Bright Journeys: Dave Mottram

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From quite early on, it seems Dave Mottram was destined for greatness because of hard work and talent. His bright, energetic characters — from humans to anthropomorphic motor vehicles — leap off the page with spunk and vitality. Dave sums up his path to an illustration career, which started at age two in a lovely little comic:


From Dave’s website

His agent, Anne Moore Armstrong says,”Dave is such a professional and a delight to work with as he seems to be finding his groove—he just keeps getting better and better as an artist. I love his newest work, which has more texture and layers and atmosphere. And his characters are fresh and quite accessible. I really appreciate how adept Dave is, adjusting his style according to the story. It’s a joy seeing his art develop and get stronger with each book.”

Here, Dave tells us about his journey with Bright to become the versatile children’s book illustrator he is today…

How has your career as an illustrator developed since joining Bright? 

I think it has given me some great opportunities. I’m still learning about children’s book illustration — my agent Anne helps me better understand the intricacies of the business. Plus, Bright gives me support with contracts and legal information that I really lacked. 


You’ve done work for some pretty big publishers, including Simon & Schuster, Disney, Penguin, Highlights, Running Press, and Random House, just to name a few. How do you adjust your style depending on the story or client while remaining
true to your work? 

Well, it’s validated my belief that style or medium should be driven by the story. If I let the storytelling be the influence from the beginning, I don’t have to adjust the style much. Style can be a distraction, so I try not to think about it. I used to get so caught up in how I was making something, I would lose track of the why.

Mighty Tug Sketch 1

Early sketches from Mighty Tug, on sale Jan. 23 with Paula Wiseman Books

Which project has challenged you the most? 

The first children’s book I did, Oy Vey! Life in a Shoe with Apples & Honey Press. I felt like I knew nothing and it was overwhelming. But I discovered that I loved the process of making a dummy and concepting it out. I’m learning a bit more with every story and I truly enjoy that. At the end, it was a wonderful feeling to have a book actually made.


What are you currently working on? How is your approach to this project different than others? 

I am currently working on a few books. — Wordy Birdy 2, the sequel to Wordy Birdy (Random House/Doubleday BFYR), Firetruck Dreams, the follow-up to Race Car Dreams (Hachette/Running Press), and most recently I’m sketching The New Kitten for HarperCollins. My approach is always different, because they are such unique books, and I love the variety of projects I’ve been given.

Wordy Birdy is a character driven story, so I will spend a good deal of time just doing character studies, expressions, and turnarounds. That is more of an animation type approach for me but I love it.

Firetruck Dreams is a bedtime story, so my approach for that will be to paint backgrounds and scenes to come up with a world view of everything. I want to tell the story through atmosphere and landscape.


And for The New Kitten (the text for which is written by the legendary Joyce Carol Oates), I have been drawing cats to familiarize myself with them. It’s always a challenge to pick up subjects that I may need to study and get a better understanding of.


Which books have inspired you, both in terms of illustration and
writing your own stories? 

Anything that Alice and Martin Provensen have done. I continue to be blown away and obsessed with books like The Animal Fair and The Provensen Book of Fairy Tales. I will always strive to make something that beautiful.  

Art from The Animal Fair by Alice and Martin Provensen

Art from The Animal Fair by Alice and Martin Provensen (Golden Books)

What are you most excited about as you move forward in your career? 

I am very excited to write and illustrate my own book. Overcoming my fear of writing is a big deal for me. I’m learning a little bit with every story I illustrate.

What creative advice do you give your daughter as she draws all the time? 

It’s funny, I don’t give her any advice. I just let her do her thing and most of the time it’s teaching me how I to use my imagination. So, yes. I ride her coat tails!


If you’d like to work with Dave Mottram, you can contact him via his agent, Anne Moore Armstronghere.

You can also follow Dave on Twitter and Instagram.