Made In Manchester Series - Part 6 - Dave Draws

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We proudly manufacture and print our garments here in Manchester, the city where the Industrial Revolution began. The city once nicknamed Cottonopolis, home of Britain's cotton industry. A city renowned for its creativity and innovation.

RUN&FELL is on a journey, delving into the creative community of Manchester, meeting people who share our values, and make things here. We're passionate about local people embracing and excelling in their own forms of craft, launching initiatives which have a wider impact for good, and choosing to pursue positivity in their work to inspire others.

In our Made in Manchester series, we're connecting with visionaries who are cultivating their own innovative enterprises; artists and designers creating inventive new visuals; musicians driving the heartbeat of the city. This week we met artist Dave Draws. He's an illustrator, who is making a living from doodling.

Made In Manchester Series - Part 6 - Dave Draws

"I sort of always have." That was Dave's response, when we asked how he got into his chosen art form, pulling out some battered old notepads from his school days as proof. "I've got some really old sketchbooks from when I was 13 or 14. When I was at school I just used to ignore what I was meant to be focusing on, and just would draw all over my school books."

Who would have guessed that this could have and indeed would, become a profitable career? Remarkably, his sketchbooks from way back in his teenage years, each page filled with intricate lines and shapes, edge to edge, were so clearly his. This very distinct style, even back then, is easily recognisable as his "handwriting". After a brief foray into web design (studying at university in Leeds), Dave was back home in Chesterfield, and started selling some of his doodle pieces to his friends nearby when his doodles started getting some attention. "I was also saving up to move to Berlin for a while to work in an art gallery, and when I moved to Berlin I started exhibiting some pieces out there in quite a few exhibitions."

Dave Draws StudioInside the Dave Draws Studio: some of his latest doodle maps

"It was bonkers, because I'd only ever drawn in my bedroom before," Dave reminisced, as he described how people in Berlin had come across his doodle art and liked it. "There was one guy who said it looked like a city from above and I was like "That's a good idea!"." 

"I moved back to England but I didn't want to stay in Chesterfield." Dave's sister, and a number of friends lived in Manchester, so he decided to move here after working in Berlin. "I had an exhibition pretty much straight away through my sister's contacts, at Kosmonaut, then just sort of struggled for a while. I had a few part time jobs for a bit, and then kind of got into doing the maps which took off and made me be able to go freelance. I think I'd lived in Manchester for about a year and a half, and I thought I'd try and draw Manchester, and then it just went off." 

Dave's first doodle map piece was of Manchester, but after its success, he has illustrated Sheffield, Liverpool, Salford, and even some global towns and cities. "It took me aback because I had an online shop where I was selling some of my original designs, and then I put the Manchester map online, and I think I just put about 20 prints on my online shop, and they all sold out in about an hour."

Dave Draws Salford Map Print Illustrated CushionOne of Dave's illustrated Salford map print cushions

"I got quite lucky with my timing because I'd just been approached by someone I'd met at a craft market to be one of the artists in a shop in Afflecks Palace, and that was around the time I was working on the Manchester map. Pretty much as soon as it was done, I got it in Afflecks. It's in the city centre and gets lots of tourists and also lots of creative people in the Manchester scene, so I started to sell quite a lot through that shop, but that also led to people wanting more stock in different places and more people coming to me with different ideas for work, and other commissions. I think the timing of that was very fortunate really. I've had a few moments like that."

Dave's latest work was still there on his desk, a doodle map of Ancoats, which he'd just put the finishing touches to before we met. His maps can take days to complete, depending on the size, as they are so intricately detailed and each part is drawn by hand using pen and paper. As well as the Manchester map itself, (his bestselling artwork) he's since created maps of smaller areas within the city, such as Didsbury, Chorlton, and Fallowfield. "I did Manchester first, then I did Sheffield, then I did the Northern Quarter. I spoke to some guys at Black Milk Cereal and they'd just opened their cafe downstairs in Afflecks. They had seen my Manchester map and said "You should do a Northern Quarter one and we'll put it in our cafe if you do."

As well as the printed maps, available in a number of shops around the city (Home, Afflecks Palace, Ancoats General Store, the Royal Exchange gift shop, and Ziferblat to name just a few) and his online store, Dave also sells regularly at Didsbury Makers Market, and the Northern Quarter Makers Market. He has applied the map designs to a range of printed products such as coasters, mugs and tote bags, as well as printed cushions which are hand-made in collaboration with local upholsterer, Loose Button.

