Cleveland graphics firm, Go Media presents An Interview with Danielle Evans
Tell us a little bit about your life growing up, creatively speaking. Did you always play with your food?
I had a very happy early childhood, and both of my parents encouraged me to try my little hands at everything. I had a wide variety of interests, but I was very keen on drawing and coloring. I knew I loved putting pencil to paper, and this manifested in many ways; I would draw the weather report and pretend to be a news anchor, I wrote stories for a fake newspaper but only ever finished the supporting photos/drawings, I made award certificates for my soccer teammates when we won the championship. My dad started college as an artist, and helped me paint a cheetah shaped car for the Pinewood Derby; it won best of show but got stuck halfway down the track. Neither of us were engineers.
As a small child, I only desecrated family dinner once- I had just seen Close Encounters of the Third Kind and was investigating the merit of the mashed potato mountain before my mom put a hard stop on my dinner table creation. However, I had several school projects where the two of us made food based social studies maps, such as the island of Japan out of cake or a local fort out of cookies and candy. These were always popular with my classmates for obvious, diabetes inducing reasons.
Who has been most supportive of your journey and how have they supported you?
I’ve heard it said that many people don’t wish to owe anyone else for their successes, but I honestly owe so many people. So many people have supported me in this journey that naming one person solely would be remiss. I’ve had great discussions with Tim Frame, Jeremy Slagle, Ron Mazellan, and other professional creatives when trying to decide if I wanted to freelance. My husband, Jarrod, has been the most constant contributor; he has dutifully served as a therapist, art director, unwelcome-but-correct art director, accountant, sidekick, fan, caretaker, and support. Several artists from the community have had a profound impact on my business model and sense of creative self; Allan Peters for my first big break, Jessica Hische on creative enterprise, Clark Orr for kickstarting my train of thought on multi-sensory design, These are Things for playful professionalism. Without the constant emotional support of various creative friends- Claire Coullon, Joseph Alessio, Mikey Burton, Scott Hull, Heidi and Asim Ahmed, Jonathan Vair– I don’t think I would have made much of myself. If anything, I’ve learned artistic endeavors are rarely made alone.
Did you have a moment when you realized that design was your calling?
I had always struggled with finding my calling, in part due to my moderate success at most of my hobbies. Passion was always a frustrating word as well because I never felt particularly inclined towards any of these endeavors, save illustration, but I wasn’t particularly gifted. School had broken me of my perceived skill, and in design I found shape based, typographic solace from messy strokes and the human form. However, I felt design could be soulless and longed to marry the two. When I discovered lettering, the world suddenly opened up and swallowed me. Handwriting had always been important to me, and this convinced both my husband and myself that this was a narrative and design-y way to focus myself and my portfolio. The calling came in a series of small epiphanies, really. I realized I could be happy for those finding success and not be consumed by jealousy because I had my own path to trod; I decided I would love doing this if I never became well known or published; I determined I wasn’t my business and therefore wasn’t a failure if I never made any money back. Once I became easy in my own skin, I found solace in my work and made confident strides.
What does a typical day look like for you?
My days vary wildly; sometimes I’m doing office related work- writing/responding to emails, filling out interviews, posting work to my site(s), etc. These days are occasionally spent in my underpants and are why I describe myself as “low maintenance”. Shoot days are far more exciting and vary based on location, but consistently I am wearing pants for these. I arrive early, around 8- 8:30am, and gather with the creative team to determine a shoot schedule and assess supplies. If the shoot is a still vs. video day, I’ll immediately begin working on the first piece. I usually request a specific item and brand that I’ve tested and a couple back ups, should we run into issues. I may be asked to do a test on the intended surface for lighting and camera placement, which allows me to warm up to the substance. The creation portion of the day is the most basic but often magical to others; I put my head down and make whatever I’ve set out to do without stencils or grids, and occasionally without sketches until the piece is finished. This part of the process can be most intensive, as the agency and client are usually present and wish to offer feedback during production. Once I’ve arrived in a finished place and everyone is satisfied with the lettering, I’ll begin propping and styling the final frame and ask the photographer to pop a couple of shots. These days can last between 9-16 hours, dependent on the number of pieces and amount of revisions; the marathon of my jobs is exhausting, but having a finished product(s) at the end of the day is extremely satisfying. Usually I’ll come home and stretch, as I’m often bent over a board for most of the day, occasionally balancing on a table top or kneeling on concrete.
What is your biggest fear as a working artist?
The real answer to this question is somewhat illogical but legitimately concerning: becoming commoditized. I’ve struggled to find my place in the creative community and develop my style, eventually succeeding after several years of anxiety and error. I’ve cobbled my job to include my favorite interests, strongest skill sets, and wildest dreams (ie. travel). The internet has aided me in achieving a small measure of success in spreading my unusual brand of work beyond my furthest circles, which is wonderful. Eventually my design reaches those with no knowledge of my personhood, process, or my struggle, becoming a trend. This is surreal, as I’ve lost jobs to other “food typographers,” a title and misnomer I created for myself. As my work becomes further removed from me, the sensibilities and techniques I use are deconstructed and reused without rhyme or reason by others, becoming part of a movement. This is both flattering and terrifying; if I want to remain ahead, I need to continue to evolve.
Secondarily, stagnation scares me, as it’s the slow, hospital bed death of creatives. I always want to better myself with each project, so either my type styles have to advance, or my substances have to evolve. I want to ensure I’m racing myself and topping my own accomplishments. If I continue to make strides with each piece, rather than padding a portfolio with repetitive work, I’ll always receive interesting inquiries and opportunities.
What is one risk that you’ve taken in your career that has paid off?
My greatest personal risks involve becoming courageous enough to test my own limits. I’ve learned to ask myself “Is this possible?” when brainstorming a new piece. The risk is so small, as the the answer is merely for my own satisfaction. To pad myself from expectation, I don’t broadcast what I’m working on online or in person until I know for certain the piece is working; if I screwed up and ruined everything, I’d either scrap the project entirely or start over from scratch. Once I became confident in the portfolio I had amassed, I felt comfortable asking others if it was possible to work together. My biggest break came from answering a call for freelancers tweet from Allan Peters simply because I asked to be considered. Asking others for a chance became so much easier once I proved to myself that I was worthy.
What is your favorite food to work with and why?
I love working with food, but I’ve had such amazing experiences with other materials. Various ropes/strings have proven a fun challenge as they require twisting and monolinear treatments, fabrics look elegant in their own right, plants unfold in my hands and have a timetable before they wilt; the world is full of potential materials. Whatever I utilize, I like to suggest rather than dictate how the material works for me. I like my substances to remain true to themselves. My greatest satisfaction is walking up to a tree and plucking the bowl of a 5 out of a bough, spotting the perfect curve in the wild. I could reason this branch had grown for years at a perfect curve, waiting for me to pluck it off its tree, which blows my mind.