Exclusive Process: Dave Danioth + A Mothers Promise

October 12th, 2009

Dave Danioth is an instructor at the Art Institute of Seattle and is one of the very best. He is an extraordinary artist, particularly with his hand-design skills and airbrushing. His conceptual thinking ability is also extraordinary. His Second Book, A Mother’s Promise, written by Lisa Humphrey and released in 2004 shows a very clever concept–something I had never seen before. The book was a finalist for best children’s picture book by USA Book News.

When flipping through the book after Dave’s explanation of his concept, it was apparent that I needed to get the exclusive process posted here on the WANKEN Blog for you. From here down the process is being explained in Dave’s original words.

Some of the illustrations are in “registration” with others. I did this to symbolize the interconnected message of the poem.


The shell, pinecone and stone in perfect registration with the above spreads

So, if you flip the page from the seashell on the beach to the mother holding the same shell, they are in the exact place of both pages. This is true as well with the pinecone and stone. Also in the “creatures” spread, the moon registers with the sun of the “universe will answer”, the moon reflection in “creating you from” and the moon in “lace you together”.




Universe Will Answer


Lace You Together

The seedling and its shadow in “universe will answer” register with the mother and child in “lace you together”, and does the sun and moon.

I chose specific symbolic elements and environments for the poem. The first step in my strategy was a word list. Assigning a symbolic word to each spread helps with sequence and I can conceptualize when riding my bike or working in the yard, etc. I did this the very next day after reading the poem, and this is when I discovered the profound symbolic strategy that the poem uses. The Mother’s first three promises of the worlds sacred environments comes back to us through the universe answering, creating the child from the same three elements promised.

This must be represented visually, so I chose icons (shell, pine cone, stone), to introduce with the promises then bring them back together just as the poem did. It was at this time I began designing the idea to arrange the icons in the same position of the compositions to symbolically/subconsciencly echo inner connectedness.

I chose the use of Mother/Daughter reflections in the water as it is a very retrospective and metaphysical symbol, yet brings us back to earth/water/nature as our foundation. Using the same image other than reversing reflections manifested through the circle of life (reincarnation?), and nurturing love the first and last lines represent.

The leaf represents life and decay and the butterfly is the universal symbol of transformation. The butterfly is the only creature on earth that changes its DNA structure during its lifetime.

The Monarch was chosen due to its migration, representing life’s journey. Monarchs are the only creatures that travel its yearly migration path without being taught or shown the way from other Monarchs! The Monarchs that are born early in spring and summer only live approximately one month, yet the Monarchs born later in the season migrate south and hibernate through the winter in Southern California and Mexico. Amazing! Then in the spring, while breeding and dying, they begin their journey back north.

The seedling was chosen to represent that we are of the earth (registered with Mother’s womb), and the type of seedling is modeled after the Milkweed Plant… the only plant that Monarchs lay their eggs upon and where their larvae eat and metamorphosize.


Worlds Sacred Places



The leaf blows out of the “mountains”, floats from the “worlds sacred places” (see waterfall in bkg. of “creatures”), then joining the Monarch and then to the ocean where all come together in the symbolic “making” of the child.

Much of this I meant to be subliminal, and I don’t feel people have to realize it to feel the underlying message, yet some may pick-up on the connections.

Posted by on 10/12/09 in Design, Process

4 COMMENTS   »  Leave your Comment

  1. ninyo says:

    I have Dave’s ;The Tree’ book and one thing that interested me was when I looked at the book again with my girlfriend, she noticed the subliminal pictures inside the book that was easily overlooked. It’s almost like I had a new book to search through again. It’s amazing that they’re there and yet I never noticed them. I love it

  2. ROGER MURFITT says:

    Back in 1976, a friend of mine went to America to see his brother. When he came back he brought me back a black & white print of two figures reaching up together. The black figures, had white stars filling the insides of their bodies. The description at the bottom of the print had Danioth 12/76 on the left & Universal Drawings by DAVE DANIOTH on the right. I did not have a computer at the time so could not find out anything about the artist. I have just now found the poster print amongst my sons art stuff, he must have liked it. So thought i would look Dave up, A bit of obscure history here from Cambridge England but it is good to now know more about this great artist.

  3. David Danioth says:

    I’m stunned, honored and elated to know that the poster mentioned is still being enjoyed. It was one of four posters published in the series. I was 20yrs old. I still have copies of all four, and would love to somehow share them!

    Thank you Roger

  4. David Danioth says:

    Text or call!

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