Interview: Max Dalton
Die Illustrationen von Max Dalton wirken, als hätte ein Cartoonist aus den 50er oder 60er Jahren einen Unfall mit einer Zeitmaschine erlebt. Look & Feel sind definitv retro, inhaltlich beschäftigt sich Dalton jedoch mit allerlei Themen der Moderne, die teils liebevoll kommentiert, teils spitzzüngig karikiert werden.
When you’re a child and like being lonely most of the time and while other kids go around playing football on the street you choose to stay home and draw, you can tell that something peculiar is going on.
Diskursdisko: Hi Max. To start things off, what’s your background? When did you start painting?
Max Dalton: I started painting at the age of two or three. I guess every kid does the same in a natural way, only that for social, educational or some other reasons I don’t know, most of them quit doing it. The rest are called artists when they grow up.
When you’re a child and like being lonely most of the time and while other kids go around playing football on the street you choose to stay home and draw, you can tell that something peculiar is going on. Then everybody around you notices how much you like to draw and paint and begin to encourage you, and the more you do it, the better you get. And that’s it, one day you find yourself surrounded by paint and pencils and say “Hey, I may be an artist”.
In terms of education, I’m mostly self-taught, learned a lot from books and from watching master pieces at the museums.
I guess I can call that my method, to sit on a chair and brainstorm until smoke comes out from my ears.
Diskursdisko: How do you mainly produce your art? Do you have a system or method that you adhere to?
Max Dalton: I’ve tried many things along my illustrator career. The hardest part of all the process is to come up with a good idea. These last years I’ve noticed that if I sit down on a chair and focus, I can obtain some nice ideas (a very good one once in a while).
Sometimes it can be challenging, if I don’t find a decent one I get frustrated, go into a bad mood, disturb my cats and mostly drive my wife crazy, but sooner or later something comes up from some hidden, forgotten part of my brain. I guess I can call that my method, to sit on a chair and brainstorm until smoke comes out from my ears. The rest is mostly technical and automatic, and I can relax, hear good music and think on other things while I paint.
Diskursdisko: What inspires you?
Max Dalton: If the chair method doesn’t work I read the paper or sit on a café just next to the window. The absurd scenario I often get is enough motivation to go back to my studio and start drawing.
Diskursdisko: Much of your artwork is in a humourous retro style, reminiscent of the 50s or 60s- how did you develop this style?
Max Dalton: I like humor a lot and I cannot conceive a life without it. That would be the best way I know to express things. I draw my first comic strip at the age of ten, but I remember me writing comedy theatre plays for school before that.
The retro style I have is probably a product of the influences I’ve received and still love. I had (and until today I conserve) a lot of mid century children books and watched a ton of old school cartoons. The Pink Panther and The Inspector are still my favorites. In general I love the imagery, design and music of the 50s, 60s or even 70s.
Diskursdisko: When working for clients like magazines or creating animation for tv, how do you keep up the balance between clients’ wishes and concepts and your own need to produce art? Do you feel there actually is any difference between “commercial” artwork and other art?
Max Dalton: I guess the difference between them is that when you do something commercial, or, better said, work for someone else, you have to think what other people will think as they see your work. “I this too dark?” “Is it too sarcastic?” “Will anybody get offended if I do this or that?” Those are questions that when you work for your own, you just don’t care. And it also depends on what the project is about.
Doing a book for children, for example, is much different from doing a job in advertising. On the first one you are able to let your mind go free, develop some funny ideas and mostly you feel that you’re happy doing what you want and need to do. It’s easy to find your balance working that way, because you don’t have the feeling that what you’re doing is far from art or far from a work for yourself. In that way I had nothing but a joyful experience.
Advertising is quite different. It often has many levels and many people working on a same project and your work has to be accepted by an art director, by a creative team and by a client, and they are all, of course, focused on the same idea of selling a product. So, at the end, your work has gone through so many filters and changed so many times, that it has nothing to do with your original idea, and you don’t feel it like yours anymore. But you always try to do your best and fight to stay being yourself and keep your own style. And the pay is great!
Like a mother to her children, I must say that I love them all.
Diskursdisko: You’ve obviously got the website at maximdalton.com, any other presences on the web you’d like to publicize? Social networking?
Max Dalton: Well, I have a blog at maximdalton.blogspot.com where I often post some news or stupid things that come to my mind, but not much more. I still didn’t feel the need to subscribe to a social network site. But I have a mailbox and I answer every email I receive!
Diskursdisko: As you use the internet to showcase your art, are there any other websites you feel have influenced you, opened your mind or shown you new ways of creating art?
Max Dalton: There are a lot of sites that I often visit. Some I remember now are Grain Edit that shows a lot of mid century imagery, or the Ward Jenkin’s Retro kid that has many pictures of old children books. But I also must recommend some other that make a sort of compilation of some great illustrator’s work, like M. Sasek or Jim Flora.
Diskursdisko: Of all the work you’ve created, or at least the ones showcased on your website, can you name a couple that you have a special love for or connection to?
Max Dalton: Like a mother to her children, I must say that I love them all. But today, I may give extra dessert to the illustrations I did for “The lonely phone booth”, a picture book that will be published next year by David R. Godine. It was written by Peter Ackerman, a very talented man with whom we had one of those wonderful connections that don’t happen very often. The fact that we easily agree on many things and maybe that we use the same kind of glasses and the same kind of hat, plus the freedom to create and support that the publishers gave us, all that allowed us to generate a very comfortable environment to work. And comfortable always means good results.
I’m surprised how much I’ve learned about me with this interview. If I was me, I’d hire myself!
Diskursdisko: Do you have any specific plans for the future direction of your artwork?
Max Dalton: There’s this wonderful book I just told you about coming up, and there are some others on my to do list. I’m planning to release some posters and shirts that many people asked me for. And if I find the best way to do it, I’ll release a couple of action figures of some characters I have in mind, I always wanted to do that.
Diskursdisko: Max, many thanks for the interview — is there anything you’d like to add?
Max Dalton: I’m surprised how much I’ve learned about me with this interview. If I was me, I’d hire myself! Thanks very much.
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