CONTACT

dbdowd@dbdowd.com
314.651.2002

what i make

I write and illustrate, mostly nonfiction. Often I draw onsite. All my work engages the social landscape. Not the natural landscape, but the fashioned one: crappy architecture, signage, vehicles, holdover statuary, people making do. Many of my major projects have been about places. Most recently, my award-winning illustrated journal Spartan Holiday documents my travels and blends reportage, memoir and history.

I am available to go on assignment as a reporter and illustrator. I am actively interested in trials, political conventions, sports, and travel reporting. Please contact me if you would like to discuss a project.

I also publish, curate, and lecture on the history of illustration and comics. In 2018 I published Stick Figures: Drawing as a Human Practice in association with the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. In 2019,
I published “Nostalgia Illustrated: N. C. Wyeth, Advertising, and American Cultural History,” a catalogue essay reassessing Wyeth’s late advertising work for a major retrospective at the Brandywine Museum (Yale). The year before I contributed “Everyman, Meet Somebody: Characterization and Melodrama in Rockwell’s Four Freedoms,” to Enduring Ideals: Rockwell, Roosevelt, and the Four Freedoms, an exhibition and book on that subject (Abbeville).  

What I Do

I teach illustration, design, and cultural history at Washington University in St. Louis. I work with students in the MFA in Illustration and Visual Culture (MFA-IVC). I also teach undergraduates in the Communication Design program in the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts. I love my job, my students, and my excellent colleagues.

I also serve as the faculty director of the Modern Graphic History Library at Wash U, which was renamed in my honor in 2016. We collect the work and papers of illustrators and cartoonists, and are especially strong in American periodical illustration of the 20th century. If you know of a collection in the hands of a family unsure of what to do with it, email me! We are devoted stewards of this material.

I have also enjoyed a long association with the Norman Rockwell Museum, where I served as a project leader for the Society of Fellows from 2017-2019. That project culminated in Illustration Across Media: Nineteenth Century to Now, at Washington University on March 21-23, 2019.

What I think

I have an abiding curiosity about and deep affection for vernacular visual cultures. Humans fashion things. Giving form is a way of making meaning.

The best first sentence in a book not named Moby-Dick appears in a little volume, long since deaccessioned, that my wife checked out of the public library in Maplewood, Missouri in the mid 90s. The book, a how-to manual for making decorative stencils, was published in the 1920s. I cannot remember the author or title. The book began, “All normal persons desire to make things.”

Strike the word normal and the utterance is perfect.

Where I Come From

I was born in Massillon, Ohio in 1960. I attended Kenyon College where I studied history, theater and art, graduating with a B.A. in 1983. I kicked around in Cleveland, New York and Ann Arbor before ending up at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where I worked with the celebrated woodcut artist Karen Kunc. I earned my M.F.A. in printmaking in 1989. I sandwiched brief stints in Tarkio, Missouri; Halifax Nova Scotia; and Cleveland again between my graduate degree and the day I joined the faculty of Washington University in 1992–which felt then like winning the lottery, and still does today. I have a wife and have two sons: Lori, a filmmaker and entrepreneur (storytrack.com); Daniel, a law student; Andrew, a creative director. We have a standard poodle named Schubert.