We had the good fortune of connecting with David Nuttall and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi David, how has your background shaped the person you are today?
I was born in the small mining village of Aberfan in South Wales. I only lived there until my family moved when I was 5, but the events around the disaster and recovery there impacted my Dad’s work and life and I can still see the knock-on effects now. I was taught that I should attempt the things that I wanted to and that often “money was not the most important thing” when making a decision. I was lucky to have a geography teacher that saw my love of maps and suggested I apply to become a cartographer and be formally trained, instead of continuing traditional schooling, and my parents supported me in this direction, including lifts to work before I had my own vehicle. The ethics of doing the things you love, in life, in sports, work and with friends and family was strong and my brother, sister and myself all went to different schools and took different paths, showing how unique/different our parents thought we were and that we should be treated accordingly. I know my ability to speak to a group or a crowd comes from my Dad and seeing him remain calm in many situations has definitely influenced how I try to handle situations. Definitely “inherited”: Calmness, humor and dedication.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I create hand-drawn plausible fictitious maps, or more simply, I draw real maps of fake places. As a trained cartographer and GIS consultant I have worked with maps my entire professional life. I have also drawn maps by hand since I was 5 and this has continued as my art business. I pretty much hid my map art away for most of my life, believing it was just something I did for my own enjoyment, until I was encouraged by a former boss to enter a local art show as he felt others would be interested in my art, which also included some drawings and paintings at that time. I realized that my maps are what makes me unique and that I have to draw them. Some small business classes also helped me learn to focus on the thing that makes me stand out, and realistic hand-drawn maps of places that do not exist certainly is that. It has not been easy to go from full time employment with art on the side, to a full time artist and mapping consultant. The change in known income is one of the toughest aspects, as well as trying to be scalable when your work depends solely on you. One way I am trying to overcome some of that is to expand into more products that feature my map art, and this is something I am currently working on. I create maps on paper, wood, canvas, board, walls and skin. The later as temporary body art that is a very personal experience that can incorporate aspects of a customer’s life story or journey (map pun)! I want people to know and understand the depth of thought and research that goes into my art. Creating places that feel real and that people feel a connection to or a familiarity to is important to me and the only way they can do that is to see and understand my maps, as murals, as wall art or as body art. Doing demonstrations and projects in other locations is something I want to do to further this understanding.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
Huntsville is a great place to help debunk plenty of stereotypes about Alabama and the south. I would start at Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment (yes, slight bias as my studio is there), but it has such wonderful spaces, people, art, chocolate and food that it is an entire day to itself. The obvious second choice is the US Space and Rocket Center, which is the one thing that people do know Huntsville for. Next would be a brewery tour of the many small producers we have, including two located in a converted old Middle School. A bike tour would be next. I recently completed my quest to ride every single street within the city of Huntsville (which took 110 rides, totalling 2209 miles) and this gives me plenty of out of the way and interesting places to show people by bike. Huntsville is surprisingly hilly and varied in geography, with some lovely vistas thrown in! Food wise, I would hang out around the square and the local restaurants and coffee shops close to downtown. I would then ask them what their tastes are for the remaining time, art museum, living history museum, a hike on Monte Sano Mountain or beach volleyball!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
The entity that I would like to give recognition to is Lowe Mill ARTS & Entertainment and the Hudson family that own it. It is a large converted cotton mill providing studio space for artists and creative small businesses in Huntsville, AL. The place is very encouraging and supportive of all the creative businesses. The owners have created a wonderful collaborative and inspiring place for hundreds of artists, creative businesses and restaurants. I am luck to have my studio located in this fabulous old brick building, which has been excellently repurposed.