Owen Davey draws robots, astronauts & knights


For every Tinybop app, we work with a different artist to create original illustrations. For our newest app, The Robot Factory, we had the great pleasure of working with Owen Davey. His visual work is playful and elegant — a combination that appeals to adults and kids alike. Needless to say, we were quickly smitten.

Owen’s created kids’ books about an astronaut dog and imagined bedtime adventures. He illustrates the crazy addictive game TwoDots. Somehow he also manages to find time to play guitar in a band and…answer a few questions from us!

What does your dream robot look like? What does it do?Ooooh. This is a hard one. I suppose it would be a little guy about knee height, with a small rounded head, and tank tracks for legs. Essentially he would be just like a dog in nature, but I could chat to him, too. He could be like a walking, talking Siri, or something. But with a less annoying voice. Maybe more like the OS in Her, instead.

What were some of your inspirations for The Robot Factory parts and scenery?Oh, everything. I watched a bunch of sci-fi films (partly just because it was fun) and researched odd robots and landscapes already in existence. Then I just shoved it all together in combination with my own imagination.

Where do you go for inspiration in general?The internet, books, and outside.

What were some of your earliest influences?I used to love computer games as a kid. I still maintain that The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is the greatest game ever created. I have drawn Link and Ganondorf so many times, it’s ridiculous.

In your field, whose work do you admire, and why?I still love the work of Charley Harper. He died years ago, but his work is still some of the best I’ve seen. His simplification and use of geometry were second to none.

Have you had any mentors along your way?Um. Not really, no. I’ve had a bunch of different teachers help me over the years but no one person in particular.

Where did you grow up?In a little village near Brighton.

Was art a part of your childhood?Oh yeah. It’s all I did as a kid. I vividly remember holidays in Cornwall when it was raining outside; while my brothers went surfing with my dad, I’d sit in the car and draw. I’d often go to lunchtime art clubs and draw in the evenings, too.

What were your favorite books as a kid?I loved Where the Wild Things Are.

What are your favorite children’s books now?Oh, there are so many. Chris Haughton is doing some great simple work. Jon Klassen has nailed deadpan to perfection. And all the ones produced by Flying Eye Books are just magnificently beautiful.

What do you think is the most important or most exciting thing about designing for kids?Kids have such a sense of fun and excitement about illustrations, especially when they’re interactive. Illustrations seem to bring them joy.

Tell us a bit about where you live. How does place affect your work?I live in Leicester, in the UK. It’s right in the center of England, about as far away from the ocean as you can get. I am originally from Brighton (by the sea) and lived in Cornwall for a while (also by the sea), but I moved to the midlands to live with my girlfriend. Now we just visit the sea whenever we get a chance. I’m not sure how it affects my work really. It probably doesn’t that much. Nature inspires me often, and I like going for walks around Leicestershire, so maybe that has some input?

Do you have a work ritual? What does it look like?Nope. Not really. Sometimes I work normal hours, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I work with US clients so working normal hours isn’t always an option (yes, that’s Tinybop!).

Can you talk about your next big project?Well, I have ongoing work for the app TwoDots. I’ve been creating all the map artwork for them, over the past year, and am continuing to do so. I also have a non-fiction book about monkeys, called Mad About Monkeys, coming out in August this year. That was a bit of a mammoth undertaking but I’m really proud of the result.

What advice would you give to a young person?Work hard for the things you want. Sometimes you have to go through some difficult times to get to the fun stuff, but it’s well worth going after what you love doing.

What do you hope people take away from your work?Enjoyment I suppose. That’s simple, I know. But if I can make people’s lives better, even by just a tiny bit, I think of that as a win!