10 questions for Illustrator Darrenn Canton
This week we talk to Illustrator Darren Canton. He talks about where he's found his community, and the tenacity it takes to make it as a professional artist.
- How long have you been working as an illustrator?
About seven years. I graduated from college in late 2011 and started my illustration business shortly afterward.
- You create a lot of fun characters, including animals. Are there stories that you are particularly drawn to illustrate? What makes you want to work on them?
I love fairy tales, myths, legends, and tall tales. Any story that really gets the imagination going, really. Those are the sorts of stories I grew up reading when I was a kid and I still love reading them today.
- How has being a member of ASFA and SCBWI helped your art develop? Do you attend many sci-fi and fantasy conventions?
I’ve been able to meet lots of other artists and illustrators by being involved with those groups, especially within the sci-fi and fantasy community. I usually attend Gen Con in Indianapolis and IX in Reading, PA every year, along with a handful of smaller, local shows and gatherings.
- What are your favorite projects to work on, and why?
My favorite projects are the ones where I can bring my particular sense of visual storytelling to the table. I really enjoy projects that involve a very strong sense of narrative.
- What do you find to be the most difficult aspect about illustrating?
The ideation process can be very daunting sometimes. One of the most terrifying things for many artists is to sit down in front of a blank page.
- How have you overcome these kinds of roadblocks or situations?
Sometimes I’ve been able to sketch my way into an idea that I feel works for the project. Sometimes I’ve had to keep working and working at different ideas to find one that both myself and the client or editor are happy with. And sometimes the looming deadlines force my hand and I have to work with what I have.
- Are there any art programs or workshops that you have found to be particularly helpful in up-leveling your work or meeting helpful people?
My suggestion would be the Illustration Academy in Kansas City, MO. I had the opportunity to take the course in 2010 and it really changed my whole way of thinking about creating images and developing as an artist. The Illustration Master Class in Amherst, MA is another that I have always wanted to attend but haven’t had the chance to.
- What makes you excited about children’s books? Do you write them as well as illustrate them?
I’ve always thought of myself as a kid at heart, and when I get to work on a children’s book, it lets me work with material that five-year-old me would be excited to read. I’ve had many people tell me I need to start writing, and it is definitely something I hope to start doing in the near future.
- What mindset do you think people need to make it as an artist today?
I would say being tenacious, resilient, and stubbornly optimistic. Constant rejection is an unfortunate reality in this field. There will be plenty of people who don’t like what you do and plenty of people who will tell you that you can’t make it or that you should find something else.
Being tenacious means pursuing your goals even if it looks like there isn’t a clear path forward. Being resilient means not letting the rejections affect your outlook on life. And being stubbornly optimistic means being able to see the good in even the most negative situations.
- What is a dream project you would love to work on, and why?
If someone called me up wanting me to do a fully illustrated adaptation of Brian Jacques’s Redwall novels, I think my head might explode. (In a good way, if that’s possible.) I’ve always loved reading the Redwall books. For me, they are a perfect blend of fantastic adventure, compelling action, witty humor, and charm.
You can see more of Darrenn Canton's work on his personal website here: http://www.dcantonart.com
I think we'd all love to cultivate the tenacity that Darrenn defines so well here. And while we can all agree that having endless optimism would be wonderful, sometimes it's difficult to maintain it. We have to both be optimistic and tenacious while keeping it honest and real, from our heart.
Creative Confidence Club, a group coaching program for professional creatives, helps you achieve and maintain exactly that - a sense of inner peace and power that can only come from experiencing everything you think and feel, and mastering the way you express and handle it.
It's built to help artists find their groove with life balance and managing emotions when life/work gets overwhelming. It also sets you up to operate from your zone of genius more often. If you'd like to check it out, here's the link.