Nate (N8) Van Dyke

“Anything you can do, I can do better,” may be a silly quote, but it was the notion that started N8 Van Dyke’s graphic design career. As a kid, he realized that he could draw far better than his peers and it gave him inspiration to continue. Watching his mother sculpt encouraged him to be free and do his own thing. By the time Nate finished high school he had secured scholarships to different art schools, but turned them all down to pursue his self-taught craft. After continuously winning a cartoon competition at a county fair, Nate landed a job that provided financial stability, but it wasn’t until he began getting phone calls from clients that his career snowballed into the perfect storm.

“We are people and we hate each other. You can’t hate a chimp even if he is cutting someone’s head off. It’s just… cuter. Animals are awesome and people suck. Period.”

Format: What is your name and age?
N8: Nate (N8) Van Dyke. 29 fingers old.

Format: Where did you grow up and what was the environment like as a young kid, teenager and young adult?
N8: I was born and raised in San Anselmo, California. That’s right North of San Francisco. I can’t really complain too much about my childhood. I lived in a beautiful town on a hill and spent a good deal of my childhood in the back yard in the mud playing with my toys. I spent my entire youth under the same roof with my older brother and parents and I went to all of the local public schools. By the time I graduated high school I had the itch to get out. Shortly after I moved to LA for a while to work down there. After spending time down there I moved back to my hometown and then eventually settled in San Francisco where I know work and live.

Format: What caught your attention initially and made you want to pursue art?
N8: My mother was an artist so I was around it a lot as a child. She was a marble sculptor. Though I didn’t pick up a chisel and hammer, I did take to crayons and just never put them down. I don’t know what it is about art, really, because it’s one of those things I just do. It’s as if I don’t know how not to do it. I was born and raised on comic books and cartoons so ever since I can remember all I’ve wanted to do is to draw comics. I used to create and draw my own comics as a child and I just kept with it. It also helps that as a kid you begin to realize that you are better than the other kids are at drawing so because of that boost I continued to draw even more. What can I say, I’d make a horrible office worker. Art allows me to not grow up.

Format: Is there a reason in particular that you draw lots of characters and animals?
N8: I guess I’ve always liked drawing animals and characters. With the chimp character I draw, I think, people respond to him more openly because he is a chimp rather than a human. We are people and we hate each other. You can’t hate a chimp even if he is cutting someone’s head off. It’s just…cuter. Animals are awesome and people suck. Period.

Format: Who was the first client to contact you and how did it feel? Were you expecting them to do so?
N8: The first client I had was while I was still in high school. It was the mountain bike guy, Gary Fisher. I did a poster for some ad campaign they were doing. They ended up changing direction afterward and ended up not using it, which is probably a good thing. I just remember being nervous as all hell. That’s the gig that started it all. Don’t get me wrong, I still get the nerves from time to time but now I’m doing enough gigs that I don’t really have time to over-think.

Format: When did you get your “big break?”
N8: I used to do a lot of art and cartoons, which I displayed in the Marin County Fair. I tended to win all of the cartooning categories year after year and one year had a big feature on me and my work in the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper. This caught the eye of a dot com company in Sausalito, California called They were a web site that did instructional tutorials. If you wanted to learn how to do basic things like carve a turkey or change a car tire, you could go on this website and learn how to do that.

I did drawings that would go along with the text to offer visual help. That job lasted about six months and I was able to make really good money from them. I worked from home and was able to crank out the illustrations a lot quicker than they knew [laughs]! If I had worked in-house they would have realized how fast I was and if they had they probably wouldn’t have paid me as much as they did. It was a great break financially as well as for cutting my teeth as an artist.

Format: What is your favorite storyboard that you created? Tell us about it.
N8: I can’t say that I really love doing storyboards because they are meant to be done quickly and without much detail. Of course there is nothing I like more than to just noodle a drawing to bits and take my time. If I were to pick some of my favorites, though, I would say it’s the stuff I did for Taco Bell. Those were some great concepts and a blast to draw. I worked with my friends at Cog1 on those boards.

Format: The Devil Daycare piece was featured in one of your gallery shows. What’s the story behind it?
N8: I did that for a show in San Francisco at 111 Minna Gallery. It was for a huge group show where everyone was asked to do a piece that measured 20 x 20 inches. It looks awesome when you see all of these different artists take on the same shape canvas.
There was no real story to that piece. I think it made up a lot of itself as I did it. I think that is one of those pieces that I just wanted to draw something “cool.” I don’t think I have the actual photo on my site but that ink drawing is a detail of a larger piece. The piece outside of that is sketchy and loose so that the ink piece of the kids with their devil father is in focus and all detailed out.

Format: Where has your art taken you internationally?
N8: It has taken me to London where I am right now. I am having my first solo show in the UK later today. It has been a lot of work in getting ready for this show but it has all been worth it. I just finished a mural in the gallery and it really ties the show together nicely. Other than physically going somewhere, I have had a lot of work published in international magazines in the form of illustrations, magazine covers, interviews and so on which has helped get me and my work a lot of outside attention.

Format: If a random person were to open your sketchbook, what drawing would be most puzzling to them?
N8: Damn, my books are full of puzzling shit! I guess most of the pieces I do are capable of giving someone a headache. Yeah, so I would say every other page in my book is capable to make you frown. Too many to pick one.

Format: What is your most recent work of art?
N8: I just finished a comic book cover for a comic called The Dead. It’s written by Alan Grant and drawn by Simon Bisley. That was a blast to do.

Format: You recently had a solo show in Portland. How did that go?
N8: It opened December 4th at the Upper Playground Gallery in Portland. The title of the show was Back For Seconds. I had about thirty pieces in it that were a really good range of work. From small affordable pieces to some of the best works I’ve done to date.

Format: What are your plans for the near future?
N8: I have to get another beer. This one just ran out. Once I take care of that problem I am going to take a little bit of a break from showing and get back into the studio and dust off my paints. It’s been awhile since I’ve used my oils and I can’t wait to get back into them. I’m looking at possible options at this point for my next solo show. I’m working a full-time gig as a video game concept artist and with a steady diet of freelance illustration. I look forward to getting more than five hours of sleep each night. That would be fun.

Makula Dunbar
Hey Everyone!As my name displays I'm Makula Dunbar. I am a person who loves music, fashion, Hip-Hop culture and everything in between. I love to write, and I am very happy to be contributing to the Format movement.
Makula Dunbar

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