In the Studio with Dominic Bodden

By Peggy Roalf   Wednesday April 20, 2022


Peggy Roalf: Which came first, the pencil, the pen or the tablet?  

Dominic Bodden: The pencil came first. I worked traditionally for years before I had the courage to jump into the digital world. It took some time before I was comfortable incorporating digital painting techniques into my work, but now it’s become a staple in my image-making process. I like to work in layers starting with chalk pastel and cut paper collage. I then scan my work into the computer and add additional layers of digital painting. I use a soft touch with the digital enhancements because I like to maintain the handmade feel.  

PR: Where do you live and how does that place contribute to your creative work? 
DB: I recently moved to New York City after living in Los Angeles for close to twenty years. Relocating wasn’t easy, especially during a pandemic, but I am in love with New York City. I’ve had a wonderful time discovering new museums and investigating the differences between the boroughs. I live in Washington Heights which has its own special vibe. There’s a pulse in this neighborhood that resonates with me. I’ve started to sketch the activity on the street from my window and I have plenty of material for several new illustrations.  

PR: Please describe your work space and how it contributes to the illustrator’s basic condition of working alone. 
DB: I’m lucky to have an extra room in my apartment dedicated exclusively to making art. I’ve decorated it with a few hundred masks, old antique rugs, and a ton of books and art prints. It’s heavenly! I must remind myself to leave the room because I enjoy the space so much. There are usually four or five different projects going on simultaneously. It’s the heart of the apartment. 

PR: Do you keep a sketchbook? Digital or analog? If yes, how does that contribute to your work process?
DB: I don’t use a sketchbook, but I do have a daily sketching practice. In the past I’ve tried to use sketchbooks, but I’ve learned that I have more success drawing with loose paper, so instead of a bound book I use a clipboard with paper. It’s small enough to throw in a bag and use out on the streets of the city. A lot of my illustration work is inspired by the observational drawings that I collect on these pages. IG video

PR: I understand that printmaking plays a role in your illustration work. Could you tell the readers how printmaking informs the strong graphic qualities of your work?

DB:  Experimentation is the key to the kind of work I want to create, so I make it a habit to try as many new image making techniques as possible. Incorporating printmaking into my illustrations has opened a whole new world of possibilities. I make monoprints of patterns to use in my collage work and I’ve used a photo transfer printmaking process for background elements in my illustrations.  Printmaking has also been a wonderful source for creating textures to scan and use digitally. 

PR: Do you use photographic reference materials very much? If yes, how do you avoid the pitfalls that can arise when working from reference?

DB: I use a lot of different reference materials for my work including photo references. My strategy is to incorporate sketches, observational drawings, and anatomy references into the mix so that I don’t feel stuck to just one image.  

PR: What kind of breaks do you take to clear your head when working to a deadline?

DB: I watch a good movie, or I take a walk. I do something to remove myself from the project. Taking breaks is essential to avoid burnout and I make a point to include breaks into my schedule whenever they are needed. 


PR: Do you see a lot of museum and gallery shows?
What’s the best takeaway from seeing art shows rather than looking at online media, books, magazines

DB: Lately I’ve been going to a lot of museums. That’s how I’ve decided to explore New York City, by visiting museums in different areas. Last week I went to the National Museum of the American Indian and I took so many pictures I just about ran out of storage space on my phone. The best takeaway is being able to feed your brain and find so may fascinating sources of inspiration. When you are at a museum you can get up close to the art and investigate the materials, scale, and color. It’s exhilarating.  

PR: How do you know when the art is finished—or when to stop working on it?
DB: I know it’s done when it sings! There is always a point when all the elements come together and the whole illustration comes to life. It’s a magical moment. 


PR: What are some of your creative inspirations—artists, music, literature, culture in general—that you draw from in your work?

DB: Movies are a big source of inspiration for me. I especially love the films of Federico Fellini. When I watch a movie like La Strada, or La Dolce Vita, I am transported. Fellini was a master, and his movies were like paintings. Every scene was a beautiful composition. 

PR: You have a genuine talent for self-promotion. What advice would you offer to illustrators just getting started on making themselves visible to the clients they wish for?

DB: I’d encourage anyone, newbie artists and established pros, to find the fun in the business side of illustration. The reality is that self-promotion is essential to getting work. My strategy is to include it in the creative process. I’ll make animated gifs, or video reels so that I can promote myself and at the same time learn some new technology that I can eventually add to my toolbelt. 

I’d also encourage new artists to get in the habit of sharing their work with the world. As a recent graduate, I was able to make a smooth transition from school into the industry by entering award annuals and design competitions. By participating in these events, I got my work in front of art directors, illustrators, and working professionals. The trick is to keep yourself inspired and enjoy the process. 

PR: What would be your dream job—the one thing you have always hoped for in an assignment?

DB: My dream job at this point in my career is to illustrate for The Criterion Collection and the Folio Society. I love the work being created by these companies. I love to visualize my illustrations on the cover of a Fellini movie or imagine how exciting it would be to reimagine a classic novel with my own illustrations. 

Dominic Bodden is an award-winning illustrator and animator based in New York City. His signature style of illustration is a blend of traditional and digital image making techniques that incorporate pastel and paper collage. Dominic's background as a designer is in the field of fashion where he worked as a fashion stylist and costume designer. His eye for color and flair for pattern and texture allow him to create dynamic illustrations with an emotional impact. Dominic's goal is to make illustrations that challenge, inspire, and entertain.

Dominic is represented internationally by the Anna Goodson Illustration Agency. 

Agency Website: inthestudiowith