Interview: Cori Dantini

This week we interview Cori, and for those who are currently making the leap into illustration/art as a full-time career, well, I can only tell you that it’s a great read! 🙂

Buggy Reader archival print

Name: Cori Dantini

Location: For the moment… Pullman Washington, soon to be moving to Salt Lake City, Utah


Illustration media:
It might be easier to talk of the things I don’t use, but here goes: walnut ink, pen nibs, golden acrylic paints, watercolor, pencil, colored pencil, eraser, Photoshop, scanner, heat gun, wax, sewing machine, Photoshop textures (created and found) scanned into computer and used to build images.

Tell us a little more about yourself.
What can one say about oneself? I suppose I could start with the specifics. I am the wife of a lovely man called Liam, we have a son Henry(also wonderful), who is just about to turn 5 and a sweet border-chowbrador called Lucy.

Currently we are living in Pullman Washington, which is a little town that resides in the wheat fields on the Palouse. This is where Liam and I both grew up, and where my side of the family is still living (which is why we are here). We moved to Pullman a little over a year ago after Liam finished up his PhD in Neuroscience at UCHSC (Denver), but we are planning to make a move to the Salt Lake City area (soonish) for Liam’s new job.

Beyond that my life is crazy. I find that the wish I made years ago… the one that goes, I wish I could do illustration/artwork for a full time living… I wish people wanted me to do work for them, AND they would call me out of the blue. I wish I could make enough money to buy fancy shoes! It has ALL come true. But I say now, BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR… because wishes DO come true. So I am busy, and I love it… but find myself now wishing for time to spend with my little guy Henry.

She Was a Bird Lover archival print

How did you get your start in illustration?
My road to a career in illustration has been unusual at best… it feels more like it knocked on my door and I answered, let it in… gave it a cup of tea. Made it a cake… and then it decided it wanted to stay and I let it.

I graduated with a BFA in Fine Art with an emphasis in painting. A painter is what I was going to be when I grew up. It seemed like I had known this since I was 9, and that was my plan. Graduate college, wait tables, and try to show my work… get [into] a gallery… and of course “get famous”.

Anyway, after I graduated from WSU, I moved from Pullman to Seattle. I got various jobs waiting tables and in the end found myself tending bars. This is where I met a liquor rep who in the end hooked me up with a job painting signs. One job turned into two, two to three… and it just kept going. The money was good. It was enough a month that I started to realize that one really could make a living doing something other than… doing something that seemed like work.

Then we moved. Sign connection gone. So I sat in Denver thinking about what I could do to make a living there… and I saw an ad in the newspaper, wanting artists to design clipart. So I went in, and they gave me a test… Draw a piece of fruit. Draw a car. Draw a realistic car. Anyway I did the exercises, and handed them in, and those silly folk hired me! I was so excited. I got a computer (my first), learned how to run Corel Draw and Photoshop. At one point I was designing (and processing) 200 images a week. Slowly that turned into greeting card design for CD ROMs… and that got me thinking that I should look into doing “real” greeting card designs. I bought a book, made up a few samples and sent them off. I think I sent off 10 sets of samples, and it started me down my next road. Those 10 sample sets hooked me up with Great Arrow, Allport, Paramount, Marion Heath… and believe it or not, 6 years after sending them out I was contacted by Madison Park Greetings, and now I have my own little line of cards with them too.

While all this greeting card stuff was moving forward I was putting portfolio’s online at guru, monster,… anywhere I could find really. This is how I got hooked up with a fabulous art director (Gale Venosdel) in Denver. He wanted to work with someone local, and he found me… and THAT is when my life as an illustrator took off. He was looking for someone to do work for a company called McStain (a green homebuilder in Denver), and that alone has kept me very very busy over the years … it has been really wonderful. Over the years they have let my style grow and change, and it is just getting more and more fun all the time.

