly style instantly caught my eye. His classic use of color and composition reminded me of some masterful poster and magazine cover illustrations from the mid-to-late-20th-Century. From the first time I saw his art, I knew he would bring a fresh new interpretation to the iconic scenery that Anderson Design Group celebrates in our travel poster art. David's technique adds energy and movement, along with an adventurous feel to each of his paintings. His passion for art and the outdoors is evident in all of his work."
We thought it would be great for you to meet David Owens as we launch his collection. Below is an interview we did with him recently.
ADG: Tell us about your background. What led you into illustration?
David: In high school I was fortunate to have some really good teachers, including nationally renowned gouache painter Christopher Baker (his website here). He was probably my single biggest influence when it came to choosing to go to school for design. I spent most of my time drawing, fishing, or hiking.
Where did you go to school, and how did you get your start as a professional artist?
I attended Oswego State. It was close to home and has some of the nation’s best salmon and trout fishing just a few minutes away (in the way of the Oswego and Salmon Rivers). I would often hit the river after classes or on lunch break.
Initially I dabbled with a lot of art classes, including graphic design, painting, and even interior design. Eventually I received a BFA, with a concentration in illustration. Originally, I thought to go into advertising, but senior year of college I started freelancing and quickly decided I wanted to illustrate full-time. Within a few months of graduating I landed several editorial illustration projects at major publications and I’ve tried not to look back.
ADG: How did the collaboration with ADG founder Joel Anderson come about?
David: I first spoke with Joel in fall 2018. I really loved the work coming out of the Anderson Design Group's studio, and I was just getting into product licensing. At that time, I had a lot of questions, including questions about a specific licensing contract. Joel was kind enough to schedule a phone call to help me out. Two years later I circled back to Joel, and he liked my work enough to bring me on for a collection!
ADG: Who are some of your illustration heroes that have influenced your work?
David: I love all the golden age illustrators, like Norman Rockwell, Mead Schaeffer, and Tom Lovell. But I also like the work of the (often) lesser known magazine illustrators of the 60’s and 70’s, people like Joe Bowler, Bernie Fuchs, and Bob Peak. More recently I’ve been looking at the work of digital illustrators, mostly who work in the way of concept art.
Bernie Fuchs, painting for Eddie Bauer, oil 26"x26" c.1992
ADG: Why are you interested in creating poster art about American Cities and National Parks?
David: Two close friends of my family moved to New Mexico while I was in high school. They invited me and two other friends to visit them during our spring break. While there we went to Carlsbad and then drove to Arizona to hike the Grand Canyon. It was such an awesome experience for many reasons. Not least, it sparked an interest in landscape painting in me, and soon led to my discovery of the WPA National Park posters. The series I’m working on now is such a perfect blend of all my interests.
ADG: What is your process for choosing your subjects and compositions?
David: I primarily look for three things while developing a new composition: the scene must be an iconic representation of the overall location, vibrant colors, and a sense of atmosphere. I used to look a lot at the original WPA posters and consciously try to do something original. But lately I feel so comfortable working in my style that I find looking at the old posters can be more of a hindrance. My goal isn’t to recreate the WPA style, but rather to work within similar guidelines in order to capture the essence of what those artists were trying to do.
ADG: What is your process for rendering finished digital paintings?
David: I paint exclusively in Photoshop, using a Wacom tablet. I generally follow a traditional process: small thumbnail line sketches, a tight sketch of the selected composition, then a pass of the main colors on a layer underneath, and finally I create a copy of the under-layers and paint the final illustration on top.
ADG: Why did you decide to collaborate with ADG to create this new collection of art?
David: Most commercial projects are one-offs, with the occasional series. This collection is a unique opportunity to create a cohesive body of work, depicting subject matter that I’m passionate about. The team at ADG is also great, they’re putting out work that is going to define a generation of travel art, if it hasn’t already done so!
ADG: What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
David: Learn how to draw and learn what makes a good composition. I had the opportunity to teach a few college illustration classes about 4 years ago, and I notice that students want to jump straight into the programs. Unfortunately, students are usually more concerned with finding the right digital brush or customizing the controls of their Wacom tablet, than the elements and principles of design. You can’t fix a bad composition with technology.
ADG: What are your own goals as a professional artist?
David: I have a couple “dream clients” in mind, but I am mostly just thankful that I get to work on projects like this collection with ADG. I find it easy to get caught up with comparing myself to other illustrators. The irony of that trap is that illustration is such an interesting field because it is so individual. My goal is to simply keep pushing myself as an illustrator and pushing my style on any given project. I’ve illustrated a lot of fun projects over the years, but my favorite is always the next one!
Here are some of David's other works in the ongoing collaboration with Joel Anderson:
We hope you enjoyed meeting David and learning about our collaboration. Keep checking our site to see more of his work. We will continue adding 2-4 new pieces each month!