Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Convention Round-Up: Next Steps

The past few weeks have been dizzying. I went to four conventions in the past five weeks, exhibiting in one, and participated in one art show. I definitely have a lot more respect for the convention regulars who somehow manage to get to every single show out there, regardless of when or where it is. Nonetheless, I've learned a lot of very valuable things during the past month and hopefully they will help propel me forward.

- Probably the biggest take-away for me has been that my work is in the strange (some would call it unique) position of being between three genres (I've already elaborated on this in a previous blog post), and that maybe I need to go ahead and do something of my own creation.

The issues I have always had with attempting to do something along those lines usually involve me being too scatter-brained to get everything down on paper the way I want it to look. In the past I have been too scared to "fail", but I think it was more a lack of support more than anything. I get particularly intimidated when I look at the work of others and try to hold myself to that standard. Maybe it's just a matter of me finding the right person to be my creative guinea pig sounding board.

"Who is this guy? What does he do?"

I have to start asking questions and answering them. The ones such as, "Who is he? What does he do for a living? Where does he live? How does he live?" What I took away from Intervention-Con in particular was that I need to push further; I have to ask more questions and provide more details. And then I have to build a world for these characters to exist in. I might be getting in a bit over my head here but I suppose I have to start somewhere.

Another blog post with more rambling and hardly any art that hasn't been seen before? I'm awful at this. I promise, the next posts will have more art. And if it doesn't, I give you all permission to hunt me down and pelt me with gummy bears.

Friday, September 14, 2012


Please forgive me for the infrequency of these updates. The past two weeks have been very hectic. I'll post updates about those later, but in the meantime I want to share something that has been gnawing at me for the past four years or so, ever since I started on this journey of becoming an illustrator.

I have a great deal of difficulty defining myself as an artist. When someone asks me "what kind of artist are you", my first inclination is usually to answer "not a very good one" and laugh it off as a pitiful attempt to dismiss the question. Or I might try to explain the details of what my pictures are known for instead of actually giving a definition.

"Hi, I'm Darrenn. I draw and paint big guys with tusks."
To be honest, I don't have a definition for what I do. Yes, it has certain traits and tendencies, and some recurring subjects, but it doesn't have a nice little box to place itself in where other people can look at it and identify it at a glance. It may seem like a cop-out to say "it is what it is", but that's really what it is; it's nothing else.

I also believe others have difficulty defining what I do as an artist. For some, it is a good thing. Some people seem to appreciate the fact that what I do is not a "trend" or a "fad". Some people like how my work looks like the work of nobody else (although the name Maurice Sendak gets thrown out fairly often).

I think it has to do with the color palette.
Then there are some people who simply do not like that my work doesn't have a neat and tidy definition. Some art directors and editors have become visibly uncomfortable when looking at my body of work, unable to categorize it.  I've had one instructor in particular tell me that my work either needed to become more stylized or more realistic. It wasn't a matter getting better or addressing weaknesses; the implication was that the flaw in my work was my work.

I struggled mightily with the latter statement for nearly a year, despite the progress I had made during that time. I knew my art was getting better and stronger, but it was still undefined. It had developed its own sort of consistency and its own attributes which I could identify, but which were mainly unconscious and intuitive during the creation process (I think that's what people like to refer to as a "style", though I don't like to use that word).

In the year and chance that I've been out of school, I have learned to live with it. It doesn't really bother me anymore. The feedback I have received from other illustrators, even ones whose work I have grown up loving and admiring, has been mainly positive. I recognize that my work's lack of a true definition might make it difficult for me to find commercial jobs - and it truly has been a struggle. But I believe it's more important for me to do what I do, even if it means the path will be longer and more arduous.

I promise my next post will have more art and less rambling.

Friday, August 31, 2012


Howdy folks.

I haven't forgotten about this blog, I've just been very, VERY busy the past few months (I suppose it has been a while, hasn't it?). I guess this is as good a time as any to do an official relaunch of my blog.

So yeah, that was it. This space has been re-launched. Keep an eye out here for new content. Hopefully the next one will come a little sooner than 16 months.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Friendly Skies

On Monday I'll be flying up to Massachusetts for a week to spend some time with my extended family. I hate flying. Traveling through airport security is a hassle, and I always get cramped up in tiny seats with no leg room

I came up with the idea for this painting waiting for my flight home from San Diego Comic Con. I don't know what was about the prospect of spending five hours in a Boeing 737 and dealing with jet lag upon landing that inspired me, but it did.

The final composite sketch was done on several layers of tracing paper - something I tried after getting a few pointers from the great Chris Payne at the Illustration Academy this past summer.

Here I did value and color studies in Photoshop. Values first using a layer set to Multiply, then colors on top of them using another layer set to Color. It helps me tremendously to have an idea what the value and color scheme is supposed to look like before trying to paint the finish.

And this is the finish, done in watercolor, gouache and ink on Arches 140 lb. cold-press watercolor paper. I'm quite pleased at how it turned out, especially the clouds. I still haven't figured out how that saddle is attached to the bird.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Train of Thought

I'll be back in Washington for the next couple of weeks for winter break.

I love trains.They are my main method of getting from home to campus and back. The train is nicer than the bus, and I don't have to worry about running into traffic on I-95. Here are a couple sketches I've done on the Northeast Regional:

 Sketching on a moving train can be challenging, especially on the Northeast Regional line between Washington and Newport News. Unlike the rest of the Northeast Regional line, the Virginia portion of the route is actually freight track that Amtrak shares with CSX. It's not as difficult as drawing on a moving bus, though.

Then there's the Cow Catcher incident:

This past October when I was heading from Richmond to Washington, the train hit a snag on the rail which bent the cow catcher under one of the wheels. We had to sit there for a couple of hours until Amtrak could send out their mobile maintenance to fix the problem, otherwise there was a threat of derailment. I guess the train isn't immune to mechanical gremlins, but I'd rather be stranded on a train than on a bus.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Solomons, MD

Every year my mother rounds up the whole extended family and brings us all down to Solomons, MD for some quality time together. It's pretty far out there (Calvert County, on the banks of the Patuxent river - about 90 minutes from Washington, DC and 90 minutes from Annapolis).

These were my first real attempts at drawing with a chisel-tip pigment liner (Prismacolor Fineliner). It definitely has its advantages in terms of adding large areas of tone. It took me a while to get the hang of it but I think these turned out alright.

Post Number One

So I have a blog now.

Here's some artwork.

A couple from the sketchbook:

One more from the sketchbook, drawn at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum: