Saturday, March 26, 2016

Spotlight Sunday - Dave Wittekind

Spotlight Sunday is series of interviews designed to introduce and highlight Chicago Urban Sketchers individually.  Now that our chapter has reached nearly 500 members it has become more of a challenge to meet every single member in person and have a meaningful conversation.  These posts concentrate on individuals and speak in their own words.

Dave Wittekind

Interviewed by Andrew Banks

For this week's Spotlight Sunday, I had the opportunity of interviewing Chicago based illustrator Dave Wittekind.  I have always been big fan of Dave's work and have a special appreciation for his really great line work and really smart use of toned papers.  Thanks again for answering my questions, Dave! It's my pleasure to help share a little more about you and your work with our group:

Hi Dave, thanks so much for taking the time to chat. 
I always enjoy seeing your sketches posted to our Facebook group.

ANDREW:  How did you first hear about the Urban Sketchers community and what made you decide to join Urban Sketching Chicago?

DAVE: Thanks very much for asking me to be a part of this series, Andrew.  I first heard of Urban Sketchers, I believe, through Twitter, though it may have been another city’s chapter. I was so happy to discover that Chicago had a chapter that met monthly.  My first meetup was the water taxi outing two years ago, and from there I was hooked.  I look forward to every outing.

ANDREW:  The water taxi event was a lot of fun.  One of the reasons I like our group is that you end up visiting places (and in this case, taking a different modes of transportation) you may not have normally gone to had it not been for the group.  I believe that is the first time we met as well.Did you sketch before finding USk Chicago?  If so, when did you start sketching?

DAVE: Previous to the USk Chicago meetups, I did very little sketching on my own, which I’m not proud of.  I still need to get into the regular habit of sketching in between meetups, though I am getting better at it.  I’ve always done preliminary sketches for my illustration work and would occasionally sketch people on the L or in airports, but very little outdoor or architectural sketching.  During the Occupy movement, I would sometimes go downtown and sketch the people there.

ANDREW: As a professional illustrator, does urban sketching play a role in your day to day job?  If so, how does it help you?

DAVE: Urban sketching has definitely helped my sense of observation and sharpens my fundamental skills.  Sketching also gives me a sense of connecting to a tradition that goes back centuries.  Also as a freelance illustrator, it’s nice to get out of the studio and interact with other artists.  I’ve met such great friends at USk outings!   

ANDREW: I have the same experience, working from home myself.  It's always inspiring to get together with our group, with so many people who have the same passion for art and sketching as I do.  I've also met some great friends along the way too!

I really appreciate the line work in this sketch.  The lines are very deliberate, yet loose and highly descriptive all at the same time.  I see this technique in much of your work.  Can you talk about this style and how you developed it?  Does it tie into a particular background or training you have had?

Thanks, Andrew!  My dad was always into drawing, especially political cartooning, and he encouraged my early interest in drawing. Then there was Mad Magazine, which I devoured and introduced me to the work of caricaturists like Mort Drucker and Jack Davis.
Later, at the American Academy of  Art in Chicago, I had the late Eugene Hall as a life drawing instructor.  His enthusiasm and energetic drawing style was a big influence.
After graduation, I worked as a storyboard artist at Foote, Cone, & Belding ad agency, where we needed to further develop a quick, expressive style to convey action & emotion with just a few lines.

ANDREW:  Is there a specific subject matter you are particularly drawn to or inspired to sketch?

DAVE: My two dogs are always a great source of inspiration (and they never complain if I make their noses too big).  I’ve always been more comfortable drawing organic things like people, animals, and foliage as opposed to man made structures.  That’s why I’m so impressed with the work that you and others post of buildings and architectural details.  I’m hoping to get more comfortable in that area.

ANDREW:  What is your favorite medium to sketch with?

DAVE: Though my illustration work for the most part is created digitally, it always starts with a series of preliminary sketches, usually with pencil or Sharpie.  My USk sketches to this point have been done using Sharpie or Tombow brush markers on toned paper with white conté highlights.  I’ve added occasional watercolor washes too.

ANDREW: Are there any Urban Sketchers who inspire your own work?

DAVE: I can honestly say that everyone at USk inspires me.  It’s such a pleasure to see such a great variety of styles and medium.  I also occasionally go online and do Twitter searches for #sketchbook and #urbanSketch.  It’s astounding to me how much incredible work is being done on a daily basis.  I also recently read New York artist Molly Crabapple’s memoir “Drawing Blood”.  I like the way she uses her sketches to inspire activism.

ANDREW: If you had to narrow your sketch kit down to your three favorite sketching tools, which would you choose?

DAVE: In the previous interview, Fred Polito said that he’d like to expand his tool set, though his watercolors are so masterful, I can see why he’s tempted to stick with them.  I feel the same way about exploring additional tools, rather than getting too comfortable with a routine.  Still, if I HAD to limit it to three, I guess I’d have to go with toned paper, Tombows and white conté.

ANDREW:  Fair enough!  I threw you a curve ball there, but I can't help but agree that it's also tempting to try different media on occasion.  I think it comes naturally to creative types.

ANDREW:  Do you have any websites, blogs or social media accounts where people can see more of your work?

DAVE:  I have two sites. One, at is my personal Illustration website and blog, and another website run by myself and a partner, at, features graphic recording and whiteboard videos.

Thanks again Andrew. I really appreciate  all the work you and the rest of the USk Chicago organizers do for the group!

Thanks for your time Dave!

1 comment:

  1. Andrew, you really have done a great job with someone I really appreciate. So entertaining!