For this week’s spotlight on an illustrator who has put out a publication, we turn to Daniel Jamie Williams. He caught our eye with his new zine ‘Who Knows?’. It collects Daniel’s sketches over a number of months, a departure from a body of work that spans portraiture (his recent musician collection covered Conor Oberst and Jamie T), animation and meshing digital elements into more traditional illustration. We spoke to Daniel about how Netflix can be an influence, the benefits of self-publishing and what advice he has for up and coming illustrators.
Hi Daniel. Where are you from, where are you based and what do you do outside of illustration?
Hello! I'm originally from Northamptonshire, in the Middle of England, and I'm currently based in London, where I studied. Outside of illustration I like to listen to and play music, mostly on my guitar. I also write; poems, short stories and such.
Is there any particular equipment you rely on or do you change around your setup?
I almost always use pencils - specifically mechanical pencils. Usually I scan in my drawings and digitally edit or colour them so I rely on my computer, scanner and Photoshop too.
Who Knows? is the result of quite a few months of work, being lost then found. Did you more or less pick up where you left off, or was there much readjustment?
I think with 'Who Knows?' it was easier to pick up where I left off because it consists of drawings in my usual sketching style. I didn't start it intending for it to be a zine but I became attached to it and I loved the brown paper. If I'm just sketching I can usually draw for hours, just getting inspiration on what to draw from the music I'm listening to or what's on my Netflix. I just started filling in the gaps.
It’s quite spread out and chaotic, how do you feel it compares to your other work?
It is; it's very 'stream-of-consciousness' in style. It doesn't focus on a central figure(s) like most of my illustration work, but I enjoy the chaos and the feeling that each time you look at it you'll spot something new. In a way it's quite similar to my zine 'The Blues' which is made up of sketches, painting, writing and collage.
Are you generally methodical in your approach, practicing and drafting away, or are you more seized by moments of inspiration?
I don't usually have a precise plan when I do personal work and when I sketch I often have no idea what I'm going to draw. Sometimes though I'll have an idea I feel I have to get down on paper or, if it's client work, I'll make a plan. I recently did a series of portraits of musicians which I planned quite thoroughly using Photoshop and photos of the artist, objects etc.
How – if at all – do you apply digital manipulation to your work?
I like to keep the traditional element in my finished work – pencil, paint, etc, although I do scan my work in and use various brushes, filters etc on Photoshop to give it a certain aesthetic. Occasionally I do entirely digital drawings but they usually include scans of real textures.
Why do you like to spread your work through zines? Which present publications should people pay attention to?
I love that it's so easy for somebody to make their own books and zines these days. Seeing work on a computer screen is great but it doesn't compare to holding it in your hands. There's always an element of surprise to a book that you've only seen the cover and a few inside-glimpses of too. I'd definitely recommend self-publishing. My favourite publication right now is Tiny Pencil; I have every issue and it fills me with awe every time. The quality of work is fantastic.
What’s your advice to young artists trying to make a career out of their passion?
Aside from the clichés of 'work hard' and 'make mistakes' (which, despite what I thought when I was younger, are the best pieces of advice) I'd have to say to:
-Draw/paint/create until you find your 'voice'; your style, what makes your work your own.
-Utilise social media; this helped me a huge amount because it helped me gain confidence and find an audience.
-Also, if you're a student: try selling some of your work and use it to fund printing, equipment, etc whilst at college/university. A little bit of extra money goes a long way.
Anyone you’d like to shout out?
I'll go with the obvious answer and say my parents, who are always amazing and supportive. Also, all of the people making and supporting art at all levels, especially self-starters and those working towards careers or just being passionate about what they do!