What’s your name? Dan Trauten.

General mood at the moment - A weird mix of anxious and content.

Where are you from originally and where do you live nowadays? I’m actually living right outside Chicago in my hometown of Buffalo Grove after a decade or so in Portland, OR.

One thing that you love about your current city and one thing you don’t - I love being surrounded by the cultures I grew up with.  I’ve missed thick Russian accents and Yiddish slang. I don’t love the general atmosphere of suburbia. I could do without that. 

What kind of art do you do? Illustration is so broad, but I think I’m narrowing it down to Visual Storytelling and Character Design. I want to tell stories. I’ll never give up pencil and ink, but I also use digital mediums in my work.  The more tools the better.  Also, brush pens and markers are amazing! 

Topics that are relevant to your art - Identity, representation, fantasy, and of course, the Hero’s Journey.

What is the most fun part about creating your art? Everything that comes before the final piece. The sketch and idea phase is where I really enjoy the creative process. I feel most happy creating when the energy is fresh and loose. The chaotic mess of it all is the best. 

What drives your art? How can you describe the passion behind the making? Animation, comics, video game design and life experience.  The passion comes from the age-old realm of storytelling, and how visual mediums can teach us about ourselves by taking us away from the world we know. 

Technical knowledge that you wish you had - I wish I had more technical control over watercolor.  It’s incredible what some artists can do with that stuff.  When it comes to paints I’m drawn to it the most, but dang is it unforgiving. 

Meaningful moment in your career/creation - I had an instructor in art school that I contacted a few years ago while stuck in a big life/artist rut.  I was pretty down on my work since it didn’t fit what I had invisioned it to be.  He reached out unexpectedly like a saint and told me he could see that I put myself in my work in a way he still thinks about years later.  That stuck with me and put a much needed crack in my frozen artist’s heart. 

Annoying reaction people have to you art - Most artists have heard this one at some point.  It’s the idea that creating and being an artist is easy, or even lazy.  It doesn’t affect me like it used to but I believed they were right before. The more creatives I meet trying to make this thing work for themselves has reminded me that damn, this is hard work.  And totally worth it.