May 01, 2015
We asked author/illustrator Darren Farrell about his inspirations, influences, and process. Read on to find out how street art, hip hop, and bananas play a role in his art.
I began life as a writer. Went to journalism school. Worked for design firms, PR companies and advertising agencies as a writer and creative director. Eventually, I was sort of forced against my best wishes into this lifelong artistic pursuit.
I could not for the life of me find an illustrator friend who would spend the bajillions of hours to make a book with me. And so I very slowly began sketching the book myself. People liked my sketches, and I continued working on them. An editor at Bloomsbury liked my very early, initial Doug-Dennis book and really enjoyed the art. She helped to build a little confidence within me and pushed me to keep working, and then the process of Doug-Dennis started my art boulder rolling downhill.
Now, I feel like I test out a little something new with each book and I just keep experimenting and trying to grow stronger all the time. I enjoy growing and adapting to what I find cool and so because of that I am not sure that my style will ever remain totally stagnant. At least I hope not!
I enjoyed making odd and oddly cute characters and I wanted to off-balance them a little bit, make bold moves and do something unique. So I started making characters with these HUGE pink eyeballs. And not two huge pink eyeballs. Each character had one giant eye and one little dot eye. Originally the only color in my book was that pink eye. Everything was black and white like a Silverstein book. And just that splash of pink for the one eye. Really, that is the one and only thing which has remained the same in my books so far. That pink eye. I change mediums a bit and try out variations on my style – but that pink eye always feels cool.
I have also always been a huge fan of the New York hip-hop graffiti, breakdancing, street scene. I can remember as a second grader dragging my family to see Beat Street and they left thinking… wha?? I left feeling so enamored of NYC. In fact, from middle school until I graduated high school, I thought I would grow up to be a rapper. All of this to say that when I moved to New York, I began to soak up all of the gorgeous street art. And I began to get a little into fine street artists like Michael Lau, Barry McGee and just a ton of other people – nameless and famous.
Barry McGee Mural, 3 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11217
My natural style seems to involve an INSANE amount of detail. It is important for me to develop some looser styles with less background so that I can let the art explode out from me instead of sculpting it down to the fine details all of the time. In future projects, I also want to start experimenting with more texture in my colors – some actual paint – etc.
I like the idea that I heard in summer camp: if you think about yourself like a banana, you always want to feel green … because when you're done being green, that's when you start the process of going stale. And when it comes to art – I am ALWAYS feeling super duper green. Because I am. I have a lot to learn. Right now, I just do what feels right.