Derek Gores was born in New York in 1971. He's best known for ripped paper collage portraits, made using recycled magazine pages and other found parts. He's had a hot year to date, with several shows and pieces selling for five figures. In addition to his fine art, Derek has worked as a commercial illustrator and designer for 15 years, with clients including Lenny Kravitz, U2, Van Halen, Kings of Leon, Madonna, Lucasfilm, ESPN, the National Football League, Harley Davidson, Adidas as well as many others. In January, Derek was honored to be featured at the Manifest Hope DC exhibit in Washington, prior to President Obama's Inauguration. The exhibit was juried by Spike Lee and fellow artist Shepard Fairey, among others. Currently, he has a large solo exhibition and a group show that is open through September 25, 2009.
Derek lives in Melbourne, Florida with his wife Jamie and their three daughters.
TORN: solo exhibition of large scale collages - 321 Agency in
Melbourne, FL. Through September 25. http://www.321agency.com/gallery
MEMENTO MORI: group show at the Parlor Gallery, Asbury Park, NJ -
opens Saturday August 22. http://www.parlor-gallery.com
When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/ illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?
I've just always drawn. Really really make a conscious career move? Probably the summer after college when it was time to turn it into a job, my first was making art for the Grateful Dead. Great experience, since we made hundreds of tees for the band, and yet they didn't want photos of the band in any of the designs. Started me digging deep into visual metaphors and weird imagery. Tried to expand the idea of the band, not just illustrate what already existed.
Who or what inspires you?
Subject-wise, I love the figure. The living body. The pulsing, moving, living being and all the space around it. And I contrast that with study of man made things. Engines, schematics, things that aren't supposed to be art. Process-wise, I make these collages for the feeling of having my brain and senses surprised and confused while searching for the image. Here's the deepest thing I've ever said about it: I try to make an experience, instead of just a picture of an experience. The history each viewer brings to the art affect the perceptions, of course. The inside of your head is the real canvas. See? Deep, right?
Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
Gotta start with Dad, drawing the Brewster Grist Mill on Cape Cod. Star Wars had me inventing worlds on my own. Peers had me doing tag team doodles which I still love. Exposure to local bad-asses, guys who wanted to make their own luck instead of waiting to be invited into galleries. I did go to art school at RISD. Faves there included the mystical life force searching of Victor Lara, the noble craftsmanship of Tom Sgouros, the swashbuckling of painter Dean Richardson. Toss in a little David Macaulay communication, some Mahler Ryder bluntness and one great speaking engagement with Brad Holland, who would only show up if it was student-organized. I was fortunate too to attend RISD at the same time as Shawn Kenney, Scott Conary and Robert Moody. I call him Bob. Then I jumped in with a huuuuuge company, art directing, developing the vision thing and the leadership thing. I consider all that part of my training for now. Current teaching comes from a spider web of compatriots here in Florida. Artists Cliffton Chandler, Ryan Speer, David Burton, Cynic, SLOW, Casey Decotis and many art-support folks who together make stuff happen.
How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?
Just by living and doing new things. Parenting. Combining the senses, drawing, trying music. Collaborating. Actually the collage stuff is the latest in a long line of deliberate moves toward staying out of my own control, channeling randomness. When I was 18 I was on the path to precision. Boris would have liked me.
What are some of your current projects?
Just finished a commission for the health care reform campaign- a 24" x 24" collage all in blues, made of words and phrases from the President's speeches and ideas. On the lighter side, some tour tees for Kings of Leon and Depeche Mode. Just had my first solo show opening- TORN, produced by 321 Agency in Melbourne, FL. http://www.321agency.com/torn It includes my largest works yet, some of the collages are six feet tall. Next up is a group show at the Parlor Gallery in Asbury Park, NJ. Opens August 22. Hoping Springsteen pops in.
Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
My kid self is excited I did the artwork for Alex Van Halen's drums (and several of the tees) on the last Van Halen tour! In terms of big time honor, gotta go with being selected as 2 of the 15 pieces chosen for the Manifest Hope DC exhibit prior to the inauguration in Washington. Shep Fairey, Yosi Sargent, -- I think Arnold Schwarzenegger stopped in. I even have the President's autograph on one of my prints. Wow. More personally, the latest collage works are going so well. Huge engines, samurais, beauties emerging from shadow... I just had the longest period of sustained adrenaline I've ever felt. And ready to apply to new stuff asap! But the real real real juice comes from the viewer, the collector's reaction. I sometimes see it in their eyes, cheeks, throats even...
Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
I'm hinting at 3d stuff. Did my first laser-cut plastic piece this year. 7 layers. I think the collages need to be 3d at some point. Project wise it is funny that I've worked for tons of private collectors, big campaign commissions, lots of product merch, music packaging, but very little in the area that most interested me while in collage- magazines. Maybe this year I'll go looking. The collage stuff translates so well in print.
Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?
Explore, explore, draw, draw, read, read. I like Marshall Arisman's advice that your focus ought to be the 5 things you know the most about. I know the body, machines, intimate spaces, nightlife feels, pop stuff. So I feel no need to do the business man with briefcase ascending the bar graph staircase. Don't be generic, figure you out and be aggressive with it. Figure YOU out in the art, the promo, the networking, the living. Art isn't just rectangles on a wall. The whole
life is the art project, as a friend of mine likes to say.
On the subject of school, I've seen artists with big time educations who never got out from under the weight of their training, never found the personal purpose. Had the how, but no why. And I've seen self taught people really break new ground. So, key is to own your own education, however you get it.
What makes a designed piece or illustration successful?
If it takes the viewer's mind to the right place to receive the accompanying text, story, show, message. Doesn't have to be literal. Actually I'm wary of symbols, because they rely on intellectual memory to tell you what you are supposed to be feeling. I'd much rather see a piece that achieves a feeling, an actual felt response- even if the particulars might be hard to discern. Brad Holland was first to show me it is possible in the illustration/design world.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
Fresh stimulus. Weird art tools all around. I tend to do the art in waves- a wave of thinking, researching, discovering, uncovering, then finally a new rush of work. I despise doing work that has the idea at the beginning and then the rest of the time is laborious execution. I like surprises along the way. I've gotten very good at harnessing all that for a client too.
Finish this sentence. "If I weren't a designer/illustrator I would have been a..."
No idea. Can you get paid to walk the Appalachian Trail? I haven't done it yet, but I'm into it if pay is good and there are benefits.
And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?
The less TV the better. But you can catch me watching those HD live concerts on Sundays.
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