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Behind the Book with Dave Mottram


Dave Mottram lives in Ohio with his wife, daughter and black lab, Gracie. He drew so much as kid, he would occasionally run out of paper. There were paper bags filled with Dave’s art all over the house. Still drawing after all these years, he now enjoys watching his daughter draw all the time. The circle continues! His latest book, Race Car Dreams published with Running Press Kids in September 2016.

We spoke with Dave about the process that went into creating a book Kirkus Reviewsdescribed as, “clever, bouncy fun.” The book, written by Sharon Chriscoe, also generated buzz online and through social media, with several notable bloggers joining in on the fun to host a stop on a blog tour, which you can take a look at here, here or here. Keep reading for more about Dave’s illustration style, his relationship with the team at Running Press Kids and how he created car characters full of personality:


What does your creative process look like? How do you begin?

I start with sketches and spend time researching what I’m illustrating. In this case, I spent a lot of time looking at Matchbox Cars, Race Cars and Model Cars. It’s good for me to have a working knowledge of these cars. It’s a challenge to illustrate an object and then try to give it a personality. Also, to make sure it doesn’t look like what’s already out there. After, that I’ll sketch out thumbnails. I need to sketch out as many thumbnails as I can–it helps me understand the composition and the flow of the story better. Delivering tight sketches depends on the book, sometimes an editor is just looking for loose sketches that work well to tell the story.

The characters in this book are so dynamic and spirited…how did you bring personality to Race Car and the other characters through your illustrations?


Thanks, I’m glad that you see them that way. I researched facial expressions and did quite a few sketches just to understand what emotions to show. Bringing things like that to life are tricky but when you look at it as just simple shapes it helps. For example, the headlights are eyes, the bumper is a mouth. Then play with how the eyes and mouth look together, maybe spread them out or move them closer together.

Describe your favorite way to work with art directors and editors:

I prefer as much collaboration as possible. If I can meet with an editor and art director it truly helps. They are extremely busy so any amount of time they can lend is valuable.

In your Bright bio, you mention that your passion for drawing started early. What originally inspired you to draw?

Yes, I was obsessed with comic books. The first one was given to me when I was five. I drew Spiderman on every spare bit of paper in the house. Bags, old printer paper, receipts, napkins, all of it. I would try to draw everything on the cover of a comic book, right down to the price and title. It also gave me a love of typography.

What is the medium and process you used to create your final art?


Race Car Dreams is digital. I used a Wacom tablet to draw everything and in most cases, scanned in pencil drawings and redrew those as well. I made some digital brushes to paint with by scanning in some handmade textures. It’s nice to work digital, but I prefer to always bring in sketches and textures that are in pencil and charcoal.

Do you have any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

Sure, I am currently working on a chatty little bird named “Wordy Birdy” by Tammi Sauer. Recently, I wrapped up a picture book called Mighty Tug which will be available in spring 2017 from Simon & Schuster—based upon this tug boat in my portfolio:


And my agent, Anne Armstrong just signed me up for a new book with Running Press by Sharon Chriscoe called Firetruck Dreams ~ so more to come in this series! I can’t wait for these to be out there!

Dave Mottram is represented by the Bright Group

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December 2016

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