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Chris Dudley

Chris Dudley is an artistic powerhouse. He’s been a working artist for over 25 years, creating everything from children’s books to commissioned drawings (and he teaches art as well). His latest book, Lil’ Boogaloo Shrimp and the Clean Sweep is inspired by the iconic 80’s movie Breakin’, and features the OG Boogaloo Shrimp himself, Michael Chambers!

Chris gave me the rundown on the new book, and we talked about his creative process and what draws him to illustrating portraits and children’s books. He also spoke about growing up in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the benefits on staying there for his career, the keys to his longevity, his work with Hudson Dawn Publishing, and dropped some great advice on work/life balance and staying inspired. You’ll definitely be a fan of Chris after you hear his story — I know I am!

Interview Transcript

Maurice Cherry:
All right, so tell us who you are and what you do.

Chris Dudley:
Well, my name is Chris Dudley and I am the creative director for Chris Dudley Art. I really focus on art and illustration.

Maurice Cherry:
How has 2023 been going for you so far?

Chris Dudley:
Actually, it has been going amazing. The scope and range of projects that I’ve been working on have been just straight fun. The recent project has been Lil’ Boogaloo Shrimp and the Clean Sweep, which is with Michael Chambers, who’s famous from the breakdancing movies franchises, and it’s been amazing.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, tell me some more about the book.

Chris Dudley:
Yeah. Well, it’s, I think, the first book of its kind. Scoured the internet, and I haven’t seen a book like this. One of the first books I’ve ever seen that focuses on breakdancing. The premise behind the book is that it teaches kids responsibility and priority using breakdancing. And also, it highlights, there’s a shout-out of a lot of the actors from the Breakin’ movies, Adolfo Quiñones, Bruno Falcon, and sadly, we lost both of them recently, and just all of the main characters from the breaking movie, but also a lot of other individuals.

And in addition to having that subject matter about breakdancing, because a lot of people think it went by the wayside, but it’s still hugely popular and also, it will debut in the Olympics in 2024. And so, it’s still a huge thing. There’s a shout-out to the Olympics in the book. Actually, the final spread, everybody’s breakdancing in Paris with the Eiffel Tower in the background.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh, nice.

Chris Dudley:
Yeah, I haven’t seen a book like this yet.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. Congratulations on that.

Chris Dudley:
Thank you. It also, if I could add, it’s more than just a children’s book, it gives kids a little bit of history about the background of breaking, its roots in New York. Also, gives some terminology of breaking, like what a freeze is, what a go down is. So, it’s a little bit more than just the story.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. I remember this was back in 2005. When was I working there? Yeah, 2005, I was working for the State of Georgia here in Atlanta, working at the Georgia World Congress Center. And I remember we had just hired this white girl as a PR rep or something. And I mean cute, short, bubbly white girl. I was like, “Oh, she seems really nice.” And the weird thing, well, not the weird thing, but as I was talking to her and I asked her what her hobbies was and she was like, “Breakdancing.” And I’m like, “You’re a breakdancer? You look like a UGA sorority grad. Come on, you’re not a breakdancer.” And sure enough, it would be in a sort of weird way, but sometimes she would do moves just in the office just to show us that, “Yeah, I am a breakdancer.”

Chris Dudley:
Gotcha.

Maurice Cherry:
She invited me to a few events that she was breaking at and-

Chris Dudley:
Oh, nice.

Maurice Cherry:
It was so weird because sometimes we’d be in these board meetings, in a legit boardroom with chairman and stuff, and then someone’s like, “Oh, you’re a breakdancer. Why don’t you bust a move for us?” And I’m like, in a way, this is so embarrassing, but also, it’s like, well, at least you’re not asking the Black person to do it, so I’m not… Let me sit back and watch the show.

Chris Dudley:
Gotcha. That’s awesome.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. And I think you told me that part of what you’re doing with the book involves a crew or something here in Atlanta.

Chris Dudley:
Yes, they’re in Georgia. I think they’re near Acworth, the Rockwell Dance Academy. And it’s interesting that you mentioned that the young lady there was a breakdancer, but the Rockwell Dance Academy is led by Honey Rockwell and Orko. Honey Rockwell is a staple name as a B-girl. Actually, just last year, they were both inducted into the Breaking Hall of Fame. And so, B-girls definitely have a place as well. I mean, she’s one of the most well-known. She was with the original Rock Steady Crew in South Bronx, New York.

Maurice Cherry:
Oh, nice.

Chris Dudley:
Yeah. We partnered with them and we’ve got some things in the works. So, it’s really exciting to have that Georgia connection going.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, we’ll make sure to put a link to the book also in the show notes, so people can check that out. Aside from this new project, how are things different for you this year than they were last year?

Chris Dudley:
It has been just ramping up with projects. Last year, obviously, we had a steady flow of projects, variety. This year, the children’s books have just been packed. I mean, I’m booked out with children’s books, booked out away. So, it’s fun where you complete one project and then you can look forward to the next one. But I’ve got, I think, four or five that are already in the queue, confirmed. And so, I look forward to working with each of those authors as well.

Maurice Cherry:
Nice. I mean, with everything that you’ve got going on now, what does the summer look like? Is it more work or you got any plans?

Chris Dudley:
Yeah, a little vacation, a little relaxation I would do with the family for the summer. I’ve got three girls and my wife, so we’ll get a little relaxation in, but some work too. Especially with the release of this book, Lil’ Boogaloo Shrimp and the Clean Sweep, we’ve got some events planned this summer as well. Some here in Michigan with the Children’s Museum and another bookstore, and actually, a local breakdancing crew.

Actually, Michael Chambers there in Los Angeles, July 29th, I believe, he’s got an event with Barnes & Noble. So, I may be flying out there to support him on that. But yeah, we’ve got a lot going on this summer. Then coming out of summer, we look to get in, we’re going to be partnering with some schools to get the books into schools as well.

Maurice Cherry:
Very nice. So, you got a lot planned coming up.

Chris Dudley:
Yes, sir.

Maurice Cherry:
Let’s dive into Chris Dudley Art. I mean, you just mentioned you’ve got a bunch of these projects that are lined up. What does your creative process look like when you’re working on a new project?

Chris Dudley:
Yeah. Well, they all start similarly because we do a little bit of design work. We’ve designed some logos and so forth. We’ve got a team that does that. But also with the illustration, I like to start out old school with sketching. That’s how I learned to draw. So, that’s part of my creative process with every project, is starting out with sketching. I mean, I can go into the meat of doing a children’s book, if you like.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Chris Dudley:
Okay. It’s basically we get a manuscript and it goes through an approval process. We don’t just take any manuscript. It’s got to… Just to be real with you, when I read the manuscript, if images start popping into my head, it’s a go. If they don’t, it’s probably not a go. And that’s just nothing against the author, but it has to resonate with me because it’s got to be a fun project that I’m looking forward to doing.

