Interview with David Mascha
David, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. As an introduction, we would like to know how you got into art. What was your route into doing creative work?
For me, it all started with graffiti in the late 1990s. Even as a child I was always fascinated when I would travel by train and see the painted walls. In 1997, I was in San Francisco and I once took the train all the way to the end of the line, photographing all the graffiti I saw. When I returned home, I began to retrace and simply copy it. I eventually bought real spray cans and just started painting.
I think street art has taught me how to deal with colours and shapes, what can be combined and how, and therefore how to best use the surface I am painting on.
So your original inspiration was graffiti and street art – what did you do next?
In 2002, I started studying multimedia design in Vienna. I had already experimented a little with Photoshop before beginning my studies and noticed that I was interested in somehow using my computer as a tool – how helpful Photoshop could be as a program as you can take a step back and review your work in way that you can’t do with a pen or a spray can in your hand.
I graduated with good grades and applied to agencies in Vienna. At the time, I was active on DeviantArt, meeting a lot of similar people and finding inspiration. Joining a community of creatives definitely played a pivotal role in my development. I went on to join a small agency in late 2004, and while it was great to see how they worked there, I quickly realised that the work didn’t allow me the level of creative freedom I craved. I saved up money for two and a half years and I started my own business.
That’s not an easy step – how was your transition into self-employment?
It wasn’t easy. I had a few small projects in Vienna, but nothing great so I questioned whether I should go back to the agency or do something completely different. In early 2010, my website was finally finished and I was also quite active on Behance. I think Behance played a big role; maybe that’s how people became aware of me. In any case, less than two months later I received an enquiry from Ogilvy in New York City.
Wow, Ogilvy is definitely a major brand and a great agency! What did they want from you?
Yes, definitely. They contacted me about the “Power Your Planet / System X” campaign by IBM. I made two illustrations, one of which even landed on IBM’s promotional video. One illustration made it to the back page of the New York Times and one was published in the Wall Street Journal. For me, that was when I thought ‘Okay, maybe this is working!’. In the following years, I received several enquiries that used the IBM project as a style reference – it really was the project that got my foot in the door.
I spent six months completing several more projects with IBM and came into contact with a variety of US agencies, primarily from New York City and San Francisco. A great example of this was in 2011, when I received a very cool request from Goodby Silverstein & Partners and was given a lot of creative freedom to create an illustration for Adobe. Since then, that agency continues to send me requests, which is really great.
Despite your good contacts in the United States, you nevertheless decided to remain in Vienna. Why?
I was born and grew up in Vienna, my personal and professional connections are all here. This has been working very well for me in recent years. In principle, I could work from anywhere thanks to new technologies. Everything I need can be found on my laptop and who knows – maybe I’ll end up working for a longer period of time in the US.
Generally speaking, I’d say that the Austrian creative scene, especially in Vienna and Graz, is alive and well with young artists who want to take new approaches and make a change. One of my favourites is Stefan Sagmeister: he has always been a great role model for me. He’s made it – he has his studio in New York City and has shown that Austrian artists can succeed in the US.
You mentioned new technologies. Do you see any current trends that are bringing changes to the creative industry?
I think the new Adobe mobile apps are very relevant for creating outside the workspace: the apps allow me to capture inspiration on the go by taking a photo, instantly making a brush or quickly sketching something. I think it’s a great first step, replacing something like pencil sketches because you can keep track of your ideas. In the end though, I still like to go home and use Photoshop or Illustrator in a peaceful, quiet environment so I can develop my ideas on an actual computer.
How do you see the influence of social media such as Facebook and Twitter on the creative industry?
I must admit that I am not personally very ‘social’ – I’m not active on Facebook and I don’t spend all day on Instagram. I try to stay out of it really! I feel that the flood of information from social media is too much and you end up becoming too occupied with what other people are doing, until you can’t switch off the worry in your mind any more.
I am however very active on Behance and must say that it has changed since I began using the platform around 8 years ago. I use Behance to keep up to date with current projects within the community and any emerging trends. Behance has a huge showcase of work from many great artists, some of which I know personally and really admire. I use Behance for inspiration but try to focus on my own work and ideas.
You were just in Berlin with the Adobe team for our new ‘Make It’ film and gave us some insight into your workflow. How was that for you?
I didn’t know exactly what to expect because I’ve never done anything like that. I just threw myself into the project and for me that was probably the right approach – if not, the unusual situation of the shoot would have just stressed me out way too much!
I had to make a cool piece of art within two days and I really wanted it to be great, something I could be proud to put my name on. I am a huge perfectionist and always want my work to be the best so I can, in turn, feel good about adding it to my portfolio. The team was brilliant, everyone was very relaxed and overall it was an amazing project. I am very happy to have participated.
The video shows very directly how important street art is in the German capital. As an artist, what do you think of Berlin in general?
Unfortunately, I spent very little time in Berlin during the project so I couldn’t truly explore it, but I have always considered Berlin a hotspot for design, especially for street art. I have always liked the fact that graffiti is so well represented in Berlin. You can feel a creative spirit everywhere.
People have been making their art in Berlin for many years and there are constantly new artists coming into the mix. For me, Berlin has always been the street art capital of Germany – if not Europe – for the past few decades.
We even saw your strong connection to street art in the video. How much influence would you say street art has on the commercial design/advertising industry?
I definitely think that street art is an important part of design in general and has influenced the industry overall. When you look at somebody like Banksy, who is now a superstar, or street art that hangs in galleries, you can see how far this art form has come.
It’s also merging with commercial design – a great example of this is when pop stars use street artists for their album covers. Street art has been an important part of design for a long time now and agencies are always ready to jump on trends and subcultures like this.
Let’s briefly talk about Creative Cloud. Which products make it easier for you to digitise your ideas?
I mainly use Lightroom, it’s simply perfect for me to edit my photos. The workflow is simple, fast and easy, and using presets saves me a lot of time. I constantly use it for trying new things out and playing with different effects – it’s always been my favourite software.
When I’m making the final edits on a piece, I often use Photoshop for its more subtle effects and tools. Additionally, I really like to work with mobile apps like Brush and Sketch, and I organise and manage my content with Bridge.
How would you describe your style in general?
I’ve always tried to experiment with as many styles as possible. I never wanted to settle on a single style and then go through life with tunnel vision. When working on commercial projects, I think I have a fairly ‘clean’ style. I primarily work with grey or white backgrounds and often use 3D illustrations to get a mix of different looks.
Unlike many other artists, I create 3D works with Adobe Illustrator, use the blend tool to merge them and then use Photoshop to add the finishing touches. I think that’s what sets my style apart as it gives the artwork a unique aesthetic. Another part of my style is typography: I always come back to my beginnings, back to graffiti. As ever, it’s a lot of fun for me and sometimes I still go out and paint for myself.
Art is, of course, always an expression of one’s personality. We would like to ask you directly for our emerging artists: what advice would you give a young creative as they go on their way?
It is very important to always go at work wholeheartedly and simply have fun with it. For me, I always had an inner motivation and simply always wanted to create something. I think you shouldn’t look at others and run after this trend or another; focus instead on developing your own style. In order to find that, you have to try out a wide variety of things and simply look to yourself – however it is still important to always have an eye open for something new.
Sometimes you have to isolate yourself and think ‘How do I see this? How I would like to approach this issue?’ and then just do your own thing!