5 Good Minutes with Dave Nadeau – Rhymes with Pixel Digital Imaging Artistry

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Rhymes with Pixel is digital imaging artistry by David Nadeau. David has extensive experience in high-end people, automotive and product retouching. More than 16 years of experience working freelance, pre-press and in top ad agencies such as Mullen and Crispin Porter + Bogusky give David a huge advantage over his competitors. Top photographers and art directors ask specifically to work with him because they know he takes the time and effort to make every job exceed the vision of the artists involved.

How did you end up in Colorado? Some background?

I worked at Mullen in Massachusetts for eight years, and I was freelancing in the Boston area when I got a call from a former colleague who had jumped to CP+B. At the time, the agency was building the Boulder office as well as a high-level team of retouching artists. The idea was to develop a department of imaging pros who would be positioned as a cross between studio artists and art directors. I came to check out Colorado and fell in love with the place immediately. When I left CP+B, I had no doubts about staying and raising my family here.


What got you started in this business? Are you an artist? A photographer?

I went to RIT for photography. Near the end of my school years, I realized that I didn’t want to be a photographer. Oops! Instead, I loved working with photography, and Photoshop was just starting to catch on as the go-to imaging software—Version 2.0, if I must date myself. It became a best-of-both-worlds situation: My training as a photographer gave me the ability to understand what makes a good image, but working in Photoshop allowed me to be freer as an artist. I still shoot jobs occasionally. Small jobs, mostly, tabletop studio work.


What’s the difference between digital artwork and retouching?

There is a good amount of overlap. I’d say digital artwork transforms the image in a way that either enhances or reshapes the vision that was conceived for it when shot. Retouching tends to be the nuts and bolts of cleaning, compositing and color-correcting an image.


What do you think will change in your business in the next few years?

The obvious change has been the switch from print to digital media. While I miss seeing my work in print as much, I don’t miss working with CMYK as often as I did. The integration of 3-D imaging into photography is a fun and scary development. Fun because of the freedom you have to create an item you want to have in your image. Scary because you have to step out of your comfort zone and learn how to use the technology.


What do you find most challenging?

Honestly, the most challenging things I face are finding jobs and doing the grunt work that pays the bills. It’s tough to hold out hope for the really fun, creative projects when you’re clipping and cleaning a hundred-catalog shot.


What was your approach to doing the ESPN The Magazine shots for the Olympics?

I’ve worked with the photographer, John Huet, for quite a few years now, and we have a really good working relationship. He got in touch last year about doing the first shot, the one of the ice-skaters, and wanted to take the ESPN Technique feature to a higher level of artistry. We spoke about making the action as well as the background beautiful. We wanted to make a visually arresting stage for the action that didn’t detract from it. Also, we believed we could come up with a really interesting technique for ghosting the shots. I’m very proud of what we made.


The work appeared in print and online?

Yes, and in the online version ESPN animated the images, so each step of the action could be viewed. It was really cool to see an image develop like that.


How is the digital artist’s role evolving?

It’s not enough now just to be good at Photoshopping—it’s necessary to be part of the overall creative process. You have to develop a feel for the photographer’s or art director’s (or both’s) vision for the final product. If you make that happen beyond their hopes, you’ve succeeded. If you can add to their vision, that’s gravy. The ideal project has everyone on board and contributing creatively.


What are your biggest Colorado clients? Do you work mostly with agencies or directly with photographers?

My biggest Colorado client is Noodles & Company. It has a fantastic in-house setup. It really takes to heart the notion that the best idea is the right idea. As for collaborators, I’d say my jobs are pretty evenly split, 50/50, between photographers and agencies.


What’s your favorite work you’ve ever done?

I have to put the ESPN Technique work at the top of my list. Making the scenes was technically and artistically challenging, the work appeared internationally and, on top of everything, it was for the Olympics! How cool is that?


What’s next?

I’m working with John Huet in the coming weeks to retouch some of the work he did shooting the Games in Sochi. We’re trying to figure out an angle for me to tag along for the Summer Games in Rio in 2016. In the meantime, it’s back to work, paying the bills and finding the next super-creative project.


Dave's a great talent. Love the guy.

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