Tag Archives: drawing


David Wolter is one of the kindest people I have had the pleasure to speak with. From the short gallery talk he gave in the morning through the interview I had with him later that afternoon, his genuine pleasure and passion for storytelling through art was obvious. Throughout the interview, Wolter not only answered all of my questions thoughtfully, he asked some intriguing questions of his own. This Q&A is a little longer, since all his responses were so astute I had trouble condensing the interview.

Rachel: Can you tell me a little about yourself as an artist?

David: That’s a very difficult question to answer, I think. I access art through my identity as a craftsman. So, I see myself in the grand tradition of cartoonists and storyboard artists. There’s this great kind of American tradition – of unfortunately all white males – in the 50s wearing a collared shirt and a tie, and an apron and a little visors and sitting at a desk and drawing cartoons. I see myself as an extension of that tradition. The word cartooning for me, as I define it – it’s misleading for a lot of people but whatever – for me it means you write and you draw both. It’s drawing as a form of writing. So, being a story artist in animation is to me a natural extension of that kind of mentality of ‘I do both of these things.’ I’m not just an illustrator, I’m not just a writer. I love both things. One of the few places where those things are combined is what I do, which I love.

“Cheetah” A part of Mascot Zodiac

What made you start drawing and how have you developed over time?

I think newspaper comics were my first. They were so accessible, there’s the paper, and oh, there’s drawings in the back. From there it was the library, which in my mind is the crowning achievement of Western civilization, the fact that libraries exist. I love them. All of my first exposures to cartoons and comic books were through the local library. You know, the “Garfield” collections, and like “Mad Magazine” when I was way too young to understand it. The planets aligned when I was 12, and someone started a cartooning school in Colorado Springs where I grew up, which is not an artistic place at all. I was able to take classes on comic books and cartooning and it was super formative at that age to see adults be like, “Hey you can do this for a living, why don’t you come learn how.”

Caricatures of Ron Swanson and Batman

How have your desires and goals changed? Or, how have you gotten from where you started to where you are now?

I think that every human being has a responsibility to be the person they’re made to be. Do you know what I mean? Luckily we live in the first world so we have the opportunity to pursue those things. I think it was Plato – don’t quote me, but I guess I’m on the record now – that said “If everybody would do what they loved, there would be no illness in the world.” I’m not that naive but I do think that. How many people do you know who hate what they do and it’s awful to be around them? I have a wife and two kids now, and I want to give them life, and part of that process for me is being as true as I can to the person I want to be. And directing, frankly, doesn’t feel compatible with a life in which I’m there for my family.

I guess my secondary identity – so cartooning is one, but that’s the foundation – the other identity is a storyteller. I just want to tell stories, and I want to make up my own stories, and I want to create characters that people connect with. So, going away to the woods and writing a book is just the cheap version – cheaper version, more affordable version – of having a team of artists creating a movie for years. Not that it’s cheap, but it’s just the more affordable version.

Game of Thrones caricatures

You talked about this a little already. But, do you feel like you have a responsibility as an artist, whatever you might define ‘responsibility’ to mean?

Yes. I think it’s the flipside of the privilege. A lot of people are like “Oh, it’s so cool that you do that,” because it’s kind of a “sexy” job. When I say I work in animation, I draw cartoons, people are like “Oh, I love cartoons!” It’s fun, and it really is fun a lot of times. And a lot of people want to do it, I think. So, if you’re one of the people who is fortunate enough to work in entertainment or work in a creative field, I think you have a responsibility, and this is probably I would imagine true of journalism as well; you have a responsibility to mean it. To bring your best self to the work as much as you can. In a sense, I think in journalism and storytelling, you’re providing a service to an audience right?

Animated films are, in America…I mean animation in America is a genre, and it shouldn’t be. You know what I mean? You expect a certain kind of film when you see an animated film. And really, what our responsibility is, as America sees it, is to provide things that a family can go to together. They won’t be offended, they might laugh a few times, there’s going to be a couple poop jokes maybe, and there’s going to be talking animals, and that’s what animation is. That’s a drop in the bucket of what it could be, obviously. So, the responsibility we have is we want to tell stories that people can connect with. I feel like storytelling is so much more powerful than the genre of animation as America practices it.

