Hey everyone! We'd like to introduce you to a new feature here at Weasyl: Weasyl Spotlight! This is a new semi-regular series where we will take a closer look at some of the great artists and creators of the Weasyl Community. Through these interviews, we hope to not only learn more about our wonderful community, but also learn more about the creative process and life in the arts.
Without further ado, let’s kick off this inaugural edition with our interview with Deriaz!
Weasyl: How’d you get started in art?
Deriaz: Around the end of my junior year of high school, I met someone online on a game called Dungeons and Dragons Online by the name of Jaggie. We got to talking, and after the event, she revealed to me that she was an artist, and had drawn my avatar.
I never really had an artist friend before, and I sort of annoyed her by asking her to draw all our guildmates and everything. Eventually, she told me, “No, you draw me.” She sent me a little sketchbook, and even drew my avatar in it on the first page. So I drew her’s right up there next to him, and showed it to her. She told me, “You know, that’s not half bad. Now draw my other character.” And it just sort of snowballed from there, where I kept drawing anything I could think of. Mostly fanart stuff, but she was always giving me critiques.
Eventually, I had to decide on what I wanted to do in college, and was between Accounting or Art. “Jaggie” laughed and said, “You should apply to the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design up here in Canada, in my town. If you get in, you could move in with me and my boyfriend.” And I applied. And they accepted me. That was sort of my taste of “real” or serious art, and that first year got me hooked.
Weasyl: Oh wow. That’s certainly a leap from Accounting to Art. Was there any pressure from family or friends to pursue what most people may consider a “safer” major like Accounting?
Deriaz: Absolutely, and I still have that pressure now. When it comes from friends, I know it’s just them ribbing me, and I joke along with them. When I mess up while we’re talking about the sciences, or history, or whatever? “Don’t laugh, I went to art school, I have an excuse.” But when it comes from family, it’s a little harder to take, you know?
Obviously your parents want what’s good for you, and I know I’m blessed to have parents that trust the decision I wanted to make, but making them worry is not the greatest feeling in the world! I’ve always toyed with the idea of picking up a second degree in the Accounting field, though. Art is great, and I’m very happy with the decision, but I’m well aware it’s a super competitive field. Having a back-up isn’t a bad idea.
Weasyl: Were you able to earn your degree at school? What did you do once you graduated? Immediately look for work to start that cash flow?
Deriaz: To the first, yup! I was able to get a four year degree at the school; not in the exact field I wanted, but it wasn’t that far off from what I wanted. Plus, I’m still doing what I intended to do afterwards, and still have the same goals, so it’s all good! I think a solid portfolio speaks louder than an accurate major in this kind of field, anyways.
Once I graduated, I immediately started putting out resumes and portfolios to businesses around town. My main focus was trying to get into the local animation studios, but either due to a lack of skill in the field (my dabbling easily does not compare to a trained individual), or my work limits due to being a foreigner (20 hours per week in a town filled with young folks who can work full time), it fell through. I returned home, and just continued putting out resumes to get cash moving.
The first place to accept me, I’ll admit, was a dollar store. And I took it. I still work there, and it’s just over minimum wage. Yeah, it sucks, but it’s a job, you know? You take what you can get when you’re fresh out of the gate. And a second one, if you have to, which I did. But on the side, in my free time, and probably with a bit of harm in my social life, I kept drawing and painting. Just sharing the work eventually led from one thing to another, to finally getting a job doing some art. Not that I’ll settle for just the one – still hoping to hit that point where the dollar store isn’t necessary, but that’s still a bit of a wish at this point.
Weasyl: It sounds like you’ve had your share of tribulations in regards to finding work. How have you been able to stay motivated through some of your more rough patches?
Deriaz: I’d say I’ve done a decent job at it, though I could probably do better. Having the two jobs, you lose a lot of free time. And sometimes, days or even a week goes by where I just don’t really have the time to sit and draw. I usually spend my work breaks surfing on my phone for tutorials or new imagery to get me motivated again – seeing an artist create something that I know I’ve struggled with, or who shares a process of how they tackle a tough part of a drawing, is great for me.
