Felis Donutis by Stephen Dye

Felis Donutis by Stephen Dye


The Poor Patron is a project meant to loosen the everyday strictures of the client/artist relationship. The artist is welcomed to create work based on any MarninSaylor themes or imagery with no creative input, due within a "when it's done" deadline.

We are pleased to offer prints of our Poor Patron collaborations. This is the sixth in the series, titled Felis Donutis by Seattle artist Stephen Dye. This illustration represents a detailed cross-section of one of our Chocolate Donut Cats.

This art is printed on high-quality, heavyweight, archival paper, and measures 13"x19". Sold unframed, shipped rolled. Half the proceeds from the sale of these prints go directly to the artist.

Be sure to read our interview with Stephen below. He also illustrated our Field Guide


The magic down at Seattle’s Pike Place Market comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s when you find forty dollars right outside your favorite sausage stand. Or it’s the blessed silence after a busker’s uniquely long harmonica solo. Occasionally it’s when you meet someone with secret powers, like Stephen Dye.

Stephen creates dynamic work that somehow packs all of a subject’s best aspects into one composition. It’s like a still frame of the most exciting moment of someone’s life. When I met him at our booth in Pike Place, I had no idea. He is a terribly humble person, but I’d say his work is not. So catch an eyeful and learn a little about this talented illustrator.

What did your path to professional illustration look like? When did you feel like you had "made it"?

The path was paved by my parents. My mother is a ceramicist. I used to watch her work on elaborate tile projects for clients. We had a kiln in the garage, and every Christmas we would paint and fire ceramic ornaments she had poured. For a while, she made little angels out of bow-tie pasta and macaroni that she sold at craft shows and to retailers. She is also is a seamstress. At Halloween she would make, or help me and my siblings make, elaborate costumes.

My father is a chemist with a creative streak (basically Walter White before he broke bad). He took screen printing classes when I was younger. He lent me his old Canon F1 camera from college. He brought home copies of Flash, Photoshop, and Corel for me and my brother to monkey around with. He also gave me my first graphics tablet.

In 4th grade, my parents helped me get a scholarship for art lessons. When I reached college, illustration or design seemed like front-runners in terms of aptitude, so I decided to go all in.

As far as having "made it", I'm still waiting for that feeling to kick in. It's difficult to develop confidence as an artist. Nearly every project I take on is preceded by a mild panic attack. I think "Am I good enough to do this? Can I even draw?". Sometimes, even if I don't feel talented or creative enough, I just have to trust in my own ability.

We have those same feelings. I think it’s a common thread among artists/craftspeople. And as soon as you realize that a subjective experience is directly related to your livelihood, judgements about your work (ethically, personally, financially) pop up. What part of the creative experience makes it worth it for you?

What makes it worthwhile is everything after the initial fear and doubt. I’m a terribly indecisive person. The worst part is not knowing what to do or how to do it. After I gain some inertia, creativity becomes more about problem solving and less about inspiration. That's one of the reasons I like commission work. A patron or client approaches me with a problem that needs to be solved and the challenges or restrictions imposed are a boon to creativity. Once I get going, I can work for hours and not realize it.

That's when a project takes on a life of it's own and things get exciting. I will have taken a blank sheet of paper, empty canvas, or raw digital file and made it into something of worth. There's satisfaction when looking at a finished piece, not completely sure how it happened, but knowing that you made it.

Then you get to share it with others. A professor of mine said "designers are amateur psychologists." Trying to connect with the audience is important for me. When it feels like I've done my job and made them think or feel something, there is an intellectual and artistic satisfaction. And the best part of illustration is you get to enjoy that feeling without being the center of attention.

I play guitar (poorly), but I hate playing for others. Every time I play for an audience all I think about is whether or not they think I'm awesome. Then I feel stupid for being self centered and end up feeling more insecure than when I started. Conversely, an illustration can be enjoyed without the author being scrutinized - or celebrated. It becomes more about the work than who made it.

What is FXF?

FightXFlight is a project I started with a couple friends a few years ago. We were illustrators and animators at the same studio, laboring to bring someone else's vision to life. It was fun at times, and we loved working together, but it was heart wrenching to see our best efforts changed and claimed by someone at a higher pay-grade. Collectively we realized we couldn't do it anymore. That's when we decided to make a space where art and artist come first.

We each bring an eclectic set of influences, but more than anything FXF is about what excited us when we were kids: saturday morning cartoons, video games, comics, action figures, 80's action flicks. It's a way for us to never grow up, celebrate what we love, and to help other people keep their inner child alive.

Everything we sell is limited edition and made by us and local artists, and we are always on the lookout for ways to help other artists, whether it's with information or commissions.

Do you have any words of wisdom for any young designers/illustrators out there?

There is no shortage of help out there: books, videos, tutorials, podcasts, community colleges, universities - people giving away information. It's no longer a problem figuring out how to do something. What we need to answer is why and how badly.

People have overcome insane challenges and accomplished the impossible because they have figured why they want something, and how badly they want it. Once you find that thing you deeply, truly desire, it takes captive all the lesser desires, and it's no longer a matter of sacrifice or hard work. It's just doing what needs to be done.

The other thing I would say is this: I had a history teacher in high school that told me once "Good authors read more than they write". How can you hope to recreate an emotional experience without first having it yourself? Become a lover of art. You need to feed your creativity and consume it wholesale. Instagram and Tumblr are great for this, and I love following artists that are better than myself. But more importantly, live a rich life away from a screen, with lots of new adventures, and then take those adventures back into your sketchbook.

What does your Chocolate Mini Donut Cat do for fun?

Oh, you know, normal Mini Donut Cat things - climbing into donut boxes, chasing laser pointers, napping - lots of napping. She currently has an anchovy filling and is sleeping it off under a warming lamp.

More of Stephen's work can be on his site and on FlightXFight.

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