And so, from there, the manuscript checks out and we want to bid on that. From there, we will establish the illustration description. So, that’s what imagery is going to go along with what portions of the text, especially if it’s a children’s picture book. And once we nail that down, I’ll do sketches. And that’s where you establish the composition. Well, actually, prior to that, we design the characters, the main characters, and see exactly what they’re going to look like. Is it a eight-year-old African American boy, or does it have to be a little girl who’s three years old and she has a puppy?

So, we have to figure out the dynamics of the characters. What are they going to look like? What time period are we in? Are we in the 2000s? Are we in the ’80s, like with our recent book here? And so, we establish a character and then we do composition sketches of establishing what each scene is going to look like. And those get approved by the author along the way. So, they’re heavily involved with the creative process, so that I don’t just come up with the finished project and then hope they like it. They’re involved along the way so that there’s no surprises on either end.

Then from there, we go to final sketches. We start to flesh out this is exactly what this spot illustration or this full page or this spread is exactly going to look like and the details of it, if there’s need to be background and so forth. And from there, after the client approves that, we do the line work. That’s where we finalize it almost… Well, you’re familiar with how a coloring book looks where you have the simple black lines.

Maurice Cherry:
Yup.

Chris Dudley:
We finish out the book looking like that. That way the client gets to see, okay, this is exactly how things are going to look before we add color. In that way, any adjustments can be made along the way, if need be. So, they approve each process, and then we get into the color theory, because you can’t just throw colors onto the imagery. It has to make sense visually. Also, colors such as red is going to attract attention. So, you wouldn’t just arbitrarily use that just because you want it red. And sometimes, that has to be explained to the client as well, because they may think, “I want to paint this in a blue.” That, well, based on color theory, those won’t work with the composition.

Then we just move toward the formatting process, and then the text is added. And I take the text into consideration as well though when I’m designing the composition, so it doesn’t look forced later. I make sure I allow spacing for that. But yeah, that’s how we move through a project. Then from there, it goes to post-production, and then we have a book.

Maurice Cherry:
So, it’s way more than just art and illustration.

Chris Dudley:
Oh, yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
You’re really seeing it through the entire process, entire publishing process.

Chris Dudley:
Yeah, from concept to completion is what we’d call it. Yeah, from the initial idea to a finished book.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I mean, you mentioned getting the clients involved with it. I’m pretty sure this is probably maybe not an exhaustive process for them, but how is it for them being able to see the book come together step by step like this?

Chris Dudley:
It’s amazing because it’s no secret most people haven’t learned the skill of being able to draw, let alone to illustrate, which is there’s a difference because with illustration, you’re telling a story with the imagery. And so, when you flesh out a character for a client, it’s so satisfying because they have it in their head, but they can’t see it. And so, when you can present that to them, it’s like, “Yes, that’s exactly what I want.” It’s just so gratifying for them. Then to see that character then doing things throughout the book, their eyes just light up. So, it’s a pleasure working with them and again, keeping them involved in the process.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, it looks like you do a lot of children’s book illustrations. What draws you to this genre?

Chris Dudley:
Well, having kids. Like I said, I got three girls. They’re a little bit older now into late teens, mid and late teens. But I actually spent, and actually people can go look at my website at chrisdudleyart.com, I spent about 15, 20 years doing almost exclusively realism. I mean very detailed graphite drawings. I did art shows and juried exhibitions and all of that. And so, I used that knowledge actually as I segued into, I still do some of that, but the children’s books, reading books to my girls. And I actually had to learn how to illustrate better. I knew it a little bit, but I had to really dive into it. So, I’ve been doing that for the past 10 years now, and it’s taken over really.

Maurice Cherry:
How do you stay organized with a lot of these projects? Because I would imagine as you’re saying this whole process, do you do just one book at a time? Are you juggling multiple books? How do you keep all of that managed effectively?

Chris Dudley:
Well, some of them will overlap a little bit, but it depends on what phase of the process. Honestly, for me personally, the most challenging part is the initial part, coming up with the concept of what the imagery is going to look like. Because once you’ve established that, you then created a roadmap for yourself, and then it’s just following the roadmap. It’s almost like plotting out your course somewhere. That’s the hardest part, where am I going to go with this? But then once you plot out the course, okay, now, it’s just following this path that I’ve laid out.

And there may be some tweaks along the way. And with that, it’s important obviously not to overbook. We’ve all heard the same under promise, over deliver. And so, really, we really focus on with my team, especially my assistant, not making promises that would be too difficult to even try to make happen. Then you’re disappointing clients. So, books, I won’t work on two or three at the same time, but they may overlap. Like okay, if I finish this portion, now I can maybe bring in, but they’ll have different deadlines. I don’t have it where they’re all due at the same time. Keeping it balanced, yeah.

Then we filter in some other relatively smaller projects in there while I may be working on a book, like a one-off illustration or a design project. But I like to really focus on that client’s project, so they get the attention that it needs.

Maurice Cherry:
And it’s important to note, as you’ve alluded to, you have a team. So, this isn’t a one-man operation.

Chris Dudley:
Exactly. I could not do it by myself. I did in the past. Obviously, it was just me. I started, well, way, way back before it was Chris Dudley Art when I was 18, 19. And it was just me, invoicing and trying to figure all this stuff out. But I realized later is that it stifled creativity, doing all of those other administrative tasks. Now, I still do some, but by and large, I want to save my brain for the project.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I think, as you said, starting out on your own, you want to try to do everything or try to tackle everything because you’re just starting out. You want to establish yourself. But eventually after a while, in order for you to really be able to go further, you have to give up some control. You have to build a team. It’s just a necessary part of being able to scale the work that you do.

Chris Dudley:
Exactly, exactly. Yeah, it’s necessary.

Maurice Cherry:
Let’s switch gears a little bit here and learn more about you. You talked a bit about starting out. You were born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Tell me about what that was like.

