David Habben

David Habben

e-mail: habbenink@gmail.com

So... tell us about yourself.
I'm an artist, illustrator, and educator, based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Originally from Boise, ID, I attended Boise State University before transferring to Provo to get a BFA in Illustration from Brigham Young University in 2006. After working with Struck in Salt Lake City for about a year, I was accepted as a Children's Book Design Fellow at Chronicle Books in 2008.Following that, I returned to SLC as a freelance illustrator and focused my work on children's media and marketing. In 2017, I was accepted into the MFA program, with a Graphic Design emphasis, at The University of Utah. The goal was then, and still very much is, to bring an illustration program back the UofU and provide students in the northern half of Utah with a more focused illustration curriculum. My work can be found in a wide variety of media, including children's books, magazines, advertising campaigns, theatre posters, and even snowboards. I've recently published two coloring books through Page Street Publishing, titled "The Search for the Lightbulb Burglar" and "The Explorer's Journey" (Fall 2017). I also teach traditional and digital illustration as adjunct faculty at The University of Utah and Brigham Young University.

Why do you make art?
I make art because I love it. I love to get lost in the details and colors, the stories and the histories. There's something so primal about art making. It's impractical and trivial, yet essential and even luxurious. A good "session" is pushing past all the junk and distractions until you've established a clear conversation with your work. The piece feels complete to me when it's done. Until that point, it's like walking around with one shoe on. You're still walking, but it's not quite right yet. I rarely throw things out, but it does happen. I stick with them until the end.

How much time do you get to spend making art?
Too much. Not enough.

Who are your favorite artists?
So many! Ben Shahn, Sterling Hundley, Robert Neubecker, Alex Nabaum, Bill Carman, Farel Dalrymple, Shel Silverstein, Stephane Jorisch, Robert Hardgrave, James Jean, Maurice Sendak, Maynard Dixon, Tomer and Asaf Hanuka, Olga Dugina, Andrej Dugin, Lizbeth Zwerger, Isabel Greenberg, Bill Watterson, Adam Munoa, Scott Gwynn, Ed Bateman, Tom Gauld, so many more...

Continued below...

Did you study art in school?
Yes. My experience was good, but also very challenging. I'm a pretty stubborn guy and have a hard time following an exact set of rules. I'll do it, but I do it a bit begrudgingly. It makes for interesting art, I hope, but it does provide a stumbling-block for receiving instruction at times. I'm truly grateful for the many instructors, colleagues, and friends, who bear with me as I more often than not learn things the hard way. 

I think if you're considering art school you should take a good look at your work and your long-term goals. Art school is a big life commitment and if you're not ready to take all the ups and downs that an art career offers, you might want to reconsider your choice. Despite what some people feel, a creative education and career is as vigorous and demanding as any other option. It involves long hours, the need for discipline and endurance, and a lot of heartbreak. Now, if you're able to accept all of that and still want to pursue it, take a good look at your work and determine a direction. If the best path for you is through art school, great! If not, that's also great!

Have you read any good books lately?
Not as many as I'd like, but I did just finish "A Deadly Wandering" and it's really cemented in my mind the need to avoid texting and driving. I even try to limit my hands-free calls now. Artistically, I'm reading "The Shape of Content" by Ben Shahn and it's been fantastic. I'd also recommend anything by Eduardo Galeano if you're looking for inspiration.

How do you get through creative blocks?
With a creative sledgehammer called "work".

How do you balance time between making art and marketing art?
It's a lot easier these days with all the social media. I can update Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Behance, and my website all in a few clicks. The part of marketing that I struggle finding time for is the face-to-face networking that produces new projects. It's hard to get out of the studio during the day and kids make the evening events a challenge as well. Wouldn't change that part though, my kids are more inspiring than anything else.

What is your general opinion of the art community in Utah, what's great about it, what could be better?
It could always be better. I think we need to be careful to not get a chip on our shoulder about competing in the worldwide market. It's like saying you're not going to make music because you're not booked at Madison Square Garden. I think Utah artists do well to provide work that speaks for who they are, rather than try to be what they see elsewhere, but to be fair, I'd say that about any location. We struggle to fund contemporary artists here and it's a real shame. There's so much that Utah artists have to offer, but if we can bring the cultural sensibilities to a more contemporary level, they're going to keep going elsewhere where they can be heard and seen.

How do you think we, as artists can grow the "art scene" in Utah? If we get together as a group, what can we do to help ourselves?
We need to be open to the idea of educating the consumer. It doesn't work to just put art on the wall and say, "You should like this!" We need to help them understand art's relevance in their lives and show them the value of creativity. That's a big part of why I'm pursuing more education opportunities for myself in order to be able to provide them for others.

Do you have any other thoughts, questions comments etc. that you'd like to share?
Art works best when it serves both the artist and the viewer. If it's just one or the other, we're missing out on what makes creativity worthwhile. When we put communication at the forefront, we'll find new opportunities we didn't even know were possible. It's not us and them, it needs to be "we".