Interview with artist and illustrator, Dave Setrakian

Dave Setrakian interview artist illustrator My Out of 10

Follow Dave at @davesetrakianart and visit

What do you do?
I am a Toronto based artist / illustrator. I produce paintings and graphics on canvas and paper as well as murals around the city.

How long have you been in this field for?
I think it all goes back to art school when I was at Central Technical School in the late nineties. I dreamt about producing large works on canvas and being successful. It was also around the time I met some graffiti writers in my high school that introduced me to painting on walls with spray paint. A few years after high school, I learned to use Photoshop, and then was hired to do graphics for Play Records Inc. and flyers for parties in Toronto. At the same time I was painting on canvas and exhibiting in small galleries and coffee shops.

What inspired you to pursue this career?
My inspiration came from various things. My late grandfather was a big inspiration when I was younger – he was a graphic artist and sign painter for many years. When I was a kid I would visit him while he painted in his basement studio. I observed how he painted birds, flowers and traditional Armenian images.

Another inspiration was probably just looking through art books and graffiti magazines. When I was in my teens I would go to a book store and look through magazines that I couldn’t afford, and spend hours flipping through Juxtapoz. I knew then that I was meant to be a part of this world of artists – nothing else made more sense to me.

These are some of the things that led me to where I am now but there will always be new things that inspire me. Everyday I find new things – whether it’s works from famous artists, music, film, fashion etc.

What was the biggest hurdle in attaining your career goals?
I personally found it difficult socializing and promoting myself. I have displayed my work in group art shows for many years and it took some time for me to understand the purpose of mingling and meeting new people. I used to feel very introverted around social situations and events where I had to introduce myself and explain to people what I do. That changed naturally as I got older and I’ve learned to express myself more comfortably.

Putting yourself out there is never easy and I think any artist can agree that the most important part of being an artist is hustling and proving yourself in your craft. It’s a big priority. I have struggled to get up every morning for the longest time and I had to remind myself why I’m here. I had to tell myself, “This is it man, it’s now or never. Your talent is the centre of your existence, it’s all you have, now get the fuck out there!”

What do you like most about being a freelance artist?
I’ve been a freelance artist for a couple of years now and it’s not bad. I like the feeling of having a purpose when I wake up in the morning. Producing images and trying new things is what I love doing. There is no greater feeling.

What do you find most challenging about it?
Aside from the self employed artist / illustrator world, being a freelance graphic designer I find is the most challenging because I have tasks to complete for clients. Artistic freedom is a great feeling, I don’t always have it when I’m dealing with clients, but it’s great when I’m in my zone and creating my own projects. I’ve made graphics for companies that have been turned down and I’ve submitted design work many times and was told that I didn’t have enough experience. It wasn’t easy at first but now that I have a bigger portfolio, it feels like there is always an opportunity out there for me.

If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?
I always thought about making music as a side thing, so maybe a producer or sound engineer? I’m not sure though, it’s a hard question.

Name one hobby you have that’s not related to your work.
I was a DJ for 15 years and played many venues around Toronto. I haven’t played for 2 years but I might get back into it…. maybe.

What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
I force myself out of bed and make a pot of coffee – it’s my battery and I need it. After I pour a cup I check my email and start the day.

And last thing you do at night?
Check my Instagram.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how much do you enjoy your work.
It would have be a 10. I’m at a stage right now where I’m trying new things with colour and form. I will continuously improve and build my style. It’s a never ending journey.


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