I spend a lot of time with Dallas Clayton. Not quite seven days a week, but I’m hangin’ with him at least a couple of weeknights, with an afternoon thrown in here or there. Clayton is author, illustrator and creator of The Awesome Book of Love, one of my son’s very favorite books to read before bedtime. Truth be told, it’s on the top of my list as well.
Clayton has written and illustrated seven books for children and the young at heart, books jam packed with a double scoop of positivity and purpose. The writing is clever (Clayton is often compared to a modern day Dr. Seuss) and the visuals lush with color and light. The same rings true for the art installations and murals Clayton creates around the world, sometimes in the most surprising places. He’s worked with big brands like Target, J.Crew, Starbucks as well as small groups and schools who connect with Clayton for speaking engagements and creativity exercises. More joy, more love and more human compassion, that’s his message and it’s spreading fast. Clayton currently inspires over 144k Instagram followers each day with his artful drawings and sentiments. I follow him; you should too.
Between the nightly readings and daily posts, you’d think I might have understood Clayton and his focus just a little better than I actually do. When I reached out to Clayton for this post, I mistook him for a marketer much like myself. I made an assumption, one that turned out to be pretty far off base. Dallas Clayton is Dallas Clayton, pure and simple. Direct and honest. Full of creativity, with arms wide open. I admire Clayton, appreciate his honesty and am beyond proud to feature him on Brandettes.
Dallas Clayton, the brand, has had an incredible journey. Can you tell us what inspired you to jump into children’s literature in the first place?
I guess I’d first like to say that I don’t think of myself as a brand. In fact, I pretty much stand counter to that idea. I don’t really enjoy or appreciate that mentality and I don’t know if it’s a healthy way to be or a healthy mindset to perpetuate especially when it comes to an arena like working with children. I like to think of myself as a human, an artist, a father, a friend and a creator of fun things, but not a brand. As for the jumping off point – I wrote a book for my son when he was younger, made some copies, and things just sort of took off from there.
You’re a masterful marketer that is quite adept at opening windows when doors are closed. What would surprise us about marketing one’s own brand in the children’s space?
Again, I don’t know that I would ever want to think of myself this way. Ideas like marketing and branding are not things I’m interested in at all. No offense to those who are intrigued by that universe, but to me it seems so far away from anything substantive, and from my philosophical and emotional center it’s just not a realm I enjoy participating in. I think if you have something you believe in then you should be willing to want to share it with people, but whether or not that involves the exchange of money or products is neither here nor there to me.
What have connections with Starbucks, Google, J. Crew and other product companies meant to your brand?
Man, I truly hope I’m not coming off as rude here but I don’t know how to answer this without sounding somewhat off put. I don’t think of myself as a brand so I can only answer what working with those companies has meant to me as an artist. I’ve worked with those companies because they were fans of my art and writing and felt that it would be nice to collaborate. As a result I was able to share what I do with their audiences, which always feels good. It’s nice to share. These were all different projects, each at different times, each fun in their own ways. J. Crew was nice because we made some shirts and gave money to a children’s charity, Starbucks allowed me to give away digital books, and Google created a platform that translated my work into 20 different languages for people all over the world to read for free.
What role has social media played in connecting to your audience?
It’s allowed me to share work with people for free instantly and internationally, with no one between me and the people reading it. It’s also challenged me to find new ways to share good things where negativity and sadness often seem to collect. Social media can be pretty overwhelming at times, and I’m just trying to make the best of the best parts.
Dallas, you seem to have an inside track on the human spirit- your books (in my opinion) are infinitely more soulful than your contemporaries. Do the messages in your books evolve as you’re writing or do you start creating with a core objective?
Thank you! I don’t know that I’d feel comfortable saying that about my contemporaries, I think there are some really great writers and illustrators in the space right now, all with very much soul but I appreciate the compliment. Book-wise, I like to start with a theme and then take a long walk and write it all out in my head, then come home and spend time drawing until it’s all done.
As an artist, what do you do to keep yourself inspired?
Try to spend as much time as possible with people who are interesting and challenging, do new things, visit new places and live life. Inspiration is everywhere!
Get inspired and learn more about your new favorite author and artist, Dallas Clayton.
Photos courtesy of Dallas Clayton