In the latest Artist Spotlight Series, Flylords caught up with David Owens, an award-winning illustrator and freelance creative director based in Central New York. Check out the interview below to learn more about the awesome work that David does in the creative space. 

Flylords: When did your art career begin?

David: When I was a senior in college, I started emailing my portfolio to art directors. I got a few decent illustration projects before I graduated. It was an exciting experience; I remember lots of my peers applying to jobs and stressing about their next steps, but things sort of fell into place pretty naturally for me. I guess I got lucky.

Flylords: Tell us a little about your favorite medium for creating.

David: I used to paint in oils and watercolors, but now I mostly paint digitally, using Photoshop. A lot of people still think of digital painting as being somehow inferior to traditional painting, but I just see it as a lot less messy, and it allows me to paint pretty much anywhere. I once finished an illustration with a tight deadline on a plane ride.

Flylords: Do you think the area you live in influences your artwork?

David: I grew up fishing steelhead/brown trout on the Oswego River and after college, I decided to move to Oswego. I love the area – some of the best fishing in the world and some of the most gorgeous sunsets you’ll ever see. While I’ve always loved bright colors, I think the colors of the Oswego sky have found their way into my work especially as of late.

Flylords: Do you have a favorite piece of artwork you have completed?

David: I usually say “my next illustration will be my favorite.” But this year I worked with Tailwater Lodge on a steelhead poster for their gift shop, and it’s been a hard project to top. It was the perfect project that aligned interests and creative freedom. Shout out to @flyfishtf for trusting in me to make it happen!

Flylords: Biggest accomplishment as an artist?

David: When I was first starting out as an illustrator I was really into the awards and concerned with working for certain publications/brands. I’ve chilled out a lot. There is still a lot of brands I hope to one day work with, but I’m more interested in working on subject matter that I’m passionate about.

Flylords: Do you remember the first drawing you had published?

David: I’m not sure this counts as “published:” but I clearly remember winning third place in the Wildlife Art Competition at the NY State Fair while I was in 9th grade. I had painted a picture of a largemouth bass in watercolor. I lied about my age and entered the competition as a “professional” because it offered more prize money that way. My Aunt always liked the painting, so when she gave me some old reels once owned by my grandfather I felt compelled to gift it to her for Christmas that year.

Flylords: Would you rather catch the trophy fish or draw the trophy fish?

David: I don’t think I could draw fish properly if I didn’t spend time on the water. But I don’t need to catch the biggest fish to feel like the trip was successful (although that’s always fun). For me, it’s more about the whole experience.

Flylords: Any advice for aspiring artists in the outdoors?

David: I think it’s important to just do what you love and not force yourself into someone else’s shoes or career path. At the beginning of my illustration career I was so concerned with making money that I lost track of the lifestyle and subject matter that excited me. A few years ago I started art directing for outdoor publications and it opened a lot of doors for me. I now work as an art director for @oswegocountyny and it allows me to be a lot more selective with my illustration projects. I think some of my illustrator friends saw the career adjustment as a “cop-out,” but I spend a lot more time fishing now 😊

Flylords: Any fun projects you are currently working on?

David: I usually have about 5-7 projects in the pipeline, but I can’t usually talk too much about them. However, I’ve really been wanting to start a series of posters on the best rivers/locations to fish in North America. Maybe people can comment on their favorite place to fish below and tag me? 😊

Check out David on Instagram at @owens.illustration or at

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