David Diaz received the 1995 Caldecott medal for his very first picture book. Smoky Night, (by Eve Bunting) was based on Los Angeles street riots and was inspired by sketches David made while on a trip to Brazil. He created gouache paintings framed by bold borders with intricate photographic collages as backgrounds. The relatively flat paintings are perfectly matched to the textured collages, vibrant when the action heats up, softened by the end of the story. Each subsequent book expanded his stylistic range, as he experimented with photo collage, silhouette forms, vegetable dyes, gouache, and pencil with secondary illustrations created by using Adobe Photoshop.
Inspired by the innovation of Viennese Secessionists such as Gustav Klimt (1862-1914) and Egon Schiele (1890-1918), Diaz aims to break away from any constrictions and develop his own way of telling stories through illustration. Many of Diaz’s books deal with social issues fraught with controversy; but no matter what the subject matter, the artist seeks to illustrate books that offer hope.