Vivid colors and breathtaking close-ups
When I first saw Derek DeYoung's work, I could not help being fascinated. My first exposure was with the very close-cut portraits of fish, where vivid colors and the mix of realism and yet impressionistic, almost abstract touches really hit me. I contacted Derek to get him to add another chapter to our "fishy artists" series, and he indulged me.
Asked about how it all started, Derek told that he grew up on a small bayou in West Michigan where he spent most of his free time walking around the shores, catching bass and bluegills.
He describes this period:
"As a young kid developing my skills and vision as an artist, I found that I could find no better subject to paint then the big northern pike and largemouth bass that I would often observe cruising the weed lines out in the bayou."
He finds fish interesting to paint because they have qualities that make them a very challenging subject. As he explains:
"One such quality is their skin, it has several layers of things going on visually. First they have scales, which form intricate patterns as well as subtle texture. Second they have markings on their scales, such as the distinctive dark spots with white halos found on the sides and cheeks of brown trout. And lastly they have a protective coat of slime over their skin, which when out of the water adds a shimmering collection of hard highlights as well as a lot of subdued reflected light."
Derek has discovered no other subject that has such a complex visual surface, and that's why he finds it very gratifying to attempt to capture fish as a painter.
I ask Derek about his preferred method of painting - if he has any at all - and he answers:
"I paint with oils because I love how nicely they blend together. Working with oils allows me to work wet on wet, which means I continue adding layers of color onto wet layers of paint beneath."
This technique took him years to learn, but he finds it to be an advantage because it makes the finished painting very fluid and results in a more complex range of colors due to the mixing that occurs on the canvas.
"The tricky part is that each color must be added with careful consideration to the color beneath it, otherwise the colors can become muddy and the painting will loose the intensity of vivid color." he explains.
Derek and his wife are both artists, and their ententire income is made in this field. For now Derek is working out of their house in a urban area of Grand Rapids Mi. USA, but that may change:
"My wife and I are trying to sell our home so that we can move to the country and build a large studio in our next home. My current location does have one big advantage, it is only a minute drive to the Grand River, which is a great place to target steelhead and salmon on a fly rod."
Derek tells that he has had days there where he landed several steelhead, several salmon, a lake trout and a lake run brown trout all in one morning. "That certainly doesn't happen everyday" as he says, "But the possibility of it is enough to lure me out of my studio a couple times a week during the peek of the runs."
But in spite of the good fishing opportunities, painting is still very important and takes a lot of the painter's time. As he expresses it:
"I believe that If God gives you the gift of being able to paint or sculpt, then there is no better lifestyle then that of an artist for you."
"I think people who truly have that artistic gift would find other career choices, regardless of pay increase, unsatisfying. As I approach the conclusion of a painting, I sit and observe the things that are happening in it. The way the colors work together, the things that happened accidentally, and the things that I labored very hard to achieve. For me, not even landing a beautiful trout on a dry fly holds a candle to the satisfaction of finishing a painting."
Dereks sells his original paintings and "giclee" (archival) prints of them. Right now an original painting ranges in price from $900 to $7,500, depending on size and complexity. Much of Derek's time is spent painting "Fish of a Lifetime Portraits". In these paintings he captures a trophy fish being held in a very dynamic pose, by the person the painting is for. He also captures the scenery of their favorite river or trip they went on as the background.
"When I'm not working on commissions, as of late I have been expanding my portfolio of "Abstract Trout Faces". This is my most popular series of paintings, and I find the simple beauty of a trout's face a pleasure to paint."
These paintings are often executed in a fairly realistic manner, but because of the extreme close up composition, they have a very contemporary look to them.
Derek's work is sold out of Gallery on Main, in Bay Harbor MI, The Ugly Bug Fly Shop in Casper Wyoming, and the Orvis Retail Store in Cherry Creek, Denver CO.
Most of his sales come via the web, and Derek tells:
"Here people can view the work and then email me with their questions."
Derek DeYoung's own web site - CanvasFish.com