Eventually Gale left Denver and went to work elsewhere, but he took me with him. Through him, I have completed a project for Dole, and a few ads/posters for Starbucks (when THAT first Starbucks phone call came, I was nearly in tears). He has had a wonderful influence on my career, and without him… who knows where I’d be.

I should add that through ALL of this, I was still creating paintings…and selling them as prints in Denver. I suppose that this is why when I found Etsy I was so into the idea of it. I could hardly wait to get started! Originally I set up a shop with my modern style painting. They are VERY different from what is on there now, and I didn’t sell a thing. Basically I started a shop and had no idea I had to do anything, and couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working. So I pulled everything off and sat back and watched and watched and looked (and looked). And one day I saw a piece by CHEVALIER… a girl drawn on a piece of paper from an old book. This is where the light bulb went on in my head. I had been collecting books/paper for years and years (15 or so)… the collection just kept getting bigger, but I had no idea what I was going to do with it. Until I saw that piece, And then I knew… ooooooooooh it was so exciting.

Originally I created about 12 pieces and while I was making them I found out that there was a call for artists, for a little art show out in a town called Palouse. So I took them out there and put them in. when we went out to see everything that next weekend, what I discovered was every piece had sold… then I hurried home, made more and listed them on Etsy. And now I find I never know what might happen due to Etsy… interviews (like this), being featured on blogs, galleries approaching me for paintings. It is all SO exciting.

Little Monster; Miss Britta and Her Goose Go To Market archival prints

What’s your favourite tool?
It’s a toss up between my walnut ink and these Japanese pen nibs (can’t read the label) or my MICRON .005 pen’s. And how can one forget Photoshop?

Are you a full-time artist?

What or who inspires you?
I love sentences… that sounds weird, but I love (in particular) fragments of sentences. They get me thinking about “moments” I suppose.

I love Calef Brown
I love Amanda Blake
I love Camilla Engman
I love Gina Triplett

I love music… I love the way air can smell sometimes, all clean and fresh… full of possibilities. Wide open.

What keeps you motivated?
I want to get better. Everyday, I want to get better at what I do.

The Conspiracy archival print

What advice would you like to give people who would like to sell their works online?
Use Etsy… Etsy is an amazing tool. Use it.

Where do you see yourself within the next few years?
If it’s in the cards, I’d like to have another baby. And once those first couple of (hard) years are over, I’d like to get a rep and do MORE. More. More. More. OH- and books. I would love to illustrate children’s books.

What message do you want to send out to people about your work?
Each piece is a thin slice of me. Oh, and they look better in real life. REALLY.

9 Replies to “Interview: Cori Dantini”

  1. Majeak Ann says:

    This is a wonderful brilliant well responded interview. Didn’t know her, NOW I love her, like her very much, she is down to earth, and her pieces are just delightful. She is indeed Full Inspiration.
    Congratulations. I am also a believer. Let’s just keep dreaming and wishing for what we truly want. I agreed, it can come true.
    Thanks for sharing! Greetings from the Caribbean!

  2. DIANE DUDA says:

    I enjoyed this. She is one of my favorites. 🙂

  3. This is such a fantastic interview and so well articulated! Cori you do great work, congrats on your success! And Amy, we look forward to more of these features, thank you! 🙂

  4. Gale Venosdel says:

    A breath of fresh air indeed. Thanks for the article, it’s so cool to hear about your journey.

  5. Lovely to learn about your serendipitous journey.
    Finding your work on etsy gave me one of my lightbulb moments! 🙂

  6. Angela says:

    You gave me hope, I love this interview. I love the journey you’ve been through and I really hope that someday I could also reach my dreams.:)

  7. bora says:

    Hello Amy, I like your works, congratulations 🙂

  8. I loved this. An inspiring read to give me hope.

  9. Lovely wonderful article! Sooo inspiring to hear how far you’ve come on your journey – to a full time artist. Its exactly what I’m aiming towards…keep up your beautiful work! 🙂

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