Mascot Blog

Illustrator Feature: David Gnass

By Emily Evans-Miller

Here at Mascot, we think it’s high time to recognize the unsung heroes of the publishing community: illustrators and editors. We have an extensive network of freelance professionals who do fantastic work for our authors. This month, our featured freelance publishing professional is illustrator David Gnass.

How did you get in to illustrating books? What made you decide to pursue this career?

To my earliest childhood recognition, I have always drawn. In my teens I began to create characters and drawing fantasy style artwork, but after beginning a career outside of the art world, I soon stopped all attempts at art. In my late twenties, a strong desire to create art again overtook me, and I started to paint oil on canvas.

I did this up until the time I met my now wife. After having a beautiful daughter together, I relocated from Toronto, Ontario, to Kingston, Ontario, where my wife was living. My new location wouldn’t allow me to paint as I had done before so I discovered a new outlet—digital art. And, after a lot of practice and training from online sources, here I am today, a children’s book illustrator.

How would you describe your art style?

I am trying to keep the look and feel of traditional mediums but also I am free to add digital techniques, which I like to do. Photoshop is an amazing program. I would say my style is a cross between the worlds of water color, oil painting, and digital rendering.

How do you decide what kind of style will work best for the book you’re working on?

Usually it is Mascot’s client that determines [the style] for me. They are frequently very specific in what they see as their vision for the book. They do allow me some flexibility though.

How long do test sketches usually take you?

I usually take up to a full day to produce a test illustration. Sometimes it takes that just to hammer out the look of a character.

What do you enjoy most about being an illustrator?

The freedom to leave the restraints of the physical world and let my imagination soar.

How much do you rely on the book content to help guide your illustration?

Quite a bit, but I also try to blend in my own concepts that usually the client is very happy with.

How many books have you worked on? (Either with Mascot or in total)

To date, I have illustrated fourteen books. Eleven of these with Mascot Books.

What is your favorite Mascot Books project that you’ve worked on recently? Why?

I loved working on The Not-So Red Ripe Round Tomato. It was a beautiful story, and the illustrations really came very easily and the whole project flowed with almost no revisions from the client. It was also the first book that closely resembles my current style.

What’s your favorite kind of story to illustrate?

I love a story that involves nature and animals with a powerful, truthful message.

What are you currently working on?

Currently, I am working on a book for Mascot called A Loving Cup Of Kindness, a beautiful story about finding a heart to give to others. I’ve done test drawings for a few other books and hope that they will become assignments.

What are you looking to do more of? (Books about rabbits, bullying, etc.)

I’d love more books about spreading the message of love and forgiveness. Also, some light-hearted themes with woodland creatures as the main characters would be awesome.

About David Gnass

All my life I have had the great desire to create through art. As a small boy I started drawing. I’m not exactly sure how old I was, but I suppose that’s because it was too early to remember. As I grew older, I explored all kinds of styles and really enjoyed comics for a great while until I discovered fantasy illustration. This opened my imagination to all kinds of ideas from exotic creatures to alien spacecraft. Then, I started a more conventional kind of job—working in customer service for a manufacturing company. A far cry from the life of an artist.

In my late twenties, I was sitting one evening alone in my small Toronto apartment, and I had an overwhelming desire—if not a command—to run out to the art store and buy painting equipment. I never painted with oil color on canvas before, but I was compelled to try it. So for a few years I worked at learning to paint and actually took time off from my day job to go it alone. I had some shows at some prominent galleries, and even had an agent for a while, but eventually I had to return to my previous day job. Later on, I meant my beautiful wife, Azza, and soon came along our little girl, April.

Kingston, Ontario, became our new home. Our new living space wouldn’t allow for easel and smelly oil paints, so I had to find a new outlet for my creativity and that lead me back to drawing—illustrating to be exact. This time the computer would be my new medium, and I had much to learn. I soon discovered the love of illustrating children’s books and expressing my other great love—the created world—through my illustrations.

Jesus is the creator and the one who has made all this possible. And the story continues…

Learn more at Don’t forget to follow David on Instagram: @davidgnassillustration

Check out a few of David’s recent projects with Mascot:

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