Nathan T. Wright


10 years ago Nathan started a consulting company. Now his profession is illustration — something he loves.

Take us back to you as a kid. Almost all of my free time was spent drawing and coming up with stories in my head. When I wasn't creating things, I was obsessing over how the human race could colonize Mars some day.

What's keeping you busy? Right now I'm working on an illustrated book for the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City. It's a dream project because I believe so strongly in the foundation's mission, programs and worldview. 

Walk us through the days leading up to starting your own thing? I've started my own thing twice now: A consulting company back in 2007, and full-time illustration work as of December 2016. There's always apprehension and emotion stepping into the unknown, but this second time around it wasn't as scary.

"It would be tragic to not swing the bat. So I decided I need to go do this now."

Take us back to 2007 and creating that consulting company. What was going on, why did you start this company, and why did it stop? In 2007 I was in year seven of an advertising agency job and pretty burned out. Two things were happening: I didn't feel like my career was evolving there, and I was really interested and passionate about digital media and how it would impact marketing in the future. So I started a consulting firm focused on helping companies navigate the digital marketing space with emphasis on training and education. It was a blast, but after six years of doing it non-stop, I was ready for a change. In 2013 I joined the marketing team at the Hy-Vee corporate office and lead digital marketing and innovation programs there.

Why illustration now? Over the last few years, feelings of deep regret started to set in. I regretted that I never once tried the thing I love to do (art) as an actual profession. I spent my childhood wanting to be an artist and I studied art in college, so I felt like I was betraying myself. It would be tragic to not swing the bat. So I decided I need to go do this now.

Describe one of your pieces of illustration and your thought process. "Iowa Landscape 2200 A.D." is a custom illustration done for the Technology Association of Iowa. The client's challenge to me was to imagine what our state might look like in the future. I was inspired by Grant Wood and took a departure from my usual messy illustration style, and instead opted for big shapes, bright color and clean lines. The piece includes a floating farm, drones, autonomous vehicles and an algae farm. It's six feet wide, printed on dibond metal and hanging in the TAI office.

Talk to us about one of your recent good days. Last Tuesday was a good day because I put in hours of productivity and my client was happy with the work. And I ended the day with a glass of Jameson.

What have been the challenges? Who and what has helped? The biggest challenge for me ALWAYS is managing and prioritizing my time. The humans who have given me the best advice have been other artists - people like John Bosley (Bozz Prints) and Laura Palmer (XO-LP).

What advice have John and Laura given you? John and Laura have both been great about answering all my random questions - how much inventory to make for art shows, which art shows to consider, how to maintain sanity, and above all they've just been great voices of inspiration to make the jump and get started.

"Don't be crippled by perfection."

Someone is starting a project for the first time, what would you want to say to them? Don't be crippled by perfection. The anxiety of needing creative work to be perfect handcuffs so many of us. Keep producing, growing and moving forward.

Why Des Moines? Owning a home and having a yard with an affordable mortgage payment is such a positive aspect of this city.

Des Moines is growing. What’s one new thing that caught your eye? I love all the new cocktail bars popping up. It seems like there's a new one every week, from The Republic on Grand to Hello, Marjorie.

If you could grant the Des Moines one wish what would it be and why? More public art. I love the vision for the light sculpture along Walnut and I hope it actually happens some day.

Convince someone new to DSM your favorite place to go on your day off. Come to The Lift! The martinis are strong and the vibes are chill.

The most underrated thing in DSM is ________. Why? Francie's on Fleur. Mmm, queso fries! 

What are you most proud of and why? Even though some time has passed, I'm still very proud of maintaining my own consulting business from 2007-2013. It helped me build a professional network that continues to pay off today. I'm also proud that all of my employee's paychecks were paid on time and that they had health insurance coverage.

"Look for ... people who want to learn more about the world, try new things, figure out how stuff works."

For someone creating a team like you did what should they know? My advice for anyone building a team - whatever the function - is to invest in people with great writing and communication skills. I would also look for individuals who express intellectual curiosity - people who want to learn more about the world, try new things, figure out how stuff works. Humans are becoming so boring, helpless and complacent. Hire weirdos!

In three months what do you hope to accomplish? I'd like to start submitting my work to children's book illustrator agents. And road trip across Canada (from Vancouver to Montreal) in July.

What’s one thing people need to know you really care about? A free press. There's nothing more important to the fabric of our country. We've taken it for granted for decades and it's under savage attack right now.