David Mark Zimmerman

Nicholas Pipitone • Milwaukee

I couldn’t find it at first.

I had the address, I was on the right street, but something wasn’t right. There was a huge warehouse in the distance; I’ll drive back there and take a look.

It’s 10 AM on a Saturday, and there aren’t a whole lot of people around. The parking lot of the huge warehouse was empty except for one car, and as I got closer I noticed the stickers littering the car’s back window. They were clearly the work of David Mark Zimmerman, AKA Big Shot Robot. Found it.

Hey man, I’ll come down and let you in.

I got out of my car and knocked on the door but no answer. Then to my left, up one floor a head peeked out amid the perfect backdrop of blue sky and white brick.  

“Hey man, I’ll come down and let you in.”   

I’ve known David for about 3 years; he and I were employed at the same advertising agency.  He had an office about 3 doors down from me and had some of his artwork strewn around in his office. His characters bubbled with color, strange creations of color and quirkiness and minimalism.  When he put in his two weeks notice, my first reaction was, “Thank God.”

David’s artistry overshadowed any kind of career he might have had in marketing. It was his calling and I knew it. The proof was in the work – his art is filled with originality; exaggerated body parts and bizarre combinations, picture (if you can) an astronaut suit with a butt inside the glass helmet where the head should be; or a sword through a pillow. We worked on a project together where he created characters representing STDs – chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. The range of characters, while different, all felt like they were coming from the same artistic place. There was a consistency to them like the Coen Brothers Filmography and Eggleston’s photos. 

He has the secret sauce; a singular style that is undeniable. 

“Growing up we didn’t have cable,” David said. When his friends would invite him over, they made a beeline for what would become his greatest influence: “We watched cartoons,” he remembered fondly.  He immersed himself in animation, calling 90s cartoons staples like Rocco’s Modern Life, The Wild Thornberrys, and Street Sharks some of his influences along with the Nintendo NES game Bucky O’Hare.

Starting as a photographer, David took a printmaking class and started making stickers of his illustrations. “I saw that I could produce exactly what was in my head,” he said, remembering that first spark. It was then that photography took a backseat to his real passion. His final project at UW-Milwaukee saw the Big Shot Robot persona fully realized. The name came from David’s music days, when he suggested Big Shot Robot as a band name, and the rest of the band wasn’t having it.

The name and the persona is a full time job for David today, hoping to do more mural work (he currently finished one in Black Cat Alley on Milwaukee’s east side) and doing commissioned work. His most current job is working on a painting for a local hand surgeon.  

“A lot of success is saying yeah, I’ll do that and then figuring it out later,” David says, knowing that creative endeavor and fear are always working together to satisfying results. These pursuits are filled with high highs and low lows and you have to embrace it.

“Sometimes you say, well I guess I’m going to eat Ramen today,” he says, laughing.

You get the feeling that for him, it’s art first -- and food, a distant second. 

Credits & References

  • You can view David's work at his Bigshot Robot website.
  • Photos by Nicholas Pipitone.