Designer Interview: Illustrator David Lanham

January 16, 2011
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Designer Interview: Illustrator David Lanham

Since I first began doing digital illustration I've been following the works of iconfactory.com and, subsequently, the artwork of David Lanham. Happily, I recently had a chance to ask one of my favorite illustrators some questions about his work and inspiration.

Design, illustration, david lanham, artist, interview
Design, illustration, david lanham, artist, interview

S: My kids are addicted to the "Ramp Champ" game. What was it like to work on that app at iconfactory?

D: We had an absolute blast working on the app, there were always ideas popping up left and right and it was really fun just designing the game. Trying to figure out how to keep it challenging and rewarding and, of course, brainstorming all the prizes made for some great meetings.

S: Your characters seem to evolve within your illustrations. When you create them do you see them as an animated form?

D: I really like how objects and actions flow into each other and interact, and I always think about how they are affected by the environment as well. I guess in a way, they live their own life as I draw them and that helps to solidify them in the drawing.

Design, illustration, david lanham, artist, interview
Design, illustration, david lanham, artist, interview
Design, illustration, david lanham, artist, interview

S: I recently asked you about the tablet you use, and you had said that you have the mid-level intuos. How long have been using the tablet and has it been worth the investment?

D: I've been using the same tablet since about 1998! I should probably upgrade, but this one hasn't been a hindrance or broken yet. I just replace the pen nib occasionally. I'd say they're and excellent investment.

S: Has the economy caused you to shift focus or strategy?

D: Not really, I've seen a bit of slowdown, but my work is pretty niche so I think I was insulated a bit, and there's a good variety of outlets as well. I also have the ability to fall back on design work should I hit any slumps in the illustration side of things.

S: When you were growing up, who influenced you most?

D: I was always going to the local library and borrowing classical art books, so those were always a giant influence when I was young. I wasn't really exposed to modern art or pop art until I hit highschool and college so those have never taken as much hold or interest for me.

Design, illustration, david lanham, artist, interview

S: Frank Frazetta died earlier this year were you influenced by him in any way?

D: Not directly, but I'm sure he's mixed in there somehow. I was big into comics and comic art in highschool and he was featured in the Wizard magazines I was reading quite often.

S: How do you keep your work fresh and non-repetitive?

D: Keeping a portfolio and website up really helps with this. I peruse my older work all the time and look through old sketchbooks as well. It helps me see things I'm doing too much or not enough and where I'm improving or need to practice more. You just have to keep pushing yourself to do better and not get comfortable, even if it's the same subject matter or materials, there's always room for improvement.

S: Describe your ideal project.

D: Loose boundaries, a big budget and passionate people to work with.

Design, illustration, david lanham, artist, interview

S: I have a love for yeti's too, how did you come up with Bill the Yeti?

D: I hadn't drawn a yeti so I thought I'd go for it :D Somewhere in the toy design process he acquired some overalls and other clothing. But mainly I just wanted him to be really big and friendly but simplistic overall.

S: Do you have any projects involving digital publications or children's book say for the iPad?

D: No, the closest I've gotten to that was "Pickin' Time" that I worked on at the Iconfactory.

S: Where do you see the future of illustration going with the growing market of pad devices?

D: On vacation! But really, it's opening up great new way for people to experiment. If it becomes more intuitive and provides quality output, then the possibilities are limitless.

Design, illustration, david lanham, artist, interview
Design, illustration, david lanham, artist, interview

S: Character design is becoming popular among illustrators how did that begin for you?

D: I've always focused around a character or subject, and it's just what has interested me, creating a being with a distinct personality and look is just great to work on. It's always different each time you sit down to draw.

S: What's your top ramp and score in "Ramp Champ?

D: Plunderin' Pirates is always a favorite of mine. I've gotten to where I can get the rat quite a few times with some other targets so I get up to 15k on that ramp sometimes!

Design, illustration, david lanham, artist, interview

S: Ninja Attack or Tiki Island?

D: I'm biased since I did all the art for Ninja Attack, so I always quite enjoy that one :D

S: Any advice for the novices?

D: Practice, practice, practice and practice a bit more. There's really not any shortcuts to learning to draw. You have to study traditional art and theory and build upon that, no matter what your final creative field is. Sketchbooks are essential and draw as much as you can everyday. Draw whatever you see around you.

You can learn more about David and his work here.

Some other design posts you might be interested in:

Young Artist Profile: Photographs and Manipulation
Designer Interview: Eric Torres (Part I)
Designer Interview: Eric Torres (Part II)

Steve Tansley

Steve Tansley

Steve is the co-creator of the goodfences.com web comic. He is a designer and illustrator of children's books and Sr. Interactive Art Director for The Lavidge Company. Steve's personal work can be seen at behance. He lives in Scottsdale with his wife, eight kids and dog Sooki. Catch his tweets at @stevejtansley or friend him on Facebook page.

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