I was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. When I was in the first grade, I knew I wanted to be an artist — although I had no idea what an illustrator, designer, or art director was.
My experiences in high school encouraged me to pursue a career in illustration. Cecelia, then a classmate and now my wife, taught me about color and how to see color. She opened my eyes and I began to use it. My inspirational art instructor, Sandra Tobe, showed me that there were jobs for artists, and encouraged me to enter competitions. She also introduced me to Duane Hanson, the hyper-realist sculptor. I apprenticed with him for many years during high school and art school, and experimented with a variety of techniques.
After attending Fort Lauderdale Art Institute, Cecelia and I moved to San Diego, California, in 1979. My illustration career began with a weekly newspaper, the San Diego Reader. Since then, I have worked on many design and illustration projects for national publications, corporate clients, and picture books.
Before my picture-book career began, I took a trip to Brazil to visit my brother. Together we traveled down the Amazon River as I worked on a series of faces. This series later turned into a book called Sweet Peas. When I returned to California, Diane D'Andrade, from Harcourt Brace, asked me to illustrate Gary Soto's Neighborhood Odes. I stopped by her office and gave her a copy of Sweet Peas. When she saw it, she asked me to look at the manuscript for Smoky Night. At once, I saw its possibilities.
Since then, I have illustrated several children's picture books. But before I decide to illustrate a book, Cecelia reads all the manuscripts. The ones she likes, I read; the ones she doesn't, I turn down. Before I actually illustrate, I make visual notes and talk to the editor. Then I start thinking about how to transform the story into a complete experience. I try to bring across on the page what a particular character would have seen, smelled, tasted, heard.... I'm always thinking about how to make this more of an experience, not just something you read. I want people to open the books and say, “WOW! Look at this!”
Acclaimed artist David Diaz has been an illustrator and graphic designer for more than 20 years, and is recognized for his dynamic work in national publications, popular products, and literary works for children and adults alike.