“Rich Man Chasing a Dollar”

This morning you talked a little bit about “Eyrie.” I must have missed the first part of that conversation, so can you tell me about that project?

It’s just a fancy word that means “Eagle’s Nest.” I grew up next to a castle called Glen Eyrie in Colorado, so that’s where I knew that word from. It’s a short film I did. It was my second, my student film at Cal Arts. I went there for two years. What I loved about Cal Arts is every year it was one filmmaker, one film, so every student makes a film every year. So, I made a film my first year. It was okay. And I made “Eyrie” the second year, and that’s how I got the job at Dreamworks. I also got a Student Academy Award for that, and I also got a Horizon Award from Augie. That’s probably why I’m here talking to you today.

Image from augustana.edu.

The Horizon Award is an Augustana University award given to alumni who are standouts in their field within 15 years of graduation. It aims to recognize those people for their work.

A still from one of Wolter’s short films.

How has Sioux Falls (or South Dakota) influenced your work?

I think the fact that my formative years happened here…and also I lived in the Twin Cities for a few years after graduation…I think grounded me. I saw working artists at Augie, I saw professors, guys like Jerry Punt who were committed to it, and sort of get into it, and it wasn’t “sexy” but you could tell they were passionate and invested and serious and committed. I mean if you live in the Midwest, it’s really cold a lot of the year, so it creates a…not everyone can do it. I don’t know that I could do it anymore. I think that living here in my formative years kind of steeled me in a way, kind of built in my work ethic and emphasized authenticity to a degree, so that when I got to Burbank all the glitzy Hollywood stuff I kind of don’t care about. Maybe that’s cliché, but it’s kind of my best answer.

More Game of Thrones caricatures.

You’ve done some amazing work on films (Kung Fu Panda 3 for example). What’s it like to work as an animation artist for Dreamworks?

There are days where I pinch myself, like, “This is my life, this is what I do for a living? This is incredible!” and there are days where I want to quit so bad. Sometimes it’s like I don’t feel like doing this today, I don’t feel like doing what my director wants me to do for the next four days. And that’s the job. That’s the give and take of it.

“Making the Sight 1-5”

What can you tell me about your “Mascot Zodiac” project?

I’ve always loved comic books, and decided I wanted to make some. “Mascot Zodiac” is a graphic memoir. Which is, as you know, stories from my life told in a comic book form. They’re specifically focused on my obsession with animals and animal mascots. For whatever reason, that’s dented me in my head, and I’m obsessed with it. I figured out I have like 12 really compelling stories to tell about that phenomenon as it impacts my life, beginning when I was like four years old. I have 12 chapters, and chapter 10 or 11 is about being a Viking. I hope I get to that someday. Right now I only have the first four chapters finished.

A shirt design of the Augustana Vikings defeat of USD and SDSU.

David lives with his wife Amanda, two-year-old daughter Emmy and 3-month-old son Zeke near Los Angeles, California. His current personal project is about Emmy and trying to understand her despite how different she is to him. David’s first priority is family, and making sure he stays in touch with his children is a major part of that. Follow his work on Mascot Zodiac on his website. You can also find David on Facebook and Twitter.


September’s First Friday was filled with new experiences and new friendships. I challenged myself this month by doing as many different and exciting things as I could. Having my artwork present in two separate group art shows, while simultaneously displaying quality, was a big part of that challenge. 

My First Friday morning began with appearing on KELOLAND News to chat about the 5th Annual Tallgrass Recovery Art Show at Exposure Gallery, along with artists Betsy Ashworth and Joan Zephier. Personally, this wasn’t a first time being interviewed about my artwork, but it was a first having it air on television. As nerve-wracking as it was to piece together what I’d say to KELO, it was all worth it. Being able to have the chance to speak about a powerfully impacting exhibition is well worth any amount of nerves. I’m so thankful for Joan and everyone involved with the show.

“Here’s something you could do tonight. #Repost @mattholsen
The 5th Annual Tallgrass Recovery Art Show is tonight from 5-9 at Exposure Gallery. A preview of the amazing pieces coming up on KELOLAND News. #kelonews” -KELOLAND on Instagram.