Chris Dudley:
Yes, it was fun. My interest in art started very young. I had a couple of cousins that drew a little bit. One was just phenomenal, phenomenal artist, and it amazed me that he could do that with a pencil. And it wasn’t daunting like it may be to some people. And in school, I always drew. I remember back in, I think I was maybe in kindergarten or first grade, and a little weed of mine, it was like a stalk of grain or something that I drew, it got accepted in the children’s exhibition at the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

And so, it’s like that was a “first juried show” and it was accepted. And so, it’s going to be on display Downtown Grand Rapids at the Art Museum. And so, when my mom took me down there to see it and to see it displayed, it was just awe-inspiring. They had the artwork separated by grade level. So, mine was in the first, second-graders. And I remember walking and seeing, I remember the stuff like it’s yesterday, seeing the 12th graders. Obviously, their art advancement was far beyond my level, but it was so amazing that it was possible, and it just sparked that that’s possible. I didn’t have the skill to do it, but it didn’t deter me. It made me understand that’s possible. I can get to that level. And so, that’s where it began.

Maurice Cherry:
And it sounds like your family also really supported you in this too.

Chris Dudley:
Yeah, family has always supported me. Even teachers, I joke about it now, they would let me draw in class as long as I did my work, obviously. But yeah, I’ve had a lot of support over the years.

Maurice Cherry:
How has it been working and cultivating your career in the same place where you grew up? I feel like a lot of folks we have on the show may have, of course, started out one place and then ended up moving somewhere else, and that was where their career or their work flourished. What does it mean for you to still be in your hometown doing this work?

Chris Dudley:
Well, it’s taken some time. I started out with, it was Dudley Graphics actually, when I was 18, 19. And I was doing T-shirt designs and it was all by hand. I didn’t know graphic design or how to use a computer or anything. So, I was drawing things and even drawing lettering and so forth, and later rebranded. Actually, when I improved my drawing ability, I was okay, but I wanted to learn how to draw much, much better. And so, in my 20s, I said I want to learn this and really buckled down and improved my skill, but had obviously some success with that, dealing with some businesses and so forth.

But later, that’s when I started doing juried art shows. And I felt that if I could get into a juried art show, that somewhat vetted my skillset. Then some of these were hard to get into. They were hard to get into. So, that gave me a little boost of confidence. Then figuring out how to make it sustainable, like you said, in your hometown and doing projects with companies. I actually did a whiteboard animation with a pharma, very large, I can’t say the name, but pharmaceutical company. And so, finding avenues then how to make it sustainable.

And I was able to explore a lot of different avenues of art. I mean, it was design. It was drawing. There was a little bit of animation work with some of that, but to make it more sustainable even here locally. But then things did branch out where I started getting a little attention from those outside of Michigan. I worked with an author actually in Georgia, and just some throughout the States. And that’s when it’s like, whoa, it opens you up to that global market.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Do you think it’s been a benefit to you to still do this work in Grand Rapids? Have you thought about, “Oh, well, what if I was in New York?” Or even in Detroit, if you stayed in Michigan?

Chris Dudley:
Yes. I found it as a benefit because it puts me in a position to, it sounds cliche, but to give back, if you will, to the community versus when you move away, you’re not in touch with that local community anymore. So, I’ve been able to be in contact with local artists that I know and local authors, because I work with a lot of authors here in Michigan. So, to be able to meet them in some instances face to face, you can’t replace that. It’s worked out. It’s just worked out for me to stay here in Michigan and still have some of those connects outside.

Maurice Cherry:
How big is Grand Rapids? I’m trying to think population wise, how big.

Chris Dudley:
Ooh, offhand, I guess I should know this, right?

Maurice Cherry:
No, no.

Chris Dudley:
Actually, it’s the second… I didn’t know I was getting a geography lesson here. It’s the second-largest city, obviously, behind Detroit. I mean, it’s growing too. It’s continuing to grow. Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
No, I mean, I’m curious about that because I’ve had folks that are on the show before that aren’t in these big metropolises. They’re in smaller cities like Raleigh or Grand Rapids, like you mentioned. I think I talked to another illustrator in Detroit. Oh, his name escapes. I think it’s Sean Bell or something like that. But talking about the benefit or one inherent benefit of being able to do this work in a smaller community, I won’t say small, but smaller than a big city, is that in a way, because you grew up there, people know you, so there’s that sort of reputation. But also, you help serve as a beacon for the next generation to see that what you’re doing is possible where they are. They don’t have to move somewhere else or go somewhere else to achieve-

Chris Dudley:
Exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
… the kind of success that you’ve achieved.

Chris Dudley:
Yeah, exactly. That is the key. And a lot of it is about developing your skillset, really getting your work seen. And so, with the internet and so forth, I’m not old, but I grew up without the internet. But now, you have these different vehicles that you can use to have your work seen really all over the world.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Before we get into that, I want to stay a little bit in the pocket of Dudley Graphics because I think it’s important for our audience to really hear about what it was like to design really before personal computers and Photoshop and all that sort of stuff was really a thing. Tell me about your early career of Dudley Graphics because that was roughly between what, ’96 and 2005, 2006, something like that.

Chris Dudley:
Yep, exactly. Yeah. I started out, man, I was 18 and I became a broker with a T-shirt company and I was doing the designing. And like you said, it was all by hand. I mean, it was freehand drawing. Then I would ink it and I would take actual ink drawings to my screen printer to get the camera ready, iron it and so forth. And so, if I had to make an adjustment, it was all by hand and cutting and pasting and whiteout. I did not know how to use a computer. I didn’t have one. So, it was the early days.

I remember when I first got a computer and trying to learn it, but I didn’t really have the correct software. Then had thought, “Okay, how do I input something in my computer?” So, I had to try to learn a scanner and it was crazy. One thing that really helped, I actually worked at a Kinko’s, which later became FedEx Kinko’s, and which is now FedEx office. And I got a lot of training actually in graphic design and just how those things worked. And that really helped me with launching Dudley Graphics.

Again, it was just in the design and T-shirt realm because my drawing ability honestly was, I would say, above average, but above average was to be average person who doesn’t draw. So, I had a ways to go as far as learning how to draw better. And that’s what prompted the rebrand, is I felt, “Okay, my skills are way better than they were. So, I can go with this art thing.”

Maurice Cherry:
Oh, you took me back there with talking about Kinko’s. I remember that fondly.

Chris Dudley:
Okay, yeah. Yep. Yep.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, during that time, I was in high school, right around that time. I was 18 in ’99. So, a little bit later than you were, but I did come up also in that time of life before the internet. I mean, computers actually when I was a kid were almost like a toy.

Chris Dudley:
Exactly, yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
At least that’s how they were marketed or pushed. It was like, oh, this is the fun thing you do at school in your free period or-

Chris Dudley:
Exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
It would be VTech. The company VTech had all these personal computer things. I had this big thing called a Precomputer 1000 that had a one-line screen on it. It had a full keyboard, but had a one-line screen and it had a handle on it so you could carry it with you. I think my mom wanted to throw that thing out the window because it could also make sound. And so, I was learning sound because I also grew up playing music, being a musician. So, I’m learning how to play sound and code on this thing. And I know she wanted to launch that thing out the window most days.

