james daw


London-based artist and illustrator James Daw has a seriously impressive body of work under his belt, including exhibitions for the Royal College of Art Summer Exhibitions. Having graduated from Camberwell College of Arts, Daw's style is a stunning mixture of various strokes and textures executed beautifully throughout his pieces. We spoke to the artist about his experience in art school, his place in the Pan MacMillan children's book competition and the perks of social media in the art world. 

Daw grew up in a small country village outside of Leicester which the illustrator admits helped his creative brain. "If I wasn't being asked to draw Disney characters for my school class, I was spending my days running around on dinosaur infested islands or with my face in a river building bridges and dams, also my dad was a really good drawer."

"I can't say I ever really had a clear vision as to what artistic discipline I wanted to follow, I just knew I needed to create art. Any art. I started a two year general art and design course at Loughborough which was fantastic, you could do everything, one week you would be painting a still life using dots and the next sculpting your mates head out of clay. It suited my experimental sensibilities. I then went on to do an illustration course which was great fun if a little restricting, but it did give me the opportunity to explore narrative in my work and also printmaking, I loved the process, the having to work out how to get that result you desired. I think its the journey that excites me more than the destination."


"I can't say I ever really had a clear vision as to what artistic discipline I wanted to follow, I just knew I needed to create art. Any art.


Daw finished college with a graphic design degree from Camberwell College Of Arts. "Here my work became about paint, mixed media, collage, using everything and anything I could get my hands on to produce the marks I wanted. I ended up being moved from desk space to studio space in the Fine Art department. By the time I was leaving I was creating large canvas paintings and drawings. I spent many a year as 'a painter' creating my large scale graphic abstract pieces. I was selling work, getting commissions, exhibiting and getting selected for the Royal Collage of Art Summer Exhibitions. It was great fun! I still do get commissions and exhibit from time to time but its quite a long process to do a painting let alone get an exhibition together. I decided I needed to do something else, something more direct and consistent."

The illustrator had also won second place in a national children's book competition for Pan MacMillan while he was at Camberwell. "I really enjoyed that process, the problem solving, of producing something with a narrative flow. I decided I was to channel all my creative efforts into illustration. It wasn't so easy. I had spent a long time in the world of abstract painting, I had no distinctive voice in illustration, no direct style of working. I have basically spent all of my time honing my skills and experimenting with techniques to get to a place where I am happy."


Daw has gained an impressive list of clients over the span of his career although he admits that he is self taught in a way and is now at a point where he is getting a steady flow of work, mostly magazine editorials. "I must be some sort of sadist as I am actually loving the tight deadlines. It forces me to act and think fast to solve the problem. To actually hear your brain working. I'm not so much a sketcher of roughs, there is always an element of experimental, it has to have room to breath. The style I work in allows this as it is a building up of collage and cut out, scribbles and textures. I see it like a jigsaw. I take it all apart. mess around with the pieces, scan them into Photoshop and play, adding and taking away until things start to form. It still retains that exciting ' I have no idea whats gonna happen' element which I also get from painting."

"At this point I am sending work examples out, building my website, banging on those doors, entering competitions, which by the way is a great way to not only get recognition but also to keep you active and always working to a brief and who knows, you may just win! I definitely see my self working closely with an agent as I am pretty rubbish at the business side of things. I am getting better though, you have to. So my focus, now that I have my voice, is to keep building up my portfolio of clients and get me that agent."


Daw's constant influencers from over the years includes the likes of Basquiat, Miro, Mattisse, Hockney and Ozzy painter Ken Done, as well as constantly finding inspiration from other contemporary illustrators and artists. The illustrator also admits that the use of social media recently has been "a huge force". "I once read a quote from an art director who said that Instagram was a great platform for illustrators as their work can be seen world wide as well as it looking really good. I changed my account from holiday and food pics to purely my work, not necessarily finished pieces but mostly parts of the process. From this I have had commissions and feedback from all over the world. I highly recommend it! I also recommend if you are at art college to get your head down and use every second, get your hands on everything they offer, its like the studio of your dreams. Art college especially has a huge social scene to help you lose that concentration but it goes by pretty damn fast. I do have great friends though." With such an exciting body of work, we asked the artist if he had any exciting projects coming up in the future. "Well funnily enough I'm about to start work on a large graphic abstract painting!"