There are still days as well where I sit and worry, “Ah, I’m not working for Blizzard/Marvel/RIOT, woe is me.” It’s a rough rut for me, personally, to get out of sometimes. Especially when friends are being successful at work, or are buying a house, or planning marriages, or whatever. I haven’t found a great solution to that, but slamming Facebook shut and just getting my rear in gear and doing anything at all, even if it’s mindless like the laundry, seems to help.
Weasyl: That’s interesting because at least through browsing journals I see a lot of people who look at other people’s art and tend to get frustrated as opposed to motivated to get back to the easel, tablet, or sketchbook. It sounds like you try to keep a fairly positive attitude towards your passion, despite the hardships.
Deriaz: This is the part where I admit I used to do that, every single day! And I got nothing done! Because I would sit there and think, “Oh, X did it already. And there’s no way I can do it better! Ugh.” Art’s not a contest to see who gets crowned King of Art and Artsy Things. I learned that in one of the most harsh critiques I’ve ever experienced in my life, in front of 18 other people.
And that’s where I used to get caught up, and where friends I have who wish they could draw still are. The moment you can distance yourself from other people and just think, “I’m going to do it. I’m going to do it, and I’m going to do it as best I can,” you’ll be a lot happier. I feel like when you compare yourself to someone who’s better, you’re only putting yourself down. You’re not them.
I know it’s cheesy, because I’m 90% confident it came from Adventure Time, but the most motivational thing I’ve ever heard is, “Sucking at something is the first step to being sort of good at something.” I try and keep that in mind every time I upload or share something. Yes, it’s not the best. Yes, I made mistakes that I may or may not know about. But if you try and are willing to take in criticism and critique, you can only go up. And eventually, you’ll be able to fairly compare yourself to others. You’ll become them eventually.
Weasyl: What exactly is your inspiration for your style? How’d you arrive to “your voice” in a manner of speaking?
Deriaz: Ah, that’s a tough one for me, because I don’t know if I really can call what I’m doing a style yet. When I first started drawing, I was heavily influenced by comic books. Grew up with superheroes and their villains, especially Spiderman and Venom. That sort of created a love of anatomy, with how Spiderman would bend and twist, constrasted to Venom’s bulk and strength. At the same time, I was being introduced to Dungeons and Dragons, so the Monster Manuals were filled with illustrations of creatures and things that I had never heard of.
So I had this mix of anatomy alongside realistic fantasy, I guess you’d call it? As I entered college, I discovered a much more varied love of music, which I tried bringing into my drawings. That didn’t work out so well, but I have a habit of listening to a track or album on repeat for extended periods of time, so mood or tempo began effecting my thumbnails and sketches. At the same time I was discovering anthropomorphism more, having been able to play games that I could as a child like the Sly Cooper series or having the a bit of time to read through Aesop’s Fables a bit more. So that sort of tied back in to the anatomy and fantasy, in trying to create these believable animal people.
Weasyl: So you have some variety in your work between what appears to be more fantasy-driven along with some anthro work. What would you say you enjoy doing more, or is it all rewarding to you?
Deriaz: I like them both equally! The anthros are fun for me right now, because it’s new territory after doing lots of humans in college. I’m just beginning to figure out how to make fantasy that can be believable, on the other hand. So it may switch again. I’ve been doing a lot of knights recently because of that. I don’t think I’ve mixed the two too much yet, though. Maybe that’s my next step.
Weasyl: Finally, what word of advice would you have for other Weasyl users who are looking to make a living in art?
Deriaz: Time and dedication are going to get you a lot further than underselling yourself and your imagery. You don’t have to hit it out of the ballpark on every submission, but a willingness to improve and grow as an artist is going to be more valuable in the long run. If you stick with it and your passion shows, opportunities will come to you, rather than having to work to create them.
Thanks again to Deriaz for his time! Please be sure to visit his Weasyl page at Deriaz.
Weasyl Spotlight users are selected by staff. If you have a suggestion for a user who represents the Weasyl Community, please contact email@example.com.