By Erin McNutt
Derec Donovan is a comic book illustrator in New Orleans whose works I have personally admired for years. Derec’s regular Facebook postings are always dazzling and often hilarious. It’s doubtful that many New Orleanians are aware that such an accomplished Comic Book Artist lives and works among us!
NCM: Where are you originally from?
Derec: Born and raised in New Orleans. I left once, for a year, when I was twenty and worked in a studio in Georgia. Then I lived in Tampa for about eight years. Both were for artistic reasons. But I always came back to New Orleans!
NCM: When did you first start drawing?
Derec: When I could first pick up a pencil. I can’t remember not wanting to draw.
NCM: What made you decided to be a professional artist as opposed to something you just enjoy as a hobby?
Derec: I just always drew. I always made art for myself. At fourteen I met someone older than me who was making comic books for a living. That was the first time I equated something I enjoyed with getting paid. It sounded better than digging ditches! When I realized that it was a path, it clicked.
NCM: When did you sell your first piece of art?
Derec: About fifteen or sixteen. I started doing commercial jobs for people. It just snowballed from there.
NCM: Which comic book characters do you draw?
Derec: I have worked on: Superman, Spider-Man, Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, X-Men, Robin, and a lot of others. Most of the major characters. I’ve been doing this for twenty years.
NCM: Whose work inspires you most?
Derec: I’m inspired by a lot of people. When I was younger, I had a very narrow pool of comic book artists that I would go to. That was my thing. As I have gotten older, I have become inspired by other painters, film directors, sculptors, and musicians. Anything that gets me going.
NCM: What’s your favorite character to draw?
Derec: Batman is fun to work on. A lot of them are fun. I don’t have just one in particular. Drawing these characters makes going to work pretty easy.
NCM: Do you ever have trouble getting motivated to work? Or do you just draw constantly?
Derec: I’ve never had a problem with artist’s block or anything like that. More like the opposite problem, when I don’t have enough hours in the day to get all of the ideas in my head out on paper.
NCM: What is the most challenging part of being a comic book artist?
Derec: Since I’m really my own boss, it requires a certain amount of discipline. I have to crack the whip. Time management is my biggest issue. Making time to do all of the things you have to do in normal life. Like doing your taxes, mowing the lawn, going to the post office while still meeting deadlines.
NCM: How do you differentiate yourself from other artists?”
Derec: I don’t spend too much time thinking about trying to differentiate myself. I just try to do work that stands out strongly. Just trying to be as good a version of myself as I can.
NCM: How do you deal with negative criticism?
Derec: I ignore it. I’ve been doing this too long. I don’t care if someone has a negative opinion of my work.
NCM: Anything you wish you’d known about being a comic book artist before you started?
Derec: I wish I had known so much more about business. I got into this because I liked to draw and not because I wanted to be an accountant. But you still have to learn things like accounting and taxes. I had to learn a little bit about copyright law. Things come at you that you didn’t see coming.
NCM: How do you come up with a profitable pricing structure for your art? Do you have to negotiate with the comic book companies?
Derec: It is tricky and I find myself struggling with that. Especially right now. When the economy crunches, customers sometimes have to choose whether or they can buy my artwork. When it becomes a push-to-shove thing is when you end up moving your prices.
I make money several different ways. When I work for a company, they give me a page rate. That rate can go up or down depending on the company. I also make money from selling the artwork. That number is set by me. It all depends on who my customer is. If I am working for Marvel or DC, we come up with a rate for every page that I draw. When I am selling original artwork it depends on the artwork itself. If it’s a unique piece of artwork, say, a cover, that can sell for a lot more. I set the price. Sometimes the price is determined by how “hungry” I am at that time!
NCM: Where do you sell your original art?
Derec: Lots of places. Sometimes I sell diretcly on the internet or at comic book conventions and sometimes art dealers act as middlemen. Art dealers might buy art in bulk from me at a lower price and sell it at a higher price. They just have to carry it longer and give me a check up front.
NCM: What’s the best advice that you have ever received from another artist?
Derec: I have just watched other artists and picked up their techniques. I will see someone do something elegantly or with a certain amount of confidence and realize, “Wow! I’m doing this the hard way! Why don’t I do it the way that he is doing it?”
NCM: If you could be any super hero, which one would you choose?
Derec: Spider-Man is pretty good. Yeah! I’ll go with that one!
NCM: If you could have any super power, what would it be?
Derec: I like teleporting. I like the idea of being able to travel from my house to this interview in the blink of an eye without having to endure weather or traffic.
NCM: How has new technology effected your work?
Derec: Digital publishing has encroached on my work in a couple of ways. In the creation of art and then also in the distribution of content. Some people embrace it and some people don’t. I’m kind of in the middle, a hybrid. I try to balance computer stuff with painting as much as I can. It’s important to me.
NCM: Do you ever worry that with digital technology, the thought process that occurs when you actually pick up the pen and put it to paper is going to be lost?
Derec: Yeah – it’s the digital undo!
NCM: If any of our readers want to buy some art from you, where should they go?
Derec: Just look me up on Facebook or online.
Derec Donovan’s work is featured in many different comic books by Marvel and DC Comics. He is also the author and illustrator of Bionic Bombshell. You can also buy prints of his work online at Deviant Art or from him directly.