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Meet Our Context Illustrator: David Schwen

It has been a tradition at CreativeMornings to work with an artist in our community to create an illustration for the monthly theme.

The global theme for December is Context.

While the artwork speaks for itself, we wanted to get to know the artist on a personal level and introduce them to the creative community. We’re delighted to introduce you to…

Meet David Schwen

After a decade working in advertising, David Schwen decided it was time to set out on his own. Over the past five years, as the founder and creative director of Dschwen (@dschwen), he’s garnered new business by constantly creating and sharing passion projects. With a large social media following, David receives immediate feedback on his work, while simultaneously demonstrating capabilities to potential clients.

How did you get into illustration work?

I was basically born with a pencil in my hand. I can’t remember a time in my life that I wasn’t drawing, painting or making things with my hands. I had some very supportive people throughout my life that helped encourage my passion. Eventually, that turned into going MCAD (Minneapolis College of Art & Design) and studying illustration and graphic design.

At what point in your life did you realize that illustration was your calling?

Luckily, while in art school, I had an amazing mentor and teacher, Santiago Piedrafita. He was always a strong advocate that design and illustration are one in the same. So that became my approach as well. I didn’t want to choose one or the other — so I become a designer/illustrator combo.


How has your work evolved over time and what were some influences that caused it?

A pivotal moment in my career, is when I decided to do a Make-Something-Cool-Every-Day project. It was such a liberating and freeing exercise. Basically, every day, you make something and post. Throughout the project I found new ways of creating. I was experimenting with a lot of different styles and mediums and my work evolved into what I’m doing today.

What advice would you give to fellow illustrators?

The best thing an illustrator can do is to continue to evolve. You don’t want to be stuck in a style that in 5-10 years feels old and dated. Experimenting and finding new ways of working has helped energize my work, as well as leading to more client projects. You can never stop growing as an artist, otherwise you’ll be left on the wayside.


How do you use context in your work/life? What does context mean to you?

I am constantly thinking about how my work will be understood by my audience, so context is very important. You can’t just create something and not take into consideration who’s viewing it and also where they’re experiencing it from. I love creating work that uses the actual setting as part of the idea. For instance, we recently created some video work for Volkswagen that uses the Instagram experience to our advantage. The character in the video looks like they are actually breaking into the Instagram post. Watch for that video on our channels soon!


Describe a time when you took something out of context or when getting context changed everything.

I think the biggest example of when context changed my life, was when I found out what I could do with my artistic abilities. When I was younger, I grew up in a small rural area, and the very thought graphic design was a foreign thing to me. It wasn’t until after college that I fully realized how I could bring my creativity into the context of an actual paying job.

Tell us something about yourself that we can’t find on Google.

When I was 8 years old, I had an ongoing drawing project called “Ant Wars.” Basically it was an all out battle between a colony of ants that used every day objects to fight against each other. Maybe that’s where my love for the everyday started?

Discover more of David’s work on his website, Instagram, and Facebook.

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