The most surprising thing was the intense amount of people that showed up just for this healing event. I’m, at times, the type of person that would rather stay home and resist any chance to interact with people. Then there are special times that I’m able to move into a healthier mood that pushes me to meet folks and reach out. The reception was an incredibly eventful first.

A fun, interactive aspect to the exhibit is the People’s Choice Award. Attendees were asked to cast their vote before they left. With the pieces being displayed the entire month of September, I hope you have a chance to stop by to look around.

I enjoy seeing written, story-like pieces beside a visual artwork. It’s even more powerful when the viewer gets a written accompaniment to help lead their thinking, and walk them down a path of interpretation. I like to look for little body cues as viewers take in my work, as well. When someone is reading what I’ve placed before them, and they realize how it fits with everything else they’re seeing, that’s one of my favorite moments. It’s almost like an electric connection is sparked inside their eyes. Witnessing people light up with a specific passion for any artwork is a treat.

At 7:00 p.m. I had to hop, skip, and jump over to Vishnu Bunny Tattoo for the other group show I took part in this month. This show served as an introduction to local artists that the community may not have known about otherwise.

Both Exposure and Third Eye Gallery at Vishnu are constantly brainstorming new topics and themes for artists to submit and present on. Keep your eyes peeled for calls for art. A great resource is our very own Call For Art page on JAM’s website!

I’m not a fan of bland artist statements. I like to give information in a more engaging and fun way. The “theme” of my work displayed at Vishnu is similar to a timeline with missing chunks. So, I decided to make my statement more of a funky story to follow along with. I noticed that during the night, I had to point this fact out to folks. Most of whom I chatted with had never heard of an artist statement that didn’t just state the obvious facts.

For those of you reading who are wondering how to get your work into galleries, just keep going. Connect. Keep pushing. Keep meeting people. Keep working on your art. Keep taking in constructive criticism. Keep positive. What more is there to say?



I recently had the pleasure of sitting in on what is known, rather informally, in the art world as an “artist talk”. The artist in question was Amber Hansen, the current painting professor at the University of South Dakota. What I expected to be a simple recap of Hansen’s past works was, to my pleasant surprise, a journey through a number of small towns within the Midwest, an interesting discussion on sustainable farming techniques, a viewing of a diverse array of charcoal drawings, large scale murals, experimental films, and Hansen’s insight as to what it means to create artwork collaboratively. What I assumed would be a summary of Hansen’s formal education and a viewing of her portfolio, was actually a dive into Hansen’s world of creating artwork, not simply for herself, but with community involvement and a sense of unity in mind. Continue reading AMBER HANSEN: ART EDUCATOR


In his book “The Dilbert Principle,” cartoonist Scott Adams shares some wisdom that resonates with those in pursuit of an artistic life: “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”

Pursuing success in creative fields comes with more than an abundance of failures, mistakes, and anxiety-ridden expectations of the artistic self.  Often, we mask these apparent missteps in an attempt to appear as infallible masters of our craft. 

In efforts to stay focused and productive, Sioux Falls comic artist Dylan Jacobson presents his nerves and creative bloopers directly to his viewers through vlogging, blogging, and the very work that he creates. Dylan’s honesty about the hardships of creating brings a sense of humanity and approachability to the artistic career. ~Jordan


Arts and Drafts: Fundraiser for JAM

This Sunday is a perfect opportunity to support JAM, courtesy of our super creative friends at Matt Jensen Marketing, and the brew masters at Fernson. Arts & Drafts, a one-of-a-kind fundraiser, will bring together two of our favorite things – drawing and craft beer.

For every beer sold, Fernson will donate $1.00 to support our work in the Sioux Falls art community. Not only that, it’s a great chance to brush up on your drawing skills. There will be a drawing prompt at a series of drawings stations, while JAM and MJM provide tips and instruction as you rotate through them.

Not so sure about the drawing part? There is no pressure, and no judging. Just come out and learn some basic skills in a casual environment with friends. Let the beer calm your reservations, and have some fun! I mean, you never know when a game of Pictionary will break out. Be packing a whole new set of sketching skills next time it happens.

