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Meet our Fantasy Illustrator: Hayden Davis

It has been a tradition at CreativeMornings to work with an artist in our community to create an illustration for the monthly theme. November is all about Fantasy, and the interview with this month’s illustrator allows us into his creative mind.

Every time, without fail, we are delighted at the talent and beauty that these artists create. These images are everywhere — in 150+ chapters' social media channels and at the events.

While the artwork speaks for itself, we wanted to get to know the artist on a personal level, which is why we’ll be interviewing all of them from now on. It only feels right.


Meet Hayden Davis

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Born and raised in Portland, Oregon, Hayden Davis is a multi-media artist living and working in New York City. After graduating from Brigham Young University with a BFA in graphic design in 2014, Hayden moved to New York, and began working as an in-house designer for Tattly.

Known for comical social commentary in his graphic designs and illustrations, Hayden loves working with his hands and considers himself a “maker” working with diverse media—print, digital, collage and analog. He draws inspiration from nature, vintage materials, graffiti, and the culture of northern Mexico where he lived for two years. The experience continues to influence his work, which has been featured on Béhance, and applauded by Adobe.

In his spare time, Hayden enjoys word play, dance parties, and collecting things that inspire. Especially if he can rescue them from the trash.

How did you get into illustration work?

I feel like I’ve always been an artist. I can never remember not being creative. On my second grade ‘all about me’ project I said I wanted to be an artist. I stayed in that mindset and never really left. As a kid you usually get pegged with one interest or talent, you know, ‘that’s what he likes to do’, and art was mine. Throughout high school and college it seemed to be one of the only things I was interested in. Now I do illustration for work and for my personal art therapy. It’s definitely one of those things that is a part of my life on a daily level, and I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way.

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

Sometimes I feel like I don’t really have a distinct style. I think when your style is the only thing you see, its harder to see themes and highlights. I copied a lot of styles and tried a lot of mediums to see what worked best for me. Only now am I seeing similarities in my approach to a project, or the way I solve visual problems. Its fun to look through old sketchbooks, inspirations boards, and projects and see threads through all of them. As a kid I drew dragons. Now I don’t… as much.

In high-school, I was really into Mike Perry. I loved how diverse his materials were, and his use of color and shape. I was impressed with his take on typography and how his work always got my creative juices flowing. In college I was really into typography. I bought “Typography Sketchbooks” by Steven Heller and Lita Talarico which opened my eyes to the potential of type and illustration. Today I still follow the greats like Louise Fili, Stefan Sagmiester, and Saul Bass, but am inspired by the younger generation like Adam J. Kurtz, Jeremy Sorese, and Andrew Colin Beck (who I can follow closely on social media).

My work is very playful. It’s bright, it’s simple, it’s graphic. I like bright colors and fun textures; things like that make me smile. It took me a long time to accept that my work is “cute,” I mean I’m a twenty-something man, but one of the most powerful things as an artist is recognizing your strengths and cultivating your originality.

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

It took a while for me to realize art made me the happiest in life. When I was young I wanted to be an artist, but later said I wanted to be an accountant because I thought artists didn’t make enough money. I quickly realized that I’m not cut out for that many numbers. I find art makes me feel fulfilled and happy. Art was the best way for me to express my thoughts and feelings and let others see the sides of me I couldn’t show. I know that if I wasn’t using my art to make a living it would still fill up all my free time.

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Tell me about the happiness moment in your career. Describe the feeling, the moment—bring us there.

After I graduated college I moved home to freelance while I lived in my parents basement. I set up my own desk and decided to freelance for a year. After a rigorous design program I decided I needed some time to work on some personal projects, things that would really show my voice. One of the projects I did was branding and illustration for a fictional Taco restaurant I called Híjole. I worked hard on it, but it was just a personal project I assumed I’d just put in my portfolio. I decided to post it on my Béhance because I liked the way it turned out. The next morning I groggily checked my email to see that this project had gotten (in my humble opinion) some massive appreciation. It was featured on the Béhance Branding site and an a few other blogs. People I had admired for years followed my work. It was amazing that some project I just decided to do for fun is now my proudest project (validation/gratification).

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What advice would you give to fellow illustrators and artists?

Find time for personal projects. Even as professionals in the a creative field we all need some art therapy. Most of my best work comes when I have no guidelines and I let my self explore and experiment. Make time to make. Or as Andy Warhol once said “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.” Never stop making. Remember the ABCs, Always be Creating. The more you do, the more you will understand yourself, and honestly the better it will be! Enjoy the process! Take some risks! Eat, Pray, Love! Or something like that.

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If you could open a door to anywhere, where would you go? Why?

México. Specifically I lived in Mexico for a couple of years and fell in love with it. The food? I was captivated by the countries rich and lively culture. There is something almost tangible about the nations passion and zeal, and the rich visual culture that extends to all parts of Mexican life. I read up on its history and soaked up as much of it as I could before I left. And the food! I have an insatiable appetite for tacos, tostadas, and tamales. Even today it has a distinct influence on my work. I blame my mustache on Emiliano Zapata.

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If you could only carry one book around for the rest of your life, what would it be? Why?

My Sketchbook! Duh! I love the infinite potential of an empty page. I don’t like idle hands, so when I’m watching a play, sitting on the train, or waiting for my food to arrive I prefer drawing. Is that a cop out answer? My second answer would probably be my copy of “1 Day at a Time” by Adam J. Kurtz. This workbook was the perfect daily creative aid and was an easy outlet to write my feelings and experiences. It documents 2015 which was the year after graduation when i lived with my parents, then got my dream job and moved across the country to New York. Let’s just say it was the perfect way to capture that part of my life, and presented me with a lot of fun ways to record what was happening, but more importantly how it all made me feel. I now cherish my copy and invite others to start their own.

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

I really like to dance. One friend said when I’m on the dance floor, that’s when I’m happiest. And I actually love to sing. My Spotify is constantly playing and I am notorious for singing along with music. I’ve been called out multiple times by coworkers or classmates who can only take so much of it. And when the dancing matches up with the singing I am a force to be reckoned with. Few things can compare to jubilant movement while your favorite tunes fill your ears and head.

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Find more of Hayden’s work on his website, Instagram, and Tumblr.

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