For Daniel Zalkus, there wasn't a particular moment when the creative spark hit. His artistic tendencies were largely influenced by his family, specifically his older sister who is an artist herself, and his father's library of science fiction books. Daniel, a former agent, worked for 10 years on the business side of art, and left the agency life behind in 2009 to focus on his career as an illustrator. Recently, Jimdo caught up with the artist to learn more about the process behind his work, which has been featured in The Boston Globe, The New Yorker and Reader's Digest.
Is there a particular subject you gravitate towards?
There are specific subjects that I gravitate towards but the thing I enjoy doing the most is drawing on location. I’ll take a 14”x17” drawing pad, charcoal pencils and record the world around me. When I was in New York I’d go to places like Rockefeller Center, Grand Central Station, and the South Street Seaport.
Now that I’m in Michigan I’ve drawn the boat dock right off the lake and a construction site downtown. To me nothing beats life drawing... As an artist you have no choice but to respond to the world around you and don’t have time to over think what you’re doing.
When it comes to studio work I enjoy drawing story and movie illustrations. I’m a big film buff, more specifically crime stories, and love working on assignments in the vein.
How has your art evolved over time?
The big turning point with my artwork was when I met two teachers at the School of Visual Arts, John Ruggeri and Jack Potter. Both have been a big influence on me. I remember going to the main building, at school, and looking at a student show in the back room, drawings that were done in their classes. When I saw that work I immediately connected with it and thought: “That’s what I want to do.”
It was in John’s class where I found my love of location drawing that I still do to this day. A valuable lesson that I learned from him is not to be afraid to go out there and draw. It’s something I continue to practice in my on the spot work but also take into the studio with me.
Jack Potter’s class was in the studio and focused on shape and composition. He had a strong personality and was honest in his critiques. There are many times when I’m drawing and can still hear his voice say: “Get the proportions!” Last year I wrote an article about him for the Today’s Inspiration website.
I’m always on the lookout for various things I can learn from. Be it another artist, a “how-to” technique, or simply something that isn’t art related. It all comes together in some way and adds to what I do as an artist.
The main thing, like most artists, is doing the work. That’s where you learn the most. Be it an on the spot drawing, a personal piece in the studio, or an assignment from a client. They all feed one another.
How do you recharge when your creativity hits the wall?
I usually take my drawing pad to the street and draw from life. As I said above, nothing beats it. If not that I’ll either draw something from life in my studio or simply take a break. Sometimes I’ll need a moment to step away and come back to with a clear head. I’ll also look at various books and collections I have of artists whose work I admire (such as Robert Weaver).
How did you find out about Jimdo?
I first heard of Jimdo when looking at the website of an illustrator named Riccardo Vecchio. At that time I didn't know much about the company but later looked them up. When I was ready to make a website I wanted to find a place that had good design and was easy to update. One that required little code (or none at all). Jimdo has been exactly that and my experience has been great.
All artwork courtesy of Daniel Zalkus
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