From tiny, elaborate pen drawings, Dave has up-scaled his unique doodle style to super-sized wall murals. "The first mural I did was a Northern Quarter one in a barber shop on Tib Street called RPB, and that was so lucky as so many people go into the barbershop and see it. The guy who owns it just seems to know everyone in Manchester and he keeps messaging me saying "I've got another job for you!" I must have got about 10 or 11 pieces of work through him."

Dave Draws Hand Sketched Illustrated Ancoats Map ManchesterHot off the press... Dave's hand-drawn Map of Ancoats

His striking, large-scale murals have been getting him some serious attention, and creating these works have been some of his favourite moments of his career so far. Not long after moving to the city, he was hired to illustrate Channel 4's offices in Manchester, "That was a really fun one to do. It wasn't a map it was just drawing loads of Channel 4 shows with map kind of patterns all around it." And these immense pieces of art have even taken him across the globe, "I went to Hong Kong to do two murals last year for a Manchester company. I'd done a big Manchester map in their Manchester office, and went to their Hong Kong office to do a Hong Kong map and also a Manchester map."

He also illustrated a piece celebrating local Olympic athletes who took part and won medals in the Olympics and Paralympics last year in Rio de Janeiro. Commissioned by Manchester Arndale, the mural took three nights to complete, working overnight in the shopping centre after hours. "I did a big map of Greater Manchester in the Arndale and documented where they were all from on the map. We had a big launch party for it where some of the Olympians and Paralympians came down and I got to meet them."

Custom maps, created to order with bespoke details for each client, make up much of Dave's work on a day-to-day basis. A unique, personalised gift idea, he has a steady flow of orders all year round, and an intense rush in the run up to Christmas. "I usually say to someone give me a rough idea of the area of the city or town I'm covering, and give me a list of things to put on there. It really varies what you get, I've done New York, Reykjavik, Buxton, Carlisle;  it's a real mix of really small English villages and towns, to massive cities."

As if the prints and murals aren't enough, Dave Draws is continuously finding new creative ways to expand his doodle empire. He has started, along with a group of friends, a live illustration event called OverDrawn where artists create pieces in front of an audience, as well as running masterclasses. "I had the idea ages ago of starting masterclasses, where people could come and make their own doodle map, basically. So I've done a few already. I show them how I make a doodle map and talk them through the process I go through, and they draw their own in their own doodle style. It's really interesting as everyone has their own style. I'm not teaching them how to draw, I'm just encouraging them to be creative, and use their own imagination and put things that are personal to them on there."

Dave Draws Teenage SketchbookDave's Teenage Sketchbook

From doodling his way through school, and sketching away in his bedroom at home in Chesterfield, Dave's career has rocketed since moving to Manchester and drawing that first Manchester map. He takes a lot of inspiration in the city, and Manchester is the subject of such a lot of his art. But after a few years of living here, he's grown even more familiar with the place, and is keen to draw Manchester all over again. "I want to do a new version of it, because it's different to how I'd do it now. I've drawn manchester so many times since for custom maps and I've done it on walls and murals and I know there's so much stuff I've missed off on the original one."

It's not just the streets, the shops, the sights, and the landmarks that inspire Dave to keep drawing Manchester. "If I go to different exhibitions, I will meet other people and talk to them about their work, and thats' what inspires me and makes me want to do new things and push on. I feel like I'm around people who are doing creative things and are very inspiring as well and that comes from being in that community in the city"

Having only lived in Manchester a short time, Dave has got himself really well established both in terms of the work he's creating, and also with local artists and creatives. He's clearly found a sense of belonging here, which is something so special about the city. "The longer I live here the more I like it. I think everyone is really supportive and wants you to do well. I've met quite a lot of artists, especially with doing OverDrawn, but everyone wants you to succeed, and everyone shares each others' posts online and put each other forward for jobs. Even people who you might think might be rivals if they're doing similar stuff to you, everyone just wants to help each other which is really nice. All the artists I've met here just want to encourage each other and I try and help other artists where I can, it's just a nice place to be really."

Dave Draws has found something he's good at, and found a way of harnessing his individuality and creativity, channelling it into a developing source of income. He's keen to keep adding to and reinventing his art form, and hopes to sustain his career in this way. "The joy of doing it is that there are endless opportunities really. It's gone really well since I went freelance. It's the dream job, getting to draw every day for a living. So I just want to keep on growing and expanding with it. I'm always trying to find new strings for my bow. I want to draw every city and get stocked in every city and hopefully that will lead to more freelance work as well. If I can just do this for the rest of my life I'll be very happy." And if there's one thing that can be said about him it is that he's certainly putting Manchester on the map.

RUN&FELL Made In England


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