Meet Our Silence Illustrator: Dani Scharf
It is a tradition at CreativeMornings to work with an artist in our community to create an illustration for the monthly theme.
A monthly theme inspires new conversations and ideas that we otherwise wouldn’t think about. At our events, speakers are invited to share a story around the theme and what it means to them. After a month, we are excited to see the talks and inspiration that are born out of the theme.
The global theme for December is Silence.
Given that these monthly illustrations are at events all around the world, it’s only right that we get to know the illustrator.
Meet Dani Scharf
Dani Scharf is an award-winning illustrator and art director hailing from Uruguay. His art has been exhibited in Argentina, China, Spain, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, United States, and Uruguay. He obtained his B.A. degree in Graphic Design from Uruguay ORT University and has spent more than 12 years working in the advertising world.
Dani is passionate about analogue art and believes in the power of illustration to communicate beyond the formats. His illustrations have been showcased in books, posters and also paintings.
The prestigious Lürzer’s Archive magazine honored him as one of the 200 Best Illustrators Worldwide for three consecutive years in a row. In 2018, he was selected for the official exhibition of Bologna Children’s Book Fair, and in 2019, he was selected in the Golden Pinwheel of the China Shanghai International Children’s Book Fair.
Dani, at a glance, your work involves a lot of paper-like textures and abstract shapes. How did you get into illustration and go about developing your own style?
When I was a boy, I didn’t want to be a football (soccer) player or an astronaut. I knew I wanted to be an artist. I wanted to draw for a living.
I had a lot of sketchbooks and was constantly inspired to draw things that happened during my day, things that I observed. Honestly, I wasn’t the best in the classroom and was actually pretty bad. I made a lot of spelling mistakes. In high school, I actually failed the drawing exam because it was too technical and I was never motivated by that. These schools as an institution told me that I was no good at drawing, but I didn’t care.
(Dani’s childhood drawings)
I kept going and went on to graduate with a degree in Graphic Design from the Universidad ORT Uruguay. During that time, I focused on acquiring knowledge about art history, experimentation, composition and type. I studied creative advertising at the UND Uruguay creative school (now called Brother). There, I learned to think creatively and for 10+ years I worked in the advertising field as an art director at multiple ad agencies.
My style is a mix of the weird things I used to draw and complimented by my taste in printmaking and conceptual art. I channel these interpretations into a variety of formats like books, art covers, pictures, posters, and murals.
That’s great to hear you kept going. With the doubters and naysayers in mind, what advice would you then give to a younger person interested in illustration?
Follow your instincts, vision, and be original (there’s a lot of imitators in this world). Most importantly, be curious. Put all your heart and energy in what you desire. Get involved and exchange ideas with your colleagues and community.
Being a professional is not a simple task and is often filled with frustrations, but don’t let those bring you down or derail you. Talent is something you build with time and a lot of dedication.
Do you have a particular medium you like working with these days?
I always say that I’m passionate about analog art: block printing, silkscreen, and acrylic painting. Of course, I do also indulge in the benefits of digital art and like mixing things up.
In 2017, I learned embroidery at an art residency in Mexico, and I kept learning at another residency in New York City. With all those learnings, I joined a collective exhibit in Italy called Rivolti (2019), and I’m now developing a book called Naturocracy. It combines block printing and embroidery.
Putting new artistic tools to work — combining them, reinventing them, and creating fresh materials — is very exciting.
What’s something that you recently learned or was inspired by that’s influencing your work or life?
Nothing specific. I’m constantly learning like a sponge. I listen to a lot of music (it’s an essential part of my life), watch movies, and read. I’m inspired by conversations with friends and life itself. I love observing reality versus fantasy. It’s why I enjoy working at cafes and parks because I can watch the movement around me.
Illustration for press is a magnificent thing because I can go deep into subjects I wouldn’t be interested in otherwise. It’s exactly the kind of thing that expands my horizons.
How did you go about interpreting this month’s theme of Silence? What do you like to do when you’re seeking silence in your life?
I believe silence is an opportunity for reflection, looking inside, and personal growth. My head is in constant movement, like a hamster on a wheel. But there are times when I need to unplug, and I’ve found different ways to do it. One of them is meditation and a really good one is taking vacations.
Silence is a very important thing, as is noise. Without one, the other would cease to exist. I think silence is a very precious good in today’s world.
What’s the creative scene like in your city or region and how has it influenced you?
Uruguay is a very small country (we’re 3 million people), but it’s so full of creative talent. In the creative scene, we all know each other and are close. I’m part of an illustrators collective called Iluyos, in which we move, activate and grow within a common vision. We promote illustration in Uruguay and focus on building bridges with the rest of world.
I had the fortune to live many years in Mexico, my second home, where I absorbed other experiences, exchanges, and points of view. For instance, Mexico is where my book Vida de Perro (Dog’s Life) was born. I was illustrating at a park and observed someone walking their dog, with matching outfits. It gave me the idea for a project where the roles are switched and the dog is “the master” and the human is “the pet.” It was a reflection on what we have in common with animals and our similarities.
I’ve traveled and lived in different parts of the world over the past few years, all thanks to illustration: giving lectures, workshops, taking part in book fairs, and art galleries. Being in places like Mexico, Spain, USA, Italy, Chile, Perú, and China (where I am now answering these questions) has a big influence in what I do. I absorb knowledge wherever I go, and try to overturn that in my artwork.
(Dani’s Book: Vida de Perro)
What are you working on next?
Currently, I’m currently working on my book Naturocracy and also putting the finishing touches to a version of Red Riding Hood (with the original text by Charles Perrault), for ReCrea in Chile.
I’m also creating a poster for the International Poster Biennial in Mexico, as part of a homage exhibit for Woodstock Festival’s 50th anniversary. For 2020, I’ve been thinking about a block printing exhibit. Every week, I create weekly illustrations for various press clients too.
Tell us something about yourself that we can’t find online.
- I get truly involved in the projects I make, I even dream about them.
- My favorite creativity unlocking movie is Yellow Submarine because it’s a mix of music and very powerful visually psychedelic surrealism.
- Black is my favorite color and it shows in my work and clothes.
- A year ago I did a parachute jump, and it was the closest I’ve been to flying like a bird.
- Everyday I am thankful for being able to, as an adult, work professionally on what I wanted to do as a kid.
Thank you so much to Dani for taking his time to answer our interview questions while traveling! Please note some interview answers were edited for clarity and readability.