But I say all that to say it’s so different now when you look at schools. And even, I think, just the general conversation around technology for children and designs. It’s certainly something that people try to push their kids into as a viable career field or a moneymaking thing or something like that. Really back then, especially for Black folks, there was not a lot of examples. You had, what, Dwayne Wayne on A Different World. Maybe somebody that was featured in Black enterprise if you had a subscription. So, there wasn’t a lot around, oh, computers are a thing that you can use to build your career. It wasn’t a thing. And I feel like for listeners they should, especially younger listeners, it just wasn’t a thing.

Chris Dudley:
Yeah, it wasn’t. It wasn’t. I think, what is it? What would you say? 2000s before, I think, when the internet came out for everyday people and people still didn’t have a computer in their home. Whereas now, most people do. But you think about to have grown up or have grown up at a time where that you didn’t have internet at home, you didn’t have a computer at home even. So, totally, it was a different era.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Or if you had an internet at home, it was via mail order CD.

Chris Dudley:
Yeah, AOL.

Maurice Cherry:
You get a AOL CD. You get a NetZero disc in the mail or something like that. And that’s what you use-

Chris Dudley:
Exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
… to get on for like… I remember getting those things and it’s like a thousand free minutes.

Chris Dudley:
Exactly. Oh, my gosh. Yes, I remember that too. Then you’re waiting five minutes to connect, just listening to that dial-up sound.

Maurice Cherry:
And it ties up the phone. So, if someone’s on the internet, someone also can’t be on the phone in the house.

Chris Dudley:
Exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, it was a whole thing. So, I used the computers at school and I learned it at school. I designed my high school newspaper, for example, and we used PageMaker. We’d use a double PageMaker.

Chris Dudley:
PageMaker.

Maurice Cherry:
And I know we started off trying to use Quark and those-

Chris Dudley:
Yeah, QuarkXPress.

Maurice Cherry:
That software would come with these big… I mean, these instruction manuals could choke a horse. It would be so thick, and it’s like a textbook. How am I supposed to read through all this to figure out how to use this software on this thing? And eventually, we’re just like, “We’ll just do it by hand.” It’s just easier to print and cut-

Chris Dudley:
Exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
… and copy and all that sort of stuff. So, I know what you mean about having that not necessarily on the job training, but you learned through application. You didn’t necessarily go to school for. You learned by doing or you learned by working almost like an apprenticeship in a way.

Chris Dudley:
Yeah, definitely, definitely. And along with that, just to add briefly, is that in that manner, you learn what you need because all these programs, obviously Adobe Photoshop, it’s so deep that even the experts don’t use everything, right?

Maurice Cherry:
Right.

Chris Dudley:
But I think a lot of us artists and entrepreneurs may… It can be daunting, but you may realize that I only need five functions from this program to run my business. I don’t need to know all 5,000 and shortcuts and all that. And so, it’s really finding what you need, and okay, that’s all I need from this program. Then it’s worth it for me to have it to run my business.

Maurice Cherry:
Right. And the chokehold that Adobe and Macromedia back then as well, the chokehold that those products had on the burgeoning digital design industry cannot be understated. I never thought I’d see a day where Photoshop is almost not derided, but I know a lot of designers now will use Figma over Photoshop. There was a time when they would use Sketch over Photoshop. I never thought I’d see a time when Photoshop would fall out of favor because it was everywhere.

Chris Dudley:
Yep, yep. And also, I think a lot of people are still upset about the subscription model. But I guess I get it. You get the updates. You don’t have to come up off of $900, which a lot of people couldn’t back in the day anyway. Or they’re working on old versions of Photoshop and there’s, like you said, a lot of options now. I do a lot of illustration in Procreate on the iPad Pro.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I think Adobe knew that their software was being pirated left and right. I didn’t buy Photoshop until the subscription came out. Everything before them was some cracked version off of LimeWire or Kazaa or whatever that I hoped would not give my computer a virus. And sometimes, it would. But that’s how I ended up learning because I was like, “I can’t afford.” Even when I had my business, I was like, “I can’t afford the cost of this. I’ll still use this cracked version because it works. It does what I need it to do.” Like you said, it does the five things-

Chris Dudley:
Exactly, exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
… I need it to do. Why would I pay this astronomical amount of money for this piece of software if I can’t use every single part of it?

Chris Dudley:
Yeah, exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. Now, you’ve been a working illustrator in this industry now for over 25 years. For you, what have been the keys to sustain that longevity? We’ve talked just now about how technology has really changed the game. How do you still keep current and maintain yourself in this industry?

Chris Dudley:
First thing is skillset. When it comes to art, you have to have the skillset and it’s not… Obviously, no disrespect to anyone, but a lot of times people think about art as it’s just a feeling and you just express yourself. And there are some aspects of art that are that way, but there are rules and fundamentals that you learn. Composition, you have to know anatomy. There’s so many things and you have to learn that stuff before you can just venture off and draw your feelings if you want to say. And so, I really focus on that skillset, learning those things.

Also, art is a different pursuit in that everyone else has to be… They understand that I got to be good at it first before someone’s going to hire me. If you were a baker, I got to be able to bake cookies good first. So, you’re going to be baking a lot. If you’re a singer, you have to show that you can sing. If you’re a writer, you have to write the book. But oftentimes, artists, some artists, new ones anyway, feel, “Well, I want someone to hire me to draw something.” Well, you have to show them that you can draw.

And so, I think a lot of artists don’t have enough of a body of work to show for someone to hire them, so that’s what I… I didn’t want to do that. And early stages I went through were, okay, you want someone. Then I realized that, no, you have to be drawing and producing things so people can see that you know how to do this thing. And when I took that approach, things really just really started to take off. And it can’t just be your practicing. You need to do a project from start to finish. People can see that you can do that, the highest level you can do at that time. And so, that’s what’s really helped me.

Maurice Cherry:
So, working in public. Like they say in math class, show your work. That’s what’s really been a big key for you.

Chris Dudley:
Yeah, yeah, and being able to show that you can. It’s not waiting to be asked to do it or waiting to be hired to do it. And that’s what a lot of artists do. Again, no other industry is that way. You know that you have to have this skill at a high level before someone’s going to ask you to do it for pay. But sometimes, artists just wait. I’m waiting for someone to hire me. I’m just sketching in my sketchbook. Well, no, do a project. Even if you “hire yourself” to do a project, show that you have the chops to do it.

