Daniel and Dawna Davis from Steam Crow make unique, super-cool monster-influenced art
“You have to have faith and patience and believe in what you’re doing.”
After 10 years as a graphic designer for a large company, Dan Davis was beginning to feel like his passion for art had flown the nest. Endless meetings and dry, corporate projects left little time for creativity and he was left feeling washed out, disillusioned and urgently in need of inspiration.
His eureka moment came at the San Diego Comic Con in 2005, when, his wife, Dawna, turned to him and said: “You can do this!”
From that moment on, Dan’s mind was made up and his company, Steam Crow, was born. He made a pact with himself that he’d have a booth at that same comic con the following year selling all his own books and prints. The only thing he had to do now was actually make them.
Feeling, at the age of 35, that there was no time to lose, Dan set about putting his ideas into practice. His beloved videogames and movies took a backseat as he began to sketch at every available opportunity. Before too long, his hard work paid off and the first Steam Crow graphic novel hit the presses – a fantastic mash-up of monsters and steampunk with a liberal garnish of dry humor.
Early Inspiration for Steam Crow
His book may not have flown off the shelves when Steam Crow was unveiled to the world at WonderCon, Anaheim, in 2006, but the positive feedback from people who did buy it was all Dan needed to know. He says: “I figured that if one person bought it and loved it, then others will surely follow!”
Since then, Dan and Dawna have thrown themselves into a packed schedule, often managing to fit in up to 15 comic cons and shows a year! Over the years, they’ve built up a reputation for their eye-catching booths (some of which can take hours to put together), their unique prints, books and merchandise, and offering a warm welcome to anyone interested in their work.
But success didn’t happen overnight. Steam Crow wasn’t commercially viable at first, and it’s taken many years for Dan and Dawna to get to a level where they feel comfortable. “You have to have faith and patience and believe in what you’re doing,” explains Dan, who says he often puts in a 60 hour week working on his dream.
Steam Crow on Learning From Mistakes
Inevitably, they’ve made mistakes along the way, but both Dan and Dawna have learned from these. “You should never be afraid to make mistakes,” says Dan, who recalls the time when they decided to brand their booth devoted to KlawBerry – one of their cute, yet slightly twisted, creations. The end result? People looking for Steam Crow couldn’t find them!
There have also been other setbacks out of their control. The economic nosedive of 2008 saw sales almost flatline, but the Steam Crow partnership was determined to keep working hard and weather the storm. “You have to keep grinding on and stay true to your vision,” says Dan.
So what does the future hold for Steam Crow? In Dan’s words, they’re “always cookin’ up new stuff”, and their website is a showcase of awesome, quirky art products lovingly produced by the team from their home studio in Peoria, Arizona. Current products include their Altered Egos range (where historical figures such as Rasputin and Edgar Allen Poe have alternative careers as hypnotists and detectives) and hand-printed screenprints on wood. They’re also keen to support other artists – check out this fabulously bizarre and hilarious interview with James and Rebecca Hicks of Little Vampires here:
“We’re not trying to become super-rich – just comfortable,” says Dan, who explains that he doesn’t take on any freelance projects to supplement his income. “I worked for other people for 20 years, so now it’s time to only do work for myself!”, he laughs.
There’s an infectious spirit behind everything Steam Crow does, whether it’s Dan and Dawna’s plans to form a community in the shape of Steam Crow Scouts, their plans to produce 1920s-themed videos, or their unique approach to creativity and not simply trying to make a quick sell. “Don’t follow others. Innovate as much as possible,” says Dan. We’re most definitely with him on that.
You can catch up with Dan and Dawna at comic cons all over west America. Check out the dates on their website to find the one nearest to you!
Listen to this week’s show and learn:
- Why a compliment from just one person can set you on the right path
- Why hard work and self-belief are essential for any artist
- How to love what you do and inspire others
People on this Episode:
Mentioned in the episode:
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