Based in Manchester, Dave Draws is an illustrator whose abstract doodles and quirky hand-drawn maps have made him a key figure in the Manchester art scene. A freelancer, he is commissioned by businesses all over the country- as well as having his own online shop and a stall in Afflecks Palace. I caught up with him to discuss his creative process and the struggles of starting up as a freelance illustrator.
Why did you begin drawing maps?
The idea for drawing maps came from when I was exhibiting some of my work in a gallery in Berlin. Someone told me that my work looked like a city from above. This was before I had done any map work and I was showing mainly doodle based abstract pieces, then, when I moved to Manchester, I thought I would try out drawing the city as a doodle map.
A lot of your work focuses on places in Manchester. What makes Manchester so special?
I think Manchester is very unique mainly because of the how the people who live here feel about it; Mancunians have a pride that I’ve not really seen rivalled anywhere else.
Have you always drawn in a doodling style or is it a process you developed over time?
I’ve always drawn in a doodle style. I think my style has developed over time but it has always been fundamentally the same with boxes, patterns and lines.
Some of your commissions are huge in size and cover entire walls- it must be exhausting! Do you prefer working with bigger spaces?
Drawing on a large scale can be quite exhausting but I prefer it as the visual effect is that much more. You can draw the same design on a wall and on an A2 piece of paper and it will have much more impact on the wall.
What were some of the challenges you faced as an artist before you became such a well-established illustrator?
Just figuring out how to do it really. It’s very hard to work out the best way to promote yourself, how to present your work, who you should be contacting for more work etc. At the start, I was balancing art with a couple of part-time jobs which meant working stupid hours, which was very tiring. Also at the start people will take the piss big time money wise- no one wants to pay artists for anything and want you to work for “exposure.” You get past that in the end but it’s awful at the start.
Do you have any advice for aspiring freelance illustrators or artists?
Work hard, put yourself out there as much as you can, try and get your work seen on as many platforms and in as many places as you can. Be brassy as well, chase up work and don’t wait for it to come to you.
Could you tell us some of your favourite artists or illustrators?
You have a stall in Afflecks in Manchester selling your merchandise which includes prints, cushions and mugs. How does it feel to see your artwork in people’s homes?
It feels strange to be honest! It makes me happy though if people have brought it because it will brighten up their home.