Maurice Cherry:
How has tech impacted your work? Of course, we’ve talked about Photoshop and things like that, but lately, over the past almost nine to 10 months now, the conversation has largely been around generative art and Midjourney and DALL-E and all this stuff. Yes. How does that, if at all, incorporate into your work?

Chris Dudley:
I have switched over. I’m almost… Well, I still draw because I love the tactile aspect of just traditional media. Actually, I’m going to be teaching a paint class this week, but the majority of the bulk of my work is digital now. So, I’m drawing on a tablet. And with regard to art, that’s… Well, if I could add, one funny thing to me is, in the art community, drawing hands because of their nature is difficult for just about every artist starting out. And so, one hilarious thing to me is that AI art can’t draw hands either, and that’s something…

I knew someone who, well, just recently they produced a book. And I said, I’ve looked at it like, “Wow, that’s a nice image.” But then I started, just from my trained eye, started to break away. No, this is AI. Again, not to discredit it, but I could tell right away it was AI produced. Then I looked at the hands and they looked atrocious, like claws. And I was like, “Oh, yep, I was right. That’s definitely AI.”

And so, I don’t think, I don’t see it as a battle per se, but I use digital aids, if you will. Sometimes, I’ll even create a scene with poseable characters if I’m looking for a certain pose. And I might take a picture of that and then use that as a reference. So, I’d use some different aids, but I think you have to have the skillset. The tools can’t make you an artist. So, you got to have the skillset behind it. People can’t think, “Oh, hey, I’ve got Midjourney now. I’m an artist all of a sudden.” No, you still need a certain base of knowledge and ability to be able to then use those tools to actually create art.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I was watching some video. I think it was from Wired, and it was an AI artist detailing their steps. And it’s all writing for the most part because you have to get the prompts specific in order for the thing to generate and all that sort of stuff. And it was fascinating to see it come together, but it didn’t feel like art. It didn’t feel like the creative process, especially with something as I think intimate as hand drawing something. There’s more that goes into it than, I think, just a technical skill. I mean it’s creativity. It’s emotion. There’s a lot of specifically, individually, intrinsically, fundamentally human things that go into the creation that the computer just can’t do. It can maybe-

Chris Dudley:
Exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
… try to replicate it from other sources. And of course, there’s been talk about how these engines crib from other artists, but it’s not the same. I find a lot of AI art has a specific look. It’s like heavily shadowed and it’s a very specific look where I’m like, “Yeah, that’s AI.” It doesn’t feel like it’s from a person because people’s art styles are so varied and different.

Chris Dudley:
Exactly. And it’s very static as well, and some of it’s… I mean, obviously, you’ve got a trained eye to be able to see that but not to, I don’t want to sound condescending, but to a person that just says, “Oh, I like pretty things,” but they’re not into art or know, they don’t know art, they could just see an image and, “Wow, it’s a pretty image.” But if you’ve got a little bit of a trained eye, you can realize, “Oh, it’s okay. It’s nice. But it’s a static image. There’s no emotion.” Like you said, you could feel that it doesn’t have that human element to it. It’s just produced. It’s like a mass-produced restaurant versus a high-end restaurant or that little mom-and-pop shop that puts love into the meal. So, you can tell the difference.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, like a McDonald’s hamburger is going to be different from-

Chris Dudley:
Exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
… the Smashburger place or something like that.

Chris Dudley:
Exactly, exactly. And there’s a reason that there’s always going to be that Smashburger. Yeah, you have the McDonald’s customers, but there’s a lot of people that says, “No, I don’t go to McDonald’s. I rather pay a few more dollars for a real burger.”

Maurice Cherry:
And I think, for you, because the work that you do involves the clients in the process from start to finish, it would almost feel like introducing AI into it, one, sort of cheapens it in a way, but then two, I could see how it could make the client think, “Wait a minute, I could do this myself.”

Chris Dudley:
Yeah, exactly. Definitely could, definitely. And I don’t think it’s going to… Who knows with technology, but there’s just what I see certain elements that AI just can’t do. You have to be able to, just with what I do with illustration, you have to be able to change the POV. Am I going to go with a bird’s eye view or worm’s eye view? What about the expression on their face? And AI can’t do that now. They can’t take a character and then put it through all these emotions and all these angles and add these other el-… You can’t replace the human element, like you said.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, AI can’t get inspired.

Chris Dudley:
Exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
It can’t get inspired from a work or a piece of music or a feeling. It just tries to recopy and regenerate from whatever it’s been fed into their model.

Chris Dudley:
Yeah, yeah, definitely.

Maurice Cherry:
So, we spoke about just social media and these platforms and stuff. How do you approach marketing and promoting your work? Are there specific strategies that you found to be pretty effective?

Chris Dudley:
I really try to let the work speak, but also letting yourself be known as well. Because people do, that’s something I realized, they do like to know the artists behind the work. So, periodically posting a picture of yourself with the art and so forth, or even doing a little video or something. Everybody wants, I want a million followers and so forth. But then I started realizing I don’t need a million followers. I’m booked out with work, and I don’t know how many I had on Instagram. I don’t even think a thousand, but I’m booked with work. I have more work than I can do.

And so, that really changed my whole thought process of… Then I don’t want to be putting all my energies or time just into social media when I want to put that into the creative process, and it has worked for me. It has worked. I focus on my skillset and focus on putting projects out and more work comes. And so, I think having the presence though, obviously, is so crucial. Having a website, I think, is very valuable because it really gives a place where this is your work and you’re not competing for attention on social media platform, but then you could have those platforms that direct people to your site as well.

So, I think it’s necessary in today’s age, especially with the visual aspect of doing art, but focus on the work though. Don’t spend all of your time social media marketing, and then you forget to actually be producing artwork.

Maurice Cherry:
Right. Because the followers don’t necessarily translate into work. It may translate into visibility.

Chris Dudley:
Exactly, exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
Into more eyes on it, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that… And also, you may be attracting the wrong type of clients or the wrong type of people.

Chris Dudley:
Exactly, exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
The tire kickers and the low ballers and stuff. They see what you do and they don’t get the value in it. They just see it and think it’s something that could be potentially easily replicated.

Actually, going back a little bit to the AI conversation, one thing I thought that was super interesting is when people started getting those AI art, AI generated avatars out, how many people were, I guess complaining, but they were like, “Wait a minute, you paid for that? You paid for that? You paid how much for that?” Some people. Well, the cost wasn’t what it would cost you to actually commission an artist. It was much, much, much cheaper, maybe $5, $8.

Chris Dudley:
Exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
$20.

