Illustrator David R. Flores – AKA Sic Monkie – is drawn to the simple moments in life, from eating frozen yoghurt to waiting in line for a rollercoaster. We caught up with him to discover why he finds the mundane exciting and understand why he uses an online persona.
David R. Flores has been drawing since he could pick up and read a comic book. Inspired by the likes of John Romita Sr, John Buscema, Neal Adams, Frank Miller, and John Byrne, it wasn't long until he became obsessed with superheroes and decided to become an illustrator. But creative careers rarely run smoothly, and at college, he took a left turn to enrol in a college for music.
"That lasted for a blip," he tells Creative Boom. "Subsequently, I transitioned into cinema and attended the University of Miami as a film major." Here, David developed his love of narrative through watching films by Ridley Scott, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, and Stanley Kubrick. He never truly left drawing, though, and would often continue to do it just for fun.
"Technically, I wasn't formally trained, but in many ways, I was," he explains. "While at the university, I took an art class and continued to take classes here and there when I relocated to Los Angeles with my wife. I have a large collection of illustration books, which I studied from – not for the sake of a career, but mostly as a compulsion: I just love illustration."
David has found success as a screenwriter, picking up numerous awards along the way, but he's the first to admit that it's a career path with its fair degree of frustration. "It involves a lot of writing and waiting to see if what you've written can go from development into production," he reveals. "That's how I came full circle back to focusing on illustration.
"At the height of my frustration, I conquered a lot of my own self-doubt and decided to write and illustrate my own graphic novel called Dead Future King, a mash-up between the prophesied return of King Arthur and a zombie apocalypse. I learned a lot while working on that book. It was also my first step into the world of illustration. During this time, I came full circle back to my original path of being an illustrator.
"In many ways, it's the beginning of a reinvention of who I was meant to be. Now it's just about getting my work out there for as many people to discover."
This winding career path has seasoned David's work with a sense of maturity. "As a kid, illustration was primarily superhero inspired: a lot of skin-tight latex suits with bulging muscles," he reflects. "Now, I'm less interested in that (still a fan, don't get me wrong). My wife, a talented painter who majored in art, exposed me to a broad array of art.
"It was through that exposure that I shifted from less superhero-centric illustrations to a more naturalised style. When I made that transition, I felt connected to my art and what I was trying to create and say in a narrative sense."
Part of David's reinvention included the creation of Sic Monkie, a pseudonym from a logo he created years ago. Tapping into his general fascination with monkeys and love for Jamie Hewlett's realisation of Damon Albarn's band Gorillaz, Sic Monkie was originally intended to be a graphic printed on a T-shirt. When he decided to seriously pursue illustration, he realised he was mistaken for another LA-based artist, David Flores.
"Although I go by David R. Flores, I felt it would still be confusing for many," he says. "That's when my alter-ego Sic Monkie was born. Much like the illustrator Jean Giraud, who went by the pseudonym of Moebius for his fantasy, science-fiction work, I decided I would just do something similar.
"Sic Monkie is kind of my own avatar. I picture him being more of my playful side – sort of a kid looking at the world with wonder. He represents that eureka moment of creative inspiration and less of the painstaking work of revision and critical thought. I even created an image of what he looks like – an anthropomorphised version of a monkey you would hopefully like to hang out with. I still go by David R. Flores on the graphic novels I create with my writing partner, but for my own work and illustrations, I usually go by Sic for short when I sign my art."
As a rather private person, Sic Monkie acts like a shield for David. "At first, I considered it possible to be anonymous in the online world, but the truth is I'm already associated as being both David R. Flores and Sic Monkie," he says. This doesn't mean the alter ego is redundant. Far from it, it allows him to express a facet of his personality. "I see him as a fun persona, like dressing up for Halloween and creatively expressing a side of yourself."
The spirit of Sic Monkie appears to go against David's regular self, which is more concerned with what he describes as "universal mundane expressions". This is because he admits that his life is filled to the brim with them. "Perhaps it's by design: I desire mundanity to escape into a place of wild creativity," he speculates.
"What I enjoy about the ordinary is that hidden beneath the surface is the sublime. Life comprises more extraordinary moments that occur but may go unnoticed – wonderful yet understated events."
A prime example of this approach is the illustration Birds of a Feather, where David captures a moment in Little Tokyo in downtown LA with his family. "I was waiting for them outside some dessert shop when I observed a father sitting with four of his kids, all of whom were eating frozen yoghurt. I found the image heartwarming and remarkable; I likened it to a family of birds grazing."
It's a similar story to Rollercoaster Line, a piece based on a memory David has about waiting in line at an amusement park. "I remember feeling very uncomfortable that two teenagers were making out nearby. It's the subtle humour of a moment like this that I relish in recreating."
By studying these moments, David says he has developed an appreciation for the mundane elements in his own life. "Some people seek excitement, which I think is exotic and thrilling – but that's not me," he adds.
"Sometimes I wish I were more like that, but then I've come to value the simplicity of my existence, and my illustrations reflect that appreciation. My illustrations have informed me that it's totally cool to live for the small moments that come your way rather than search and pray for the big ones."
Currently, David is working on Do Not Disturb, which sees his illustration style pivot into more of a gritty Raymond Chandler detective story combined with a supernatural haunted hotel. Written with his writing partner Jarod Hunter Roe, the pair's styles complement each other wonderfully to create compelling stories.
"I feel blessed to be working with him," David concludes. "We recently completed a two-volume graphic novel called The InSpectres about a fictional group of occult investigators composed of Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry Houdini, Bram Stoker, and a ten-year-old Agatha Christie on the trail of the legendary phantom, Spring-Heeled Jack. It's published by Blue Fox Comics. Volume One comes out this year; Volume Two in 2024."