Artist Dan Nott shares how his non-cubicle career focuses on work that intersects art, politics, and journalism—and how a part-time job helps with finances.
As told to Hannah Cohen
I loved drawing stories as a kid, and took a Saturday-morning cartoon class which was the center of my universe. Comics are really well suited to channeling the awesome hallucinatory imagination that children have. I became really engaged with politics, always combining art with assignments related to current events. When I started learning about the history and medium of editorial cartoons during college, it kind of took over.
After graduating, I drew weekly editorial cartoons for The Gabbler, a satirical and humor website that I also helped edit. I reached out to a lot of cartoonists I admired, and many provided really good feedback on making a sharp statement and avoiding clichés. I didn’t have a whole lot of artistic training, so it took practice and exploration to find the styles I liked. It takes awhile to develop taste, and even longer for your abilities to catch up to that taste. That’s what I’ve been working on for the past few years.
I’m committed to making a career that falls at the intersection of art, politics, and journalism. I’ve had a part-time job since graduating, which has provided the financial stability needed to explore what that career might entail.
I’ve illustrated children’s books, done infographics for investigative journalists, managed a national award for student cartoonists, and produced medical illustrations on dental diseases. That variation really feeds into my curiosity and is my favorite part of what I do.
I think people are surprised to see how appealing comics can be for adults, and how useful it is for a variety of purposes. The same visual language used in Peanuts can be used for everything from graphic novels to comics journalism to communicating medical information across language barriers.
My job often feels like a collection of side projects, pastimes, and interests. The line between working and not working gets blurred. A lot of the books I read and conversations I have hanging out with friends end up having an effect on the work I make.
My best advice is to carve out time to pursue your interests, stay focused, and don’t get discouraged. I’ve always tried to do a lot of different kinds of work, on a lot of different topics. I think in the long run, narrowing a focus to a few specific topics which you can become an expert in is essential.
Hannah Cohen is a storyteller, adventurer, and image maker based in Boston.
You can see more of her work at hannahcohenphotography.com