Chris Dudley:
Exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
For several images, not just one image. And it was so funny seeing people like, “You paid for that? You paid money for that?” I’m like, “If you were to pay an artist to do it-

Chris Dudley:
Exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
… you would pay the artist. Do you expect it to be free?”

Chris Dudley:
Yeah. Oh, man, that’s a whole other story too, because art is no other industry, well, maybe photography possibly, but no other industry do people expect you to work for free because people think it’s just maybe some God given talent so you’re supposed to share it for free. And there’s times, obviously, where you’ll be giving with your skillset. But you don’t go to a mechanic and say, “Hey, if you fix my car, I will tell all of my friends that you’re a great mechanic and that’s going to get you some more work.” But people do that to artists all the time. It’s hilarious, man. It’s hilarious.

Maurice Cherry:
I’ll tell you from doing this show, they do it to podcasters too. They’re like-

Chris Dudley:
Yeah, exactly. Yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
“Oh, you’re just talking to a mic. All you’re doing is just press and record. That’s it.” No.

Chris Dudley:
Exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
There’s so much more that goes into it.

Chris Dudley:
Yeah, they don’t see the art behind it.

Maurice Cherry:
Then when you try to show them, they feel like, “Oh, well, this is too much.” Once they get an idea of what the process is and how it is a skilled thing, then it turns them off. From then, it’s like, “Well, now you know.”

Chris Dudley:
Yep, exactly. And to speak to what we’re touching on, that’s what, again, versus just I want to become a social media marketer, that’s what has gotten more work, focusing on the work and then the relationships that I build with my clients. And when we onboard a new author and they see what’s involved, they see what you’re doing to bring their vision to life, that has gotten me more work than marketing on social media.

And so, that’s when it’s that shift of, “Hey, I’ll post and I’ll talk about stuff.” Plus, I’m not a salesman per se, so I’m not trying to hard sell, “Hey, come buy my book.” No. Here’s we created this book. It was a fun project. You can look at it a little bit. And people have bought from that versus me trying to hard sell them. And with regard to more work because then that author speaks highly of the experience they had working with you. That has gotten me so much more work where I have other authors call so and so.

I just finished up a book with Erica Flores, first time author. It’s been an amazing process. That has led to more work. And so, focusing on the skillset, and obviously, your working with clients far exceeds just trying to beg people to buy your products online.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, I 100% agree with that. And also, because if you’re focusing on social media, as we’ve seen fairly recently, these platforms can change at the drop of a hat. If you’re busy trying to chase the algorithm, if you’re busy trying to market or make your work fit into whatever this opaque algorithm is in terms of visibility or something like that, it takes away from the work. I think we certainly see it with people that create content for video, like YouTubers, TikTokers. It’s a lot to try to figure it out. And even on maybe non-video platforms like Twitter or Instagram, Instagram is still pictures, but a lot of Instagram now is video.

Chris Dudley:
Yes, it is. It is.

Maurice Cherry:
Then with Twitter and this Twitter Blue, they’ve changed the weighting of how people see your work unless you pay for a subscription. The platforms have gotten so, I don’t want to say unreliable, but they certainly have gotten so caustic and to the point where you can’t really depend on those to get the word out or to get the work out.

Chris Dudley:
Exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
It helps. It still is a megaphone, but you can’t depend on just that to be the thing that propels your work or propels you into whatever the next level is.

Chris Dudley:
Definitely. And that’s why, like I mentioned, having your own website is so crucial. And again, I started before the internet. Well, not just before the internet, but when the internet was starting out, it was before all of the social media platforms. And so, I had a website even way back then. Whereas I see a lot of artists now that pretty good work, but they don’t have a website, and it’s just shocking to me. And they think, “I’m just going to get all kinds of work from Instagram.” Maybe if you were in the inception, but if you’re starting out right now and thinking, “I’m going to start an Instagram and get all kinds of work” and you don’t have a website, it’s not going to happen.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. I know even from just trying to reach artists or folks to have on the show, it’s always tough to get them on if they don’t have a site, because even if I send them a DM, the way that the filtering is, they may not ever see it, if I send them something on Instagram, if I send them something on Twitter.

Chris Dudley:
Exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
If they even allow you to send them a message, and it’s like, “Well, do you want people to contact you or not?”

Chris Dudley:
Exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
What’s the point? Yeah.

Chris Dudley:
Exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
How do you balance your artistic pursuits with your personal life and responsibilities? You mentioned your marriage. You’ve got three kids. How do you balance all of that?

Chris Dudley:
Well, again, with booking, I don’t just accept any and all projects. I’d be with a privilege to be in that position where I don’t have to take all work that comes my way. I can be a little choosy and making sure that I’m prioritizing that time with my wife. We just hit 25 years.

Maurice Cherry:
Congratulations.

Chris Dudley:
So, that’s a huge milestone, and with our three girls and prioritizing that time. I love doing this. Obviously, there’s a monetary component to take care of my family and so forth. But I often think about too is that there’s time that I can’t sell a client. That’s for my wife and for my family, but then often think, but the time that I do sell you, if you will, you’re not paying just for that project. You’re paying for the time I’m not being with them.

And so, when that clicked in my brain many years ago, that changes your margin, that changes the value of what you’re offering. And time to ask me to not be with my wife and my girls, like I said, some time I can give you, but the time you’re going to take from them, it’s worth something to me. So, it’s got to be important. That’s why the project has to resonate with me. So, that’s how I really keep that balance.

Maurice Cherry:
That is so deep. That is probably one of the deepest things I’ve heard on this show, and I’ve been doing this for 10 years.

Chris Dudley:
Wow. Wow.

Maurice Cherry:
No, seriously. It’s like you’re not just paying for my expertise and time; you’re paying for time away from the people that I care about. That’s deep. Wow. That resonated with me. Thank you. Wow.

Chris Dudley:
Yeah. And with that, if I could just compound on top of that, it’s where, obviously with projects, you’re not paid in hourly sense, but a lot of people understand the concept of getting paid hourly. So, if you ask the person that, would you not spend time with your family for five bucks an hour? Most people would say no. And so, if you just keep going up the ladder with the amount, there may be a threshold where people would think about it. But that starts to help you to appreciate that there’s a value add there. That I’m not just going to not spend time with my family and exclusively give mental and emotional energy to your project for any amount. No, there’s a value thing to that.

Also, like we touched on earlier, I forget the book that I read, but they said that don’t spend time doing something that you could pay someone else minimum wage to do. Obviously, when we’re starting out, and that’s what has almost changed my brain. And that’s what made me, like we talked about earlier, we put together a team. And I’ve got assistants and people that handle that because it just doesn’t make sense for me to do something that I could pay someone 10, 15, 20, 30 bucks an hour to do when, my time, I could be doing something that makes way more than that. You get what I’m saying?

