The Q&A: Daniel Zender

By Peggy Roalf   Monday July 6, 2015

Q: Originally from Missouri, what are some of your favorite things about living and working in Brooklyn?

A: Well, it is very stimulating and I never feel bored. I go to a lot of concerts, movies, and art shows that I don't think I would have access to anywhere else, and I get to ride my bike everywhere because I am pretty centrally located in Bed-Stuy. I love looking at graffiti and public art and we have lots of that. I was just back in Missouri for a week and realized how much I miss green space and clean sidewalks, though. 

Q: Do you keep a sketchbook? What is the balance between the art you create on paper versus in the computer?

A: I keep multiple is for pencil sketches, another for mixed media, brush pens etc. But there is no rhyme or reason to how I work in them. All client illustrations start as pencil sketches with very few exceptions. Until recently I was pretty appalled by the idea of working start to finish on the work was always done with acrylics on wood with very little digital manipulation. Luckily I have been more open to experimenting with the computer and a tablet, and I think my work has benefited from it.

Q: What is the most important item in your studio?

A: I guess my computer but I feel stupid saying that.  

Q: What do you like best about your workspace?

Do you think it needs improvement, if so, what would you change?

A: I work from home, in a second bedroom/studio, so it is nice because I have lots of quiet time and no distractions, except my dog. I like saving money on the studio aspect of my profession, and for the most part I am sort of a loner when it comes to working. It allows me to feel less self-conscious, and experiment, plus make huge messes without feeling ashamed. I can get easily distracted or annoyed, but recently I have considered finding a communal space because I do get a little lonely. I just need more room or shelves for my books and finished work because it is beginning to close in on me a bit!

Q: How do you know when the art is finished?

A: It is very intuitive, more so when I am working for myself. I tend to give people who hire me sneak peeks so they can give feedback or suggestions, and that helps. A good rule of thumb is to stop when you have said every single thing you need to say and nothing more. I hate overworking stuff and am constantly trying to simplify. 


Q: What makes you happy?

A: Beer and conversation. 

Q: What was your favorite book as a child? And what is the best book you’ve recently read?

A: As a kid, I loved The Giving Tree. I recently read Night Shift by Stephen King and found it really inspiring and fun. 

Q: If you had to choose one medium to work in for an entire year, eliminating all others, what medium would you choose?

A: I know I can rely on acrylics! 

Q: If you could time travel to any era, any place, where would you go?

A: I really want to know what ancient Greece was like firsthand. 

Q: What is preoccupying you at the moment?

A: I was out of town for 10 days so I am playing catch-up on a million things. I want to start drawing again and have some projects that are on hold until I get store orders shipped, emails sent, and the studio room is cleaned and organized. 

Q: What are some of your favorite places/books/blogs/websites for inspiration?

A: I honestly don't look at that many blogs or websites for inspiration anymore. I do like It's Nice That and Booooooom, but I am rarely going out of my way to look at those sorts of things. I think I get a lot of inspiration from browsing the comics and Desert Island [bookstore] in Brooklyn, also my own library which I am adding to pretty frequently. I get a lot out of movies, comics, and magazines, and I spend a lot of time on the couch consuming those things.  

Q: What was the [Thunderbolt] painting or drawing or film or otherwise that most affected your approach to art? 

A: I remember seeing Mulholland Drive by David Lynch and my jaw hitting the floor, I think Mystery Train by Jim Jarmusch had the same effect. I also have always appreciated Barbara Kruger's incredibly direct and graphic way of punching her viewer in the face...her piece "Your Body is a Battleground" comes to mind. 

Q: What advice would you give a young artist about applying to an art school or college?

A: There are lots of pros and smart and do tons of research. You will likely be in debt for a very long time because of this decision, so make sure your heart and soul is in it and be open to changes along the way. 

Q: What would be your last supper?

A: Many sausages, much pasta. 

Daniel is in a group show opening this Thursday at Lolita Beach, on the Lower East Side:
Splash That: Art by Damien Correll - Mike Perry - Dan Cassaro - Lotta Nieminen - Julia Rothman - Jessica Walsh - Tim Goodman - Mark Weaver - Daniel Zender - Josh Cochran
Thursday, July 9, 7-9 pm at Lolita Beach, 171 Elizabeth Street, NY, NY. RSVP appreciated


Daniel Zender
 is a freelance illustrator and designer in Brooklyn, NY. His work has been commissioned by the New York Times, New Yorker, Plansponsor, LA Times, Tictail, Lucky Peach, Playboy, Causette, Good, Nautilus, and many others. His illustrations have been featured in Comm Arts, American Illustration, 3x3, HOW, the Society of Illustrators, and more. Instagram: @danielzender twitter: @daniel_zender


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