Sunday, August 21,  3–5pm

Fernson on 8th
$5 minimum suggested donation to participate
$1 of every beer sold goes to JAM

Keep updated by joining the event page!


Mollie Potter: Art Educator

I have not stepped foot in the halls of a high school during school hours in over 10 years. Initially, everything seemed pretty true to form, aside from everyone having his/her own laptop and a smart phone. Lunch hour was still the same balance of chaos and control, even more so were the halls in between class periods – like a Jackson Pollock of noises, bodies and puberty.

The minute you walk into Mollie Potter’s classroom, there is a very contrasting tranquility. Whether it is the neatly lined rows of empty tables ready like blank canvases, the organized walls of previous art assignments or the instrumental yoga music, you immediately feel a particular kind of focus. This is a place to create, and I want to stay. Forever.

Continue reading Mollie Potter: Art Educator

Katie Meyer: Art Educator

Katie Meyer has been teaching art at Pettigrew Elementary in Sioux Falls for three years now.  Katie was born and raised in Minnesota and has an Art Education Degree from Minnesota State University, Mankato.  Her husband, Cory, is an Engineer for Verizon Wireless.  Together they have two children: Carter is 8 and Caden is 6, both of whom attend Rosa Parks Elementary.  Katie passion for teaching stems from watching her students use their imagination and creativity everyday in her classroom.  Katie’s energetic personality accommodates her profession as she is always looking to try new activities and projects while keeping up with a classroom of enthusiastic students.

Continue reading Katie Meyer: Art Educator


lance-3I’ve always envied quiet people. The type of people that absorb rather than spew, the seemingly solemn ingestion of everything around them. There is a thoughtfulness that surrounds the eyes, a focused energy that scoops in every detail provided. Don’t get me wrong, quiet people are not emotionless zombies–quite the contrary. They display a marriage of curiosity and wisdom, the silence attached to thought. 

Kevin Caraway is this special kind of quiet. He embodies the stillness that comes with observation and continuous thought. He has a soft articulation with his words, and speaks in such a way that you find yourself leaning closer, wanting to catch every word. We sat down with Kevin and discussed where he draws his technique from, the artists that inspire him, and how Sioux Falls could continue to grow. Take this time to reflect on how you approach your own learning, and the impression you leave behind. ~Amy



SolomonCarlsonI have an incredible appreciation for the self-taught artist. It is a daunting task to enter a world in which everyone else can seem to have a leg up, just based on their schooling or connections. The self-taught artist is the lone wolf, the one working even harder behind the scenes to validate their efforts. There requires an overwhelming amount of dedication to follow through with your goals, and an even larger learning curve when you go at it on your own fruition. Solomon Carlson understands the value of experimentation, and embodies the work ethic of a self-motivated individual on a path for great things. 

Using illustration as a starting point, Carlson pushes that skill further on a daily basis, working indiscriminately with a variety of mediums in an attempt to continue his own education. He is involved in numerous side projects, including launching a board game design, starting the Sioux Falls Sketch Squad, and creating an illustrated novel. His work is playful and intriguing, with many pieces carrying their own interesting back-story. He understands the necessity of an active community, and reaches out to the younger artistic community to add their own voice to Sioux Falls. Carlson is polite, thoughtful and genuinely interested in what people have to say. He finds value in connecting with those of similar interests, and takes an active approach to help those around him grow. Please read on, and reflect on how you push your own interests, how you are accomplishing those dreams deep within… it’s never to late to start the rest of your life! ~Amy




As artists, sometimes it feels like we’re paddling upstream. All of the work we do for one piece, or one show might give us very little return. We could easily turn into existentialists, banging our heads against the walls, and wondering what the next step is. Most of the time the answer is simple: make work every day and then get out there and show your work again and again. Marc Wagner can attest to that. He recommends it.

Marc is an important ingredient to the Sioux Falls art scene soup. Chipper, inspirational, and knowledgeable only begins to describe Marc, but I encourage you to get to know him; seek him out and spend some time around him because when I do, I’m better for it.~Jess