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Chris Dudley:
Yeah, it doesn’t add up. But a lot of people think, “Well, I’m giving away money. I can keep that.” Yeah, but your time is a non-renewable resource, so you got the time that you do sell, it’s got to be at the right price.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, and I think that becomes even more important, especially when you have a family, when you start getting older, when other members of your family start getting older. There’s no amount of money that can buy that time back.

Chris Dudley:
Exactly, exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
When you look back at your career, is there a particular moment or a particular experience that stands out to you the most?

Chris Dudley:
Man, I have a few. And one, I would say, is when I get an award at a juried art exhibition here at Downtown Grand Rapids. That was a very nice privilege. And like I mentioned, starting out with Dudley Graphics, and my drawing ability was not up to par by any means, any stretch. And so, to work hard to improve my understanding of light and shadow and composition and all of that, to get to the point where to be accepted into the juried exhibition again. And you’re paying to have your artwork reviewed and they can just send a no. To get accepted, to get the award, to have my work purchased and so forth, that was a milestone where I felt, “Okay, I’m pretty good at this.” Then it really gave me the confidence that I can take this to other levels.

Maurice Cherry:
What’s the most important lesson you say you’ve learned throughout your career as an artist?

Chris Dudley:
Again, sounds cliche, but to truly stay humble. Humility is something that can slip away. And that’s why I say it’s stay humble because it can be a constant fight for all of us. You’re this imperfect person, but to really strive to maintain humility and never stop learning in your craft. And so, even when I meet with clients now, I tell them, I say, “Yes, you’re hiring me because I have a skillset that you don’t have, but I want to do what’s in the best interest of the project, not what’s in my best interest.”

So, if you have an idea, even though you can’t draw, please tell me. If you can defend your idea, because I’m looking at as an illustrator, I need to be able to defend my choices that I make artistically that, oh, the composition is this way because of that, that way because of this. But if someone shoots an idea to me and I realize that your idea is better than the one I had, hey, let’s make the change to make the project better.

So, that humility, even the face of you have a skillset that someone else doesn’t have, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t suggest something that’s better. So, that’s what I really strive for. And never stop learning. I feel like I’m decent at drawing and I’ve been learning this craft since I was a little kid. And some days, it feels like I can’t draw. Like, “Man, what are you doing?” And other days it’s like, “Oh, you’re pretty good. You got this.” But yeah, never stop learning and never think you just got it down.

Maurice Cherry:
Now, all of your daughters can draw too. Is that right?

Chris Dudley:
Yes. I jokingly what they say, joking but not joking. I made them learn how to draw, and there were times with each one of them. My oldest is almost 20, almost 20, 16 and 15. And they would see me drawing and I would teach them how to draw. I didn’t tell them that it looked good when it didn’t when they were young. I didn’t crush their feelings, but if something was off, I told them. I didn’t just put it on the refrigerator just because they drew it type of thing.

There were times with all of them that there were tears. And I would ask them, “Do you really want to learn how to do this?” And with tears in their eyes, each one of them, it’s like, “Yes, I do, daddy.” And it’s like, “Okay, you see that the eye is crooked. How do we fix it?” And it’s helped them to really grow. And if I could share just a brief story with that.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah.

Chris Dudley:
When I was teaching my oldest how to read, it dawned on me that this is hard because if you can picture this, you know how we write, the kid learns how to write the alphabet. What I did was, so to make an A, there’s three lines that you use to make an A, right? Then there’s one line and two bumps to make a B. And this curve line to make a C. So, what I did was I wrote an A, but I kept all the lines. Just imagine doing the first line on this part of the page. Second line over here. And I did the whole alphabet that way on a piece of paper and it looked like a jumbled mess.

But then I thought that I’m asking my daughter to figure this out, learn how to put the lines together, so that they can make all the letters. Then we asked them to learn the name of the letters, the sound of the letters, how to put them together to make a word, how to put those together to make a sentence, a paragraph, and then you got to do it with math. And I thought, “Man, learning how to draw is easier.” Then the thing, Maurice, is that there’s no reference for that. They have to learn it though.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah, you have to.

Chris Dudley:
And so, when it hit me that, okay, if you can learn how to read, how to write and how to do math, you can learn how to draw. Then this is a soapbox of mine, but I won’t belabor it. But when I realized that, I realized, okay, my girls can learn how to draw. They’re going to learn how to draw at least the basics.

And another thing, at a class that I got to teach, and I’ll keep this short, is that I told someone, they said, “Well, no, it’s just a talent.” I said, “Well, yeah, you can have a little bit of ability, but it gives you maybe a one to three out of a 10.” But I said, “We make kids for 13 plus years learn how to read, learn how to write and learn how to do math. Everything else is optional. If we made you from kindergarten to 12th grade, you had to draw every year and you were tested on it, everybody would leave school knowing how to draw at least decently.”

But if your kid said, “Ah, it’s hard.” You say, “Okay, quit. Let’s try and play saxophone or try soccer.” But if your kid says, “I’m struggling with reading,” you’re going to learn how to read and we make them do it. And so, that dawned on me. I was like, “Okay, my girls will learn how to draw.”

Maurice Cherry:
I really like that way of looking at it. And you’re right. I mean, as kids we start off with, I think, a lot of applied art education. In kindergarten and whatever, there’s finger painting, there’s drawing and there’s coloring. I remember being in elementary school and we would get these sheets of paper that have it’s blank at the top, and then there’s lined rules at the bottom for writing. And you had to draw something at the top and then tell the story at the bottom of it.

I actually still have them. I still kept all of my mine from being a kid. But the older I got, I remember art stuff just kept getting phased out, phased out, phased out. I had taken gifted courses. I think they called it enrichment back then, but they were gifted courses. And it felt like those were the only times when I got to do something that felt creative because everything else was towards some specific application. Like you’re learning English to learn how to read and how to write. You’re learning math for those applications and stuff like that.

And just the older you get, even if you are really into art and drawing and stuff like that, it’s increasingly treated as a hobby and not as also a fundamental thing to understand. It’s just the world that we live in because as you alluded to, well, you didn’t allude to this really in the interview, but before that we talked about this, everything is designed. Everything that we use in the modern world has went through some lens or filter of design in some capacity. The chair we sit in, the clothes we wear, the picture we write with.

Chris Dudley:
Exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
All of those are designed. And because we interact with these designed things on such a regular basis, almost on a subconscious basis, we know when something is not designed well.

