Derek Domnic D'souza - It's Mostly About Creating a Demand for Your Work (Artist, Bangalore)

Visual Development Artist & Animator
Co-founder of @studio_sideline

Patreon | Youtube 

Instagram - @derekdomnicdsouza

1. Tell us more about your background and journey.

I have been drawing from the age of 3 or 4. It actually began as a way to keep me occupied during the Sunday services at church; My parents would give me a sketchbook to sit and draw instead of being restless and causing a disturbance. 

From there I began to draw more and more during the day and would receive compliments from family and other elders alike. That gave me motivation to draw even more. It also was my favourite pastime where I would draw out scenarios I had in my head and enact them out with the sketches. 

Overtime, as we got a VCR and DVD player in the house, we would rent movies to watch. My two older sisters and I would watch a lot of animated movies, and thus I got exposed to all the Disney and Dreamworks classics from the time. I was also exposed to a lot of anime everyday after school as well. 

It was the legendