Interview with Davide Cuccia

David Cuccia Illustrator of: There’s A Crazy Dog Under the Palace, mythology, Ferrum and Dark Of The Sun

Tell us a bit about yourself

I’m 56 years old, married for 33 years and I’m basically a raccoon trapped inside of a man’s body…or at least that’s what I’ve told my wife all of these years!

That only means I have a sense of playfulness that I try to bring out in my work!

When a young child asked me one day what I did for a living, I told him I make something out of nothing…which is basically what every artist does.

You’re looking at the world with a different set of eyes than most people, and it’s that different vision and the way you translate it for others, that makes it so intriguing.

When did you start drawing?

I’ve been drawing since the age of 6…I can clearly remember sitting down with the comic page or even the cover of Life magazine, some old typing paper (my mother always wondered where her paper disappeared to in those days!) and my pencils and I would begin to freehand draw anything I could see.

I quickly deduced that I wanted to draw comic books one day as that was my passion at the time.

How did you get into Illustrating?

After graduating from the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon & Graphic Art in Dover, New Jersey, I realized that I loved advertising as well.The field was wide open and it afforded me the opportunity to work on an endless variety of projects, which became more appealing to me than just drawing men in tights!

While working in the advertising arena, I found I could utilize many of the cinematic storytelling abilities I’d honed at the Joe Kubert School.

This led to a lot of sleepless nights working on television storyboards for advertising agencies and design firms on the east coast as well as the midwest.

I worked for a brief two-year period at Rockwell International in Columbus, Ohio as an illustrator, who never really got the chance to illustrate!

It was my only stint with government work, but it  clearly illuminated the fact that we weren’t made for each other.

I left Rockwell to work for a small advertising agency in town where I learned the basic formula for running a business correctly.

With a new fire in my belly I departed that firm a year later, teaming up with an artist who became my future business partner, and for 10 years we worked on high energy projects as Graphik Onion Visual Communications.

The non-stop graphic projects we handled were diverse and as our business grew and we added employees the money was good too…but I still felt something was missing.

The mainstream business market wanted to hire graphic artists that could draw, not “illustrators” who knew graphic design…although I’d found many opportunities to employ my drawing abilities, it still wasn’t totally satisfying to me.

When our partnership ran it’s natural course, we split the firm and went our separate ways. For me that meant returning to freelance projects and making a decision as to what direction I should take with my work.

It was really no big decision at all…I wanted to work on some graphic design projects while concentrating my energy and main focus on honing my illustrations skills, and becoming a better draftsman!

I opened my doors as Cuccia Creative Illustation & Design in 1997, and just last year changed  the moniker to simply David Cuccia Illustration!

How do you create a character based some-one else’s work?

I begin by learning if the client has a vision for the character(s), then steeping myself in as much history as I can find about the subject before I begin initial sketches or designs. This gives me a solid frame of reference to draw on (no pun intended!) and my ideas flow better as well.

What has been your favourite project?

Highlights for Children had commissioned me to create an illustration, along with other artists and photographers, to welcome teachers back into the classroom. The project would culminate into a series of greeting cards and notecards housed in a wonderfully designed box.

While this was the first project where I learned about scanning my pencil work and layering colors in photoshop, it certainly wins the favourite project award in my eyes for the sheer joy I experienced while bringing the animals to life.

Highlights loved it too!

What other works have you/ do you illustrate?

Since concentrating more on illustration, I’ve small-press published four books to date. Teamed with longtime friend and creative brother Malcolm Deeley, writer/poet/artist/publisher, I’ve produced three books:

Mythology (2008)

 depicting Greek tales we’ve all grown to love since children

Ferrum/Iron (first published 2009 and again in 2012)

which chronicles a 30 year span in the life of metalsmith worker Lucius Silva, in late-Republican Rome

Dark of the Sun (2010) 

which tells the story of the inhabitants of Pompeii and Herculaeneum in their last moments in 79 AD when Vesuvius darkened the sky and buried two cities in a matter of mere hours.

However, my fourth book, based on a Sicilian children’s limerick, “Sotto Un Palazzo C’e` Un Cane Pazzo!” or  There’s A Crazy Dog Under The Palace! (2011) has featured my finest and most satisfying work!

