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Meet Our Nature Illustrator: David Habben

Every month, CreativeMornings works with an artist in our community to create an illustration for our global monthly themes. Our monthly themes help spark new conversations and ideas at our events. Speakers around the world are invited to share a story around the theme and what it means to them.

Our global theme for May is Nature. This month our featured illustrator is David Habben, a Utah-based illustrator, artist, and educator.

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Given that these illustrations are at events all around the world, it’s only right that we get to know the illustrator.


Meet David “HABBENINK” Habben


David “HABBENINK” Habben is an artist, illustrator, and educator. Based in Utah, he is a graduate of Brigham Young University and The University of Utah, was a Children’s Book Design Fellow at Chronicle Books in 2008, and received an MFA from The University of Utah in Studio Art. David is also an Assistant Professor of Illustration at Brigham Young University.

His work can be found in a wide variety of media, including children’s books, magazines, advertising campaigns, theatre posters, and even snowboards. His first authored and illustrated children’s book, “Mr. Sherman’s Cloud” was published in 2019 with Page Street Publishing.

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How did you get into illustration work and what were some of your biggest creative influences in your early days?

I started illustrating in my teens. I had the unique opportunity to learn how to use Photoshop and a Wacom tablet through drawing for an after-school education program… it really set me on my course as an artist. My earliest influences were my artistic mother and her library of fantastically illustrated children’s books. I was also very fortunate to have instructors that pushed the boundaries of their work and opened my eyes to unconventional and contemporary ways of approaching art.

Much of your artwork is remarkably bold and expressive! What do you think helped you develop and define your own creative voice?

My artwork has always been my voice and it gives me a chance to shout, sing, or dance in ways that I don’t normally do in public. There’s also something immediate about a strong colorful composition that can really shake up our thought process and I hope my work can do that for others.

My artwork has always been my voice and it gives me a chance to shout, sing, or dance in ways that I don’t normally do in public.

You’re also an educator. In what ways has being an educator influenced your work or life for the better?

Teaching has been a wonderful opportunity to help the rising generation gain the skills and confidence they need to shape their artistic futures. There’s a privilege in that, as well as, a responsibility. That responsibility helps me to push further with my work and in many ways be more critical of it. It can be a double-edged sword that way, but I find that working with my students helps me understand what I’m doing better and allows me to be a part of the progress that illustration is making all the time.

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I see that we can find much of your illustrations in children’s books. Is there anything you love about creating for this context in particular?

Illustrating children’s books is so much fun! They’re a great challenge and also provide such a unique opportunity to connect with your viewer. Children can provide you the most honest feedback and also give the most expressive responses to your work. I love bringing a smile to their faces with an illustration that can help them both learn and laugh.

How did you go about interpreting this month’s Nature? Do you have a favorite natural landscape or place you go to enjoy the outdoors?

I love being outdoors and I also wanted to reflect that we’re living in a strange moment in time. The characters in this illustration are happy to have found a moment of bliss in the tangle and thorns surrounding them and I hope that’s something we can all do while we figure out our next steps.

I’m lucky to live in Utah, where we have easy access to all kinds of natural wonders. I particularly like hiking in the Wasatch mountains. That being said, I’ll take a beach whenever and wherever I can find one.

The characters in this [Nature] illustration are happy to have found a moment of bliss in the tangle and thorns surrounding them and I hope that’s something we can all do while we figure out our next steps.

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What’s the creative scene like in your city or region and how has it impacted you?

We always refer to the art scene in Utah as growing and changing. We have a rich history of traditional artwork and illustration, but we see that changing all the time to incorporate more contemporary work and thought. Working the way I do, people are at times surprised to find out I live in Utah, but I see endless opportunities here to create new and wonderful styles and ideas.

Considering all that is happening in the world right now, do you have any rituals or habits that help you find peace and solace throughout your days?

I’ve recently gotten back into running and it’s been a great way to decompress and get outside. I’m also finding great strength in my personal faith and the connection it gives me to those around me. I’m very hopeful for the future.

What’s something that you recently learned or was inspired by?

I’m always picking up things here and there. My most recent inspirations have been the poet James Goldberg and the artist Rick Bartow. I gain so much inspiration from music and poetry and this time of isolation has encouraged me to dive deeper into both.

What’s one thing that you’re looking forward to?

That’s a really important question in a time where so many of my future plans have been postponed. I’m looking forward to watching humanity, myself very much included, apply the lessons we’ve learned in our time of isolation to make the world a better place for everyone. It’s going to be an amazing future.

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Special thanks to David for taking the time to thoughtfully share some of his story and wisdom.

You can learn more about David, a.k.a HABBENINK, on his Website, Behance profile, Twitter, and Instagram.

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