Chris Dudley:
Exactly.

Maurice Cherry:
We know when this pen is bad or this shirt doesn’t feel right. We know that. We may not have the language for it, sort of speaking what we talked about with English and math and stuff, because that’s not really taught to us as we get older.

Chris Dudley:
So true. So true. And I remember someone asked me, “Oh, what do you do?” I said, “I draw and do illustration.” And the look on her face. And she said this to me, man. She said, “You might as well have told me you could fly. You can draw?” And she was just so shocked. And I’m like, “Yeah, I’ve been drawing and learning this for decades.” But what I’ve found is that artists, well, specifically with visual artists, we’ve done it before there was any incentive to do it. And so, that’s what I think makes it so amazing.

It’s like when someone sees someone that can do back flips and do all this stuff, but they’re not in the Olympics, they’re not getting paid. It’s like, “Wow, how did you learn how to do all that?” They did it because they loved it. And another point I’ll make is that it shows that, if you’re given the right incentive and you can do it because of the right incentive, that shows that you could do it all along.

I’ll use the example sometime. Usain Bolt, fastest man. He’s run the 100 meters in 9.58, I think it was. Now, if someone says, “Hey, I need you to do that in a year. You need to be able to run a sub-10 100 meters. I can’t do it. Right? There’s no amount of money. I can’t do it. But if someone says, “Okay, I need you to learn how to draw by next year decently and I’m going to give you $10 million.” What happens? You start practicing every single day. And guess what? At the end of the year, you’re going to be pretty decent at drawing and get that $10 million, which means you could do it all along, but you didn’t have the incentive.

Yeah, so as artists, we learn. We love it, so you learn how to do it and then later, you make a few dollars from it. And it seems amazing because most people, like you said, they veer off that creative path. Then you get older where you need money, and then I haven’t learned how to draw, so no one’s going to pay me with the skillset I have now. So, I got to go work over here and make some money. But yeah, it’s a awesome thing. Everybody can learn how to draw, but it’s cool being one of the few in the world that can.

Maurice Cherry:
Do you have a dream project or something that you love to do one day?

Chris Dudley:
Dream project? Well, actually, one of my dream projects is a book that I wrote. The book that I just finished up, I’m the author and illustrator and the collaborator with Michael Chambers. He’s featured in the book, but I’m actually the author and the illustrator of the book. So, it’s my book per se. But my dream book, actually, I wrote a couple of years ago, and I have just got around to illustrating my own work. This one is called Duddles and the Big Dilemma, and it is a book about that very thing we just discussed about learning to draw and how everybody thinks it’s magical, but it’s more work than just talent.

And it’s amazing to me is that in the book and it explains it, no one says you’re just an amazing gifted plumber or an amazing gifted carpenter or you just naturally know how to whatever. But when it comes to the arts, people want to put this fairy dust on it. Whereas, what is it, I think Malcolm Gladwell is in his book Outliers, he said that you’ve never seen someone who is good, but they haven’t put into practice, in the work, deliberate practice.

And so, that’s one of my dream projects is to finish that, the illustrations for it and really get that book out there. It’s called Duddles and the Dilemma. Well, I won’t want to give a lot away. I’m going to finish this project probably within the next year or so, and there’s a series to the book as well. But it’s about him realizing that it’s not all fairy dust. You got to put in work to learn to draw. It’s not a magical thing, and that’s just the truth of it. And a lot of people don’t want to believe that, but I wish there was just a download that gave me all this knowledge that I’ve learned over the last 30 plus years. I wish it was that easy, but yeah.

Maurice Cherry:
Yeah. So, to that end, what do you see as the next chapter of your career? What do you want to do in the next five years or so? What do you see yourself?

Chris Dudley:
Yeah. Well, more books. Right now, as I mentioned, we just launched the book with Michael Chambers, Lil’ Boogaloo Shrimp and the Clean Sweep. And so, I see the direction of doing more art talks and events with kids. We are actually partnering with a nonprofit here locally. I mentioned about the breakdancing school there in Georgia, but there’s one in Colorado that we’re going to be touching base with. And so, I think that’s going to really be exploding. We’ve already talked to Rockwell Dance Academy about a book project, and so, that’s on the horizon. And in the next couple of years, just more books. More books, man.

Maurice Cherry:
More books. Well, just to wrap things up here, Chris, where can our audience find out more information about you, about your work, about the books? Where can they find that information online?

Chris Dudley:
Well, my website is chrisdudleyart.com and that’s where you can see my portfolio, my body of work and anybody can reach out and contact me directly through that. But my books are available through hudsondawnpublishing.com that I’m connected with, hudsondawnpublishing.com. And that’s where all of the books that I’ve illustrated are available. And that’s been awesome being connected with them. I actually designed the logo. And my oldest daughter, she launched the publishing company. She put a team together. I was joking around about it, designed a logo. She launched it during the pandemic. Got with an artist and made a book and got it out. And I was like, “Wow.”

Maurice Cherry:
Wow.

Chris Dudley:
And so, since then she has worked with, wow, probably 10 authors. I’ve illustrated a lot of the books, but she’s working with, I think, five new authors right now and that’ll be on that site. So, yeah, it’s been awesome. She has printeries. It’s established printeries locally in Michigan actually, in the west and east side of the state. Got warehousing. So, she’s taken that to the next level beyond what I ever thought that could be.

Maurice Cherry:
That’s amazing. It’s a whole family operation. It’s a family affair.

Chris Dudley:
Yeah, definitely, definitely. Yeah, hudsondawnpublishing.com.

Maurice Cherry:
Awesome.

Chris Dudley:
And actually, the recent book, you can read the intro of the book right there online.

Maurice Cherry:
Okay. Yeah, we’ll definitely put a link to that in the show notes.

Chris Dudley, I want to thank you so, so much for taking time out and coming on the show. I mean, it always warms my heart to talk to people that have been doing this kind of work for years on years on years because the longevity in just this industry is something that you don’t really see from Black creatives. You can get burned out. We can get discouraged, et cetera. And it really feels like you have found a method and a calling and a passion in this work, and you found a way to not only sustain it for yourself, but also for your family and for the community that you’re in.

I think that is something that is super inspiring. I think any artist wants to make sure that their work has an impact in the world. And most certainly, I can tell just from your passion about it and how you talk about it and just the quality of the work, that you’re making an impact in the world with everything that you do. So, thank you so much for coming on the show. I appreciate it.

Chris Dudley:
Well, thank you for having me. It’s been such a privilege. I truly appreciate and look forward to touching base with you soon.

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