Book Chat: Dave Atze
Updated: May 22
Having collaborated with illustrator extraordinaire Dave Atze on the Max Booth Future Sleuth series since 2017, I've been wanting to pick his brain for a long time to find out how he does the incredible things he does. Now that we're on the cusp of releasing the sixth book in the series, Map Trap, the timing couldn't be better.
Firstly, a little about Dave: he's an illustrator from South Australia, who has produced artwork for a wide range of media including video games, advertising, comic books, kids books and toys. The first book he illustrated, Don't shut the door, written by Matthew Nicholls, was published in 2017. That same year, I was rapt to discover that Dave was going to be illustrating the Max Booth series. It's been a huge privilege to work with Dave on the series and see his perceptive and hilarious illustrations take shape. I'm really excited to welcome Dave to Book Chat.
Hi Dave! Thanks a million for joining us on Book Chat. You’re the first illustrator I've worked with to be featured here. But honestly, who else could it have been?!
Firstly, I’d love to know – was illustration a career path you’d wanted to embark on since you were a kid? How did it happen for you?
Thanks for having me Cam!
Yeah, I was always into drawing as a kid. Spending far more time on Title pages in assignments than doing anything else. I never really knew it was a career option. The school I went to seemed to do a pretty good job of steering people towards uni, a trade or a life in retail. And retail was the way I headed. I always kept drawing in my spare time and one day some of my friends saw my stuff and asked why I wasn’t pursuing a career in art. I didn’t have a good answer, so I started attending comic conventions and selling art. I teamed up with a Melbourne based Author to self-publish a book called Don’t shut the door. I guess the right people saw the book and Big Sky Publishing got in contact with me to illustrate a kid's book. And I've been doing that ever since.
You have such a fun, vibrant, colourful illustration style. Who are some of your influences as an illustrator?
We are going to go with insta handles here:
@zatransis Mike Henry
@frogbillgo Ryan Hall
@jameshartillustration James Hart
@shilohillustration Shiloh Gordon
What for you is the first step in the illustrative process when you get a commission? Do you do any of your initial sketches on paper?
I used to draw on paper first, but now apps like Procreate on the ipad pro mimic traditional tools so well I just head straight for that.
First step for a kids book is to thumbnail out my ideas for each page.
These are super rough, tiny almost like stick figure drawings for how I think each page will be laid out.
It blew me away how quickly you nailed the look of the characters and their world for the Max Booth Future Sleuth series. Can you tell us a bit about how you developed the physical characteristics of these characters, particularly Max and Oscar? Was it as easy as it looked?
I am a very visual person; all my thoughts are pictures and when I read something I immediately see what I think the character will look like. I then try to get that picture out of my head and on to paper. Then we decide if I hit the mark or not, then I have another go based on feedback from my first drawing.
One of the things I’ve loved about your work on the Max Booth series is how much humour you’ve added to the story through expressions and quirky details I never would’ve thought to request. Is this something you make a conscious effort to do, or does it just come through as you imagine individual scenes?
Humour is my favourite thing to draw, I'm lucky in the Max Booth series that you give me many opportunities to flex those humour muscles!
Not sure I could ever illustrate a serious book, or dark book, it's just so far removed from my personality I think I would struggle.
Being a digital artist, I assume most of your work is done on computer or digital drawing pads, but are there any other ways you use technology in your process?
So I still do traditional art commissions for people, but all my children's book work is done digitally. The Ipad pro, Apple pencil and Procreate app are the main tools of the trade. I don’t really use much else. Just think of it as a digital piece of paper with any brush, pen or marker that I want to use.
I was excited to learn that you’re about to make the leap to being an author yourself. What can you tell us about your forthcoming debut book as an author/illustrator at this stage? Shameless plugs allowed/encouraged!
Ha Ha! Thanks Cam! Yes, my book is called Belly Button Fluff and it’s a rhyming picture book for young kids, but I think everyone will get a kick out of it.
It’s got that trademark Dave humour, a super cute adventurous young girl named Scarlett as our hero and a whole heap of animal characters who join in on the fun. The book is due to release mid Sept at this stage. More info on my socials as things get a bit closer.
Other than the book you’ve written, what’s next for Dave Atze?
Well, we have a sequel on the way next year. But I am also planning on hitting the road. Lots of school and library visits teaching kids to draw and be creative and talking all things kids' books.
Where can we find you online and on social media?
You can subscribe to my mail list and keep up to date on everything Dave at Daveatze.com
Or follow me on instagram @daveatze
Thanks again for your time, Dave. After everything you’ve done to bring Max to life, it’s way past time that I gave you a shout-out on the page!
Thanks so much for this opportunity and I can't wait for what we might do together next!