At least that’s my opinion.


Can you share with us the piece that you’re most proud of?

There’s A Crazy Dog Under The Palace is a culmination of everything I’ve learned to this point in my life…draftsmanship, portraiture, composition, storytelling, use of color…it all came together in this book!

And because the theme of the book centers around basic values such as friendship, second chances, and just being yourself, without being preachy about any of those subjects, it has to stand out as my best work.

The book was created out of my love for my family and my love for all animals…the book almost wrote itself!


Do you have a preferred media?

Without a doubt it’s pencil.

I found a book long ago by Paul Calle`, one of the most brilliant draftsmen I’ve ever seen, and these dazzling images and compositions that absolutely stunned my senses, were all drawn in pencil!

While I’m not the draftsman Mr. Calle` was, he certainly influenced the way I looked at drawing from that day forward in my career … and today, although my style is still evolving, I maintain a deep affinity for the way that man could render forms with graphite!

Do you have any tips for aspiring artists?

Become influenced by many different sources in the world of art, from nature, from things that are closest to your heart, but above all, draw the way YOU draw…don’t worry so much about whether your work is “as good as” someone else’s work…your style will take time, but without a proper, solid drawing foundation, all of the style and slick tricks in the world won’t save your work!

Researching your subject, sketching your subject so that you know that subject inside and out, enables you to show a facet of that character to your audience, that no one has seen before!

But it all begins with solid drawing, no shortcuts, just drawing!

Do you have a special setup?

I’m not sure exactly what you mean, but I can tell you that I always have scraps of paper or illustration board on hand, and before I begin an illustration I always warm up first with practice strokes, weaving patterns and showing a varying darkness and weight to the lines…that allows me greater flexibility and control once I sit down to begin the finished drawing.

I sometimes still work at the drawing board, but many times I’ll work on a flat surface like our huge dining room table as there’s more abundant light all around, which puts me in a better frame of mind while I’m working on my drawings.

Do you prefer art on a computer or tactile art?

Since I’m not a painter by any stretch of the imagination (no patience for it, although I totally admire anyone who does paint!), I create most of the color work for my pencil art on the computer, but to answer your question, I’ll ALWAYS prefer tactile art over computer!

My gods will always be Charles Dana Gibson, James Montgomery Flagg, JC Leyendecker … and these men knew how to wield pencil, brush and pen and ink in the most extraordinary fashion… that hooked me long ago!

The depth of realism that’s created today with the computer is truly fascinating, but I’ll always prefer hand-drawn, hand-painted pieces the most!

Do you have any other hobbies/ interests that you would like to share with us?

My wife and I have an avid passion for ballroom dancing … we’ve done that for over 25 years! We love to travel and have visited my family outside Palermo, Sicily three times since 1995 … and I’m hoping to return for another visit within the next two years!

I’ve always been a voracious reader, and my favorite series to date (more than the thousands of fiction/science fiction books I’d read as a child) has been the Harry Potter series.

I would give anything to have been one of the conceptual artists on that project…wow!

Do you have any upcoming works that we can look forward to?

There is a sequel in the works to There’s A Crazy Dog Under The Palace, and I’m currently working on another book about mythology, this time concentrating on Roman women, entitled The Daughters of Minerva, which should be released by May of 2013.

I’ve also begun sketches and rough concepts for another children’s book entitled The Moon Upstairs, which will focus on the moon as seen through the eyes of various raccoons!

Another concept I’m developing with author Malcolm Deeley, will be a book about Atlantis, so I truly have quite a bit on the drawing board to keep me busy for more than awhile!


Where can we find/ follow you?

If you go to, you can find a sampling of my work for various clients (and just fun stuff too!)

plus you can find me on Facebook at

or you can follow my blog at

For my most recent interview with NBC4’s Weekend Morning show, click on

You can hear me talk about There’s A Crazy Dog Under The Palace!

I’m doing quite a bit of marketing about the book and we’re making some interesting waves in the media!

       In addition, all of my books can be purchased by going to and clicking the Online Store link.



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