Monday, September 14, 2015

STUDIO SPACE: David Michael Beck

David Michael Beck’s illustration career has spanned four decades and has crossed multiple genres, from landscape painting to editorial illustration to comic books. His incredible work ethic has allowed him to continually produce a high-volume body of work. He also teaches as an adjunct professor at the Art Academy of Cincinnati.

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio/ White Oak

On the Drawing Table: landscapes, contemporary narrative, comic work 
Coming out soon: same as above

How did you get your start as a professional artist?
I graduated from the Chicago Academy of Fine Art in 1973.  I had attended two previous schools, Wright State University, and The American Academy of Art. I began working in a suburb of Chicago in an in-house art department for a company that marketed dinnerware and other household items to national grocery chains as sales incentives. Example: buy $50 worth of groceries and receive one full dinnerware setting.  I illustrated a large body of black & white drawings in several techniques and mediums that were used in full page newspaper ads.  After a year or so, I took a position as a staff illustrator in one of the large art and design studios in downtown Chicago.  I worked on projects for ad agencies, design firms, publishers, and various corporate clientele. Over the course of my first 10 years as a professional I worked in several art studios and corporate in-house art departments working with an array of materials and techniques. During that time I attempted to go freelance twice and failed.  The third time was the charm, and I have been a freelance artist ever since.

Describe your work.
My work has developed in several areas of market covering editorial, advertising, institutional, publishing, and entertainment. My portfolio ranges from animated cartoon styles, to stylized realism, and contemporary regional landscapes.  I have developed a large body of genre work spanning sci-fi, fantasy, adventure, horror, and comics.

Tell about your workspace.
It’s messy. I turned the top floor of our house into my studio. My studio is in an upstairs converted master bedroom.  The room has wooden floors for easy clean up of spills, two work stations … one for drawing, the other for table top illustrating and painting.  It has two windows with knock out pull down shades, and wide black blinds to completely darken the room for overhead projections of sketch work, photos, etc. There is an easel, large flat files and book shelves loaded with books, statues, figurines, music equipment, props, cameras/ tripod, and artwork.  Everything is neat, clean and in it’s place.  I freaking hate clutter!  I have things arranged so that no time is wasted searching for something I need to work with.  I am extremely organized, anal, and efficient to a fault.

What are your favorite materials digital and traditional?
I work with an array of traditional materials and tools. Pencils, brushes, I often make my own tools using organic materials such as pine needles wrapped and wound  to make a crude brush, twigs, etc, ink, acrylics, watercolor, oils, charcoal, oil pastels, air brush, crow quills and steel brush, sponges, and an electric eraser (with hard and soft eraser tips), rigged with a nylon grinding disc used to create interesting effects on pencil and charcoal work.  My working surfaces include, illustration board, canvas, paper, linen, and wood panel.  

What’s your typical workday/work session like?
I work most all of seven days a week.  My days are 8-12 hours long.  Some even longer if need be.  My day  starts 15-20 minutes after getting out of bed either side of 5:00AM with a cup of coffee.  The work day ends around the same time in the afternoon.  

What do you do to keep yourself motivated as you work?
I never ever lack in motivation, or inspiration, nor do I get tired.  I have several projects going on in the studio at the same time.  All of them are in various stages of my working process.  I work on one project for a while then move over to another.  I get a lot of work done in this manner.  I am very self disciplined in work ethic and time management.  I treat everything in my life as a priority.  By the way … I  do make time to enjoy family and friends and some recreation.  In the past year and into this one I teach at the Art Academy of Cincinnati in an adjunct position two days a week.  I teach a materials & techniques class, and I co-teach with one of the deans an illustration class based on special topics and projects with advanced students.

What is your dream job?
I don’t suppose I have a dream job per se.  I am doing the work I enjoy now after 45 years of hard endeavor. In my early years I produced a lot of work solely for the money, and to solidify my free lance status.  Now I enjoy working on a gallery oil painting, then switch over to a comic cover, then perhaps on to a series of black & white interior drawings, then on to a contemporary narrative piece and so on.  I would get very bored working on the same type or work every day.  I have a lot of art interests in me that shouts to get out.

