We would like to thank Bradley Tree Experts for sponsoring this month’s Resident Feature.
This month we are pleased to introduce you to Marple resident David Hoffrichter, a passionate and talented artist whose perseverance and dedication to his craft have led him to become a successful fantasy illustrator.
David grew up in Broomall with his parents and brother and, as a young child, was already showing signs of artistic ability. He attended The Walden School in Swarthmore from kindergarten to eighth grade and played baseball for many years in the Marple Township Little League. David was a frequent winner of The Walden School’s annual art contests. “I won so many times that finally, they decided to make me a judge to be fair to the other kids,” David said, laughing.
David’s parents supported his love of art, and he credits his mom with getting him interested in the fantasy genre after she introduced him to The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings. His mom also drove him up and down the east coast to visit all the museums they could. “My mom was always pushing me to stretch my imagination,” said David.
As a young boy, David’s art was more than just a hobby; it was therapeutic. In elementary school, he began experiencing tics and unwanted movements, and by the time he was a teenager, he was officially diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome. Tourette Syndrome, a neurological disorder characterized by sudden, repetitive, rapid, and unwanted movements or vocal sounds called tics, left David feeling embarrassed and shy. But he quickly learned that he could find his voice through his artwork. “What was first considered a disability, I later realized was something that set me apart, and I could channel my energy into art,” David explained.
At age nine, David began taking lessons with local artist James Browne who not only taught him watercolor but the history of art. James is a talented illustrator who graduated from University of the Arts and just happened to be a neighbor of the Hoffrichter. If you frequent Jaquette’s Bakery in Broomall, you’ll find one of James’ paintings hanging on the wall of the bakery. Although James eventually moved out of the Broomall area, David said he is a close friend who he considers to be more like a brother. They even created a mural together at the Blue Church in Springfield. “James was truly a mentor to me and taught me so much,” said David. “He’s the reason I’m the artist I am today.”
After David finished eighth grade, his parents decided what would be best at the time for him was to be homeschooled. David did well with his homeschool curriculum, but eventually, he wanted to return to school and finish his education in person. David entered Marple Newtown High School for his senior year. Because he had really ground out a lot of his coursework during home school, by the time he was a senior, he was able to fill his school day with numerous art electives. “I probably spent six or seven periods in the art room,” David recalled fondly. David also played Varsity tennis and joined the high school track team. “What I loved about MNHS was that the teachers were wonderful,” he said. Two teachers, in particular, supported David and helped him grow as an artist. “I have to give a shout-out to Mr. Winterbottom and Mrs. Can,” David explained. “They were both so inspirational to me.” Mr. Winterbottom said that David’s maturity and kindness made him a pleasure to have in class. He also had a great mind and let his creativity run wild. “David was so meticulous and detailed in his artwork,” Mr. Winterbottom explained. “ You definitely did not see that in the average student.”
Although David had initially planned to go to art school after high school, he decided what would be best to prevent burnout was to earn an Associate’s Degree in education from Delaware County Community College. He then went on to earn his Bachelor’s Degree from University of SUNY Excelsior, an online program. He contemplated being a teacher but ultimately continued to spend the next several years investing in his art education.
In 2016 he completed training at Neilson Carlin’s Academy of Fine Arts in Kennett Square, where he learned the fundamentals of painting with oils. Neilson Carlin is an artist who specializes in commissioned sacred and devotional art and has been teaching and drawing at his school for 25 years. David took the skills and knowledge from Neilson and channeled them into his true passion, fantasy illustration.
David began his own career by selling his pieces through word of mouth and through his Etsy and Ebay stores. He also has a large Facebook and Instagram following where he posts his artwork. In the past several years, he’s been traveling to different art shows to sell his work, including the Linvilla Orchards annual Arts & Craft Festival.
What David has found the most helpful in developing and ultimately selling his art pieces are strong personal connections. By attending workshops across the country, including IlluXCon, a symposium dedicated solely to the art of the fantastic (imaginative realism), he was able to meet and network with other artists. “Not only do these workshops allow me to connect with artists, it rejuvenates my love of art,” he explained.
At the Fantasy Art Workshop Illustration Intensive (FAWII) in Milwaukee in 2019, David found another mentor in Howard Lyon, whose work can be found in products from Magic: the Gathering and Star Wars as well as Dungeons and Dragons books and World of Warcraft cards. FAWII is a yearly gathering of illustrators who want to learn and be inspired together while being taught by world class artists. “Howard has been helping me for the past few years to reach new heights in my journey,” said David. “I also met many art peers who continue to inspire me regularly and who I get to call friends.”
Over the years, David has received numerous accolades and awards for his artwork, and his fantasy illustrations have been featured on a number of game art and book covers. Although his passion is fantasy illustration, he’s often commissioned for more traditional works. Recently he was asked to paint a couple as their wedding gift to each other. “I assumed it’d be a traditional wedding portrait,” explained David. “To my surprise, they wanted to be painted as wizards. I was thrilled!”
David typically spends 10-13 hours a day in his art studio that is attached to his childhood home. “It doubles as a man cave,” he said jokingly. “I created it to feel inspirational and the artwork I surround myself with is soothing. It actually lowers my blood pressure.” Over the years, David has learned to manage his Tourette Syndrome. “Sometimes a tic or sudden movement will mess up hours of work. But that’s just the cost of doing business,” he added, laughing.
Looking ahead to the next five or 10 years, David said he’d love to have a book published that he’s both written and illustrated. “It’s my dream to walk into Barnes and Noble and see one of my own books there,” he said. David would also love to give back by teaching art to others. “Sometimes I feel like I’m just at the beginning of my journey,” he said. “Whether or not I choose to supplement my career, I will always be an artist.” David also wants our readers to know whether you are a student or retired, it’s never too late to start doing something creative.