When I think of illustrator and animator Linda Davick, two things immediately come to mind: color and creativity. I first discovered Linda when Andrea Scher featured one of Linda's illustrations at Superhero Journal four years ago. It was titled “anatomy of a superhero necklace” and since i owned one, too, and was tickled by Linda's illustration (see it here at her blog), I couldn’t click over to her blog fast enough. I’ve been reading there ever since. Linda sees the world in such a creatively colorful way. You know how sometimes you meet people who can make the most ordinary, mundane details come to life in unusual ways? That’s Linda. I’m so happy she agreed to be interviewed because her blog is one of my favorite happy places to visit.
1. Let’s start with geography. What compels a woman in Tennessee to move to San Francisco?
I'm definitely a Tennessean. But Tom and I had been vacationing in Northern California for years. You know how it is: when you go some place you love for a vacation you always wonder what it would be like to live there. Twelve years ago we both had a break in our businesses and decided that it was now or never.
For me it was an excruciatingly hard move and I'd never do it again. We lived like animals for two years! But after therapy, marriage counseling, meditation, medication, and daily walks on the beach–after five years I was extremely glad we made the change.
I remember living in Tennessee and thinking at dinner time, "If we lived in San Francisco we'd be able to order any kind of delicious, inexpensive takeout every single night."
2. When did you know you wanted to be an illustrator? Did you show an early aptitude for it?
I showed an early desire to draw. If there wasn't a piece of paper at hand, I drew on books and clothes and furniture. I couldn't stop myself and neither could my parents. Finally my dad had an idea. He bought a gallon of chalkboard paint and made one whole wall of my bedroom into a chalkboard.
3. How did you make the leap from illustration to animation? Do you have formal training in animation or are you self-taught? If the latter, can you share a little with us about your learning process?
Ten years ago Amazon started a whole division of e-cards. They hired me to do a couple of cards for them. Then suddenly they decided they wanted the cards to be animated! I ended up downloading a free program called Gif-Builder. I used that for years and loved it. Each card had to be under 50k–and they didn't use Flash–so planning each card so that the file would be so tiny was a feat in itself. I ended up doing over 200 animated cards for them.
Later I went to College of Marin to learn Flash. I also got to know the great animator Sally Cruikshank, who offered her help at every turn.
A simply fantastic resource for learning almost any software–animation included–is lynda.com. It's $25 a month–no strings attached–and whenever I hit a snag I can go over there and find a clear tutorial.
4. I love seeing the photos on your blog that document your daily beach walks and the lovely and quirky things you collect on those walks. Do you think that your geographic location near the beach impacts your creative process? If so, how?
The ocean is mysterious and wonderful–scary, too. It throws up little treasures every day. It looks different and acts different every day. It compels me always to have my camera in my pocket because there's always something amazing to be captured. Buying a digital point n' shoot camera is what led to my having a blog.
Being near the beach makes it a tiny bit easier to walk or jog. (Believe me, it's never easy to leave my computer. I could plant myself in front of it and be content never to leave.) Most people find walking on the beach to be a kind of meditation. When I'm out there, I'm multi-tasking in the best and worst way. I'll be jogging, but at the same time I'm on the lookout for photos, and at the same time I'm beach combing–trying to fill my pockets with beach glass. I'm also hooked up to Pandora. Also, it's a time for socializing: you know that spark of adrenaline you get when somebody you like appears, running toward you from out of the fog and you stop for a second and say hello.
When I get home from the beach I feel like my camera is a little box of treasures waiting to be opened. Before uploading the photos, I'll shoot a picture of the little things I've found that day. Maybe I'll have heard an Albert Collins song I didn't know. I think all of those things that happen out there feed my creativity like crazy.
5. Linda, you’ve created the illustrations for several published children’s books. What do you enjoy most about creating illustrations for children?
I get to be the boss of everybody. I'm the architect and the interior designer and I can make everyone look and dress the way I want them to. I can create the food and games and toys. In the case of the four holiday books I've illustrated, I can let all my personalities out–one in each of the ten kids. (The ten kids live in a purple apartment building with their cat. Each kid has his own apartment and no adults are allowed to live there.) I get to create a whole little universe and make it just the way I like it.
6. One of my favorite things on your website is Therapy, where you ask people to “Find Yourself.” What inspired you to create all of those wonderful, animated icons?
I've always been fascinated by charts and graphs. I remember seeing the Periodic Table of Elements in junior high and thinking it was so funny and mysterious. I also think personality is funny and mysterious. I thought it would be nice to put the two together and make a kind of Periodic Table of Personalities. Naturally the personalities morphed into personality disorders, and I wanted each character to move in a way that would describe his particular disorder.
7. I get a vicarious thrill when I read that you’ve attended a museum or gallery exhibit. What have been some of your favorite exhibits of 2010?
The shows that come to mind are the Wayne Thiebaud show in San Jose, the Maira Kalman show, a tiny show of Kenneth Patchen's work at the de Young, and of course the two big Impressionism shows there.
But my most enlivening experiences are always the shows at Creativity Explored. That's the gallery in the Mission that shows work made by developmentally disabled artists, who are somehow way ahead of everyone else when it comes to making art.
I went to their December opening two weeks ago. The whole place was bursting with energy. The openings at CE are usually as packed as the Impressionism shows were; you practically have to elbow your way over to see the next painting or print or ceramic piece that catches your eye. The art is unguarded–it comes out plain and straightforward. When an object is created with such honesty it has a good chance of turning out to be an exquisite piece.
8. As a self-employed woman who works from home, what’s one tip you use to keep your workday on track?
I have to trick myself every step of the way, starting with the placement of the coffee filter the night before just to make getting started one tiny bit easier.
For me, what's harder than keeping on track is simply getting started. Even when I'm working on the best project in the world there's a hesitancy to start. Maybe because once I actually do get started, I "go under" and am lost to this world. That phenomenon can make it easy to keep on track, but there is always something in me that fights against getting started and stepping over into the other realm, even if it's a wonderful realm. Does anybody have a tip for me that can help me to get started?
As for keeping my workday on track once I've gotten started, noise-blocking headphones help. My husband's studio happens to be right on the other side of the door–and unlike me, his main mode of communication is the telephone.
I guess my one somewhat sorry tip for staying on track is keeping a list. A list made the night before, and added to even before I get out of bed. A list with boxes before each task so you can have the pleasure of checking off the boxes. And if you forget to put something on your list and do it anyway, there's no law against adding the task to your list after the fact so you can have the joy of marking it off.
Thank you to Linda for a wonderful interview. Her creative worldview always inspires and delights me.
Linda Davick is an illustrator and animator. Her first illustrated book, 10 Trick-or-Treaters (2005 Random House, by Janet Schulman) was a New York Times best seller. Her work has been published in Communication Arts and Print Magazine. She lives and works in San Francisco.
Website: Linda Davick
Blog: Linda Davick
Books: Random House