To Top

Meet Ian Dale

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ian Dale.

Every artist has a unique story. Can you briefly walk us through yours?
Art has been my main interest since I was about three years old, taking many forms along the way. Growing up I drew lots of cartoon and comic characters, dinosaurs, and my own character creations. I began learning digital art tools relatively early on, and in my teens and twenties, I experimented with everything from computer animation and video games to graphic design and websites. While at art school I discovered a fresh love for more traditional media like oil painting and drawing from life, and how important a strong art foundation is, regardless of the technology you use.

I have a lot of experiences but increasingly I have focused on a digital illustration which combines much of what I like about painting, animation, character design, and graphic design. I usually work freelance alone or on small teams, and often my diverse background allows me to bring extra skills to the project.

I have been freelancing for 11 years, but it took about five years before I began to find the kind of opportunities I was really hoping for. Along the way, there were periods that felt like detours but looking back I can see how I may have been learning things that prepared me for the future in some way.

Throughout all that I also continually wrestle with how I can use my gifts in ways that are most needed and helpful in the world. I’ve had to accept that I may not ever be the very best at something, but if there are ways that I can carve my own path and make a unique contribution, that is what really motivates me.

Please tell us about your art.
A theme through much of my work is the mixture of darkness and hope. I’m drawn to stories and images that, even when they’re for kids, are realistic about the brokenness in our world. That brokenness might be conveyed in the events of the narrative, the design of the characters, or in formal qualities like lighting or texture. But my goal is that my work would not dwell in angst and despair, but rather have a clear sense of hope, kindness, and joy that shines brighter in contrast to the circumstances.

As an illustrator, I create artwork for a variety of clients, many in the educational, non-profit, and faith-based spaces. Most of it is commissioned work but I tend to gravitate towards causes and subject matter that I care about personally – seeking the well-being of under-resourced kids and exploring some of the deepest truths and values that transform lives and enable people to thrive regardless of their circumstances. I’m convinced that the Bible is our most valuable resource for life-changing truth, so a lot of my work is geared towards making that treasure accessible to people of various ages and contexts.

I find a lot of inspiration and learn from artists in the animation industry, contemporary and classic illustrators, and representational fine artists. One of my goals is to be a bridge to bring some of that artistry to kids and causes that might have less exposure to it.

My work has a few different styles, sometimes more like a painting, other times an ink or pencil drawing, but it’s almost entirely digital. Early sketches may begin on paper but then I paint and draw the final work in Adobe Photoshop using digital brushes. Working on the computer has a ton of practical benefits when doing commercial art, but I also have found it’s a good fit for me as someone who is more conceptual and not as materials-oriented as many artists.

Choosing a creative or artistic path comes with many financial challenges. Any advice for those struggling to focus on their artwork due to financial concerns?
It’s definitely a big challenge and a constant tension to deal with. Some people have a different job to earn money and then focus on their art on the side. For me, it was important to try to sync up my career and my artmaking as much as possible, so I could conserve my “free time” for other key priorities. Either approach is going to involve a lot of compromises, and probably years of gradual progress.

Since there is such a constant tension between art and finances, one thing that has been crucial for me is to have some mediating value that overrides both. If art was my ultimate value, then I may be tempted to make reckless or selfish decisions, sacrificing everything for my art. On the other hand, if financial security were supreme in my life, then I’d never take the kinds of risks needed for an art career, and eventually, give up.

For me, my faith is central to my life and it gives me certain priorities that transcend either side of the art/money tug-of-war and helps me to choose when one side needs to give way to the other. When it’s important to take a financial risk to seize an opportunity or make an advancement in my art efforts, I can have courage and trust that I’ll be taken care of. And when—quite often—I need to delay some of my goals to be financially responsible, I can choose to be content and patiently hopeful.

It has also been helpful for me to learn to keep realistic expectations and be willing to make tradeoffs. Every path is going to have costs and benefits. My friends with employed jobs in other industries may have a higher standard of living than me. My path has benefits like self-direction and enjoying what I do, but the costs are often in the financial arena, so I may need to make sacrifices relative to what my peers might enjoy. If I try to “have it all,” I’ll end up in trouble. When a sacrifice is necessary, it helps me to be content by remembering what benefits I already enjoy instead.

With all that in mind, the last piece of advice is to get better and better at managing the resources you do have. Invest the time to learn financial skills, find ways to cut costs, and make the most of what you already possess. The hardest thing for me is keeping up the good habits that I learned once and then continuing to practice them month after month. Also, continually fine-tune your skills on the income-generating side, whether that’s by negotiating better rates or in your accounting or taxes.

The stereotype is that artists aren’t financially-minded, and that was true about me early on. Over time I have seen increasingly how financial sustainability is related to opportunities to keep doing art. That has motivated me to take it more seriously, though I still have a lot of room to grow.

How or where can people see your work? How can people support your work?
My new children’s book, The Advent Storybook is coming out October 1, 2018. You can find it on Amazon at or at

The book shares a story of hope and rescue unfolding throughout history and is designed for families to read together each day of December in anticipation of Christmas (although it can be enjoyed at any time of the year). We’d love your support in buying the book for yourself or as gifts to others, or sharing about it online.

You can see my illustrations mostly in print and online, however, I’m looking into opportunities to exhibit my recent series of paintings for The Advent Storybook in a gallery setting sometime this fall. As plans come together for that, I’ll be sure to post updates about it on my social media channels.

My artwork can also be seen online at my website and by following my social media channels (Instagram, Facebook, Behance, etc) which are linked at my website and at the end of this article.

You can buy high-quality art prints of selected pieces at

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Laura Richie, David C Cook, American Bible Society, World Vision

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

More in