Dave Bamundo Profile
posted: April 16, 2007
Dave Bamundo has seen the business from both sides of the drawing board: as a freelance illustrator who watched the heady days of the 90's fizzle after 9/11, and as an art director at The Wall Street Journal, learning to balance the editors' needs with an illustrator's vision.

"My earliest memories of drawing were at my grandparents' house in Brooklyn, on dried oyster and clam shells leftover after cooking. Also, I remember drawing on the old cardboard cones from their Singer sewing machine. So I would draw on just about anything. And then, any time somebody worked at a company, they’d bring home typing paper and whatnot, and we kids, my cousins and my brothers, would sit around and just draw and draw and draw.

"I really didn’t like to draw what I saw outside of myself, and I think it’s still very much like that to this day. I would only draw imaginary characters; of course some of them would be a little bit like Popeye and Tom and Jerry, but mostly it was whatever characters were populating my brain: robots and things of that nature.

"And while other children would take joy in playing army men or house, I guess I was able to get a similar amount of pleasure from seeing the end result of something that I was doodling. And then there's the feedback when your parents tell you, "Oh, that’s great!" I guess you spend the rest of your life trying to recapture the feeling  you got when your folks  pinned something up on the refrigerator.

"But I never considered myself an artist; it felt much more like a hobby to me, like collecting stamps or coins or something. To me it didn’t feel like a vocation or a calling or anything like that for a very long time. In fact, even through college I didn’t study art, I studied marketing. When I graduated, I took a job at an insurance company, just to make money and keep my parents off my back. But after a year or so, I realized it wasn’t for me. So I took a few continuing education classes at SVA, at night, after work. At the time, there was no business casual and everybody at work was wearing suits, but I wasn’t going to go to SVA wearing a suit! So I’d go into the men’s room at work and change into jeans and sneakers and leave the suit hanging in the office and then I’d go down to SVA. I took about eight classes over the course of a few years, and I decided I was going to be an illustrator and I just quit the job. And that’s how it went.

"I was doing pretty well with illustration from a financial standpoint for a good part of the ‘90s. I’m pretty sure my experience mirrors a lot of illustrators, that the ‘90s were like a great upswing and then at the turn of the millennium, it got a little tougher. I started looking for work right around 9/11, and I was hired as a part time graphic artist at the local paper on Staten Island, the Staten Island Advance, which is pretty much only seen by Staten Islanders.

"My personality is such that I don’t mind spending great amounts of time by myself, which is exactly what you do as an illustrator, but I also enjoy being around other people. I think, given what happened on 9/11, starting work at the newspaper and being around other people and getting out of my own head for a little bit was great. I consider it a real Godsend that I was able to start this other thing and be learning something new, and kind of turn the page a little bit on my own career at that very strange time. So that’s how I got involved in the newspaper business.

"It’s a real eye opener to see illustration through the eyes of an art director. You see things like the decision making process that goes into who gets hired. You wish it was all, "Who's the best person and who can do the greatest job on this", but if you know you're working on a section with a particular editor and you know they have a certain slant and they like a particular kind of work... well, you might want to show a really conceptual thing to this editor, but he never goes for conceptual. It’s actually been encouraging to see that the decisions are never personal. There are so many little mini decisions that lead up to deciding if an illustrator is asked to do a job, and more often than not, the turnaround is ridiculously tight, so you won’t get certain people who need a little more lead time and whatnot. So what the general public end up seeing on the page is the result of many little mini decisions and compromises.

"I sometimes wish I had a little more alone time, to do work on my own projects and stuff, but if I had to leave The Journal tomorrow, I would miss the camaraderie and the energy there. So there are certainly things I miss about being a completely independent free spirit – and who wouldn’t – but I think the tradeoff has been more than worth it."