 Do you keep a sketchbook?
I have several sketchbooks that I work on from time to time.  They consist mostly of refined preliminary concept drawings,…some just for fun, while others are the emphasis for finished work.  I rarely loose sketch and doodle in the books.  Most all of my loose thumbnail sketching done in brainstorming sessions ends up in sketch files stored in portfolio envelopes.

 What do you listen to while you work?
Often I work in silence, especially if I’m conceiving ideas and brainstorming.  All prep work for finished I work is in a silent environment.  When the tunes are on, I listen to a range of music including jazz, smooth jazz, blues, rock, country, bluegrass, and classical.  I usually select music based on the type of work I’m doing at that time.  For instance, if I’m painting a landscape, classical music is almost always in the air.  At the end of the work day there’s  usually a “one man party” going on in the room.  I crank up the volume, grab a couple beers or wine and hang for a while getting set up for the next day’s toil. 

 What are you reading/listening to on Audible?
I read in bed before nodding off for the night.  Mostly I study the artwork and lives of other artists, past and present.  I take in a magazine article or so on various topics, or perhaps read a comic.  And yes!, age 64, I still love a good comic book.  I go through a comic twice.  Once  to read the storyline, the second to study the artwork.  

Who are your artistic influences?
My artistic influences are many and varied.  Here’s some examples.  For landscape work, , Maxfield Parrish,  Ansel Adams, Clark Hulings, Clyde Aspevig, Peter Fiore,  Ruisdael, Jan Vermeer, the Hudson River artists.  For illustration:, Norman Rockwell, Bernie Fuchs, Mark English, Robert McGinnis, Tom Lovell, Sebastian Krueger, and the “Ashcan” artists.  For comics, sci-fi, & fantasy:  Donato Giancola, Michael  Whelan, Frank Frazetta, Neal Adams, Mark Schultz, Al Williamson.  These just came to mind, but there are a ton of artists I admire and have studied extensively both past and present.

What do you do that is not art related that inspires you? I love being outdoors.  Because of the great amount of time spent working in the studio, I relish getting outside.  It doesn’t matter the weather, temperature, or season.  Dressed accordingly,  I can stay out all day long hiking, fishing, cooking and partying with a friend around a fire, hanging pool side with an appropriate adult beverage, having dinner on the back deck with my beautiful wife Kitty, or whatever.

What was the best advice you got in your career so far?
I have learned much from my parents and friends who have instilled in me a sense of purpose. High work and professional ethics, commitment, loyalty, love and devotion, consideration and respect for myself and others, giving instead of taking, and a never give up, never give in attitude to life in general.

What is your favorite color?
I have no favorite color.  I love them all.  

How can we get best follow your art online/on social media?
Visit my websites, or check me out on Facebook

Don't forget to check out David's Books By the Banks poster being unveiled Tuesday at Joseph Beth!
Details here: 


  1. It has been my great pleasure to count Dave among my friends for many years. Nobody works harder at their art or is more deserving of accolades and study. Dave has been a tremendous help to me in my illustration work, and I am thrilled to have some of his beautiful originals in my personal collection. You da man, DMB!

  2. Dang - Jay said it all...I'm in awe of this guy's discipline and output of total quality work...I could only aspire to that level of dedication...he also tells (and/or illustrates) the occasional ribald tale and can make a jump rope sit up and beg. Pleased to have met and treasure you and your amazing family, Amigo!

  3. David (a.k.a. "the god of art") is a great dude and an awesome teacher. We're so proud to have him teaching at the Art Academy. He's super generous, and with his history as an artist, he has an absolutely monstrous knowledge base!

  4. I met David while working at Plaza Artist Materials selling him supplies. His art work is incredible and he is more than willing to always share a tale of working in the industry or educate some of us young bloods on how to properly break the rules when I comes to mixed media work. I am very grateful for personally knowing him and being able to talk shop from time to time.

  5. I just love this guy's work. I commissioned him 3 times. Let's put it this way, if there's a fire, I will get my wife and kids out first then go back in for the art. His characters are just so dynamic. You can see and feel the action coming off the page. Steve Ditko's got nothing on this guy. But his work is set apart from everyone else because of the remarkable attention to detail. Detailed art that respects the characters. Get to know him; he's a great guy. I am proud to call him a friend.

  6. Many years ago Dave took the time to view and critique my portfolio, giving me the benefit of his skill, knowledge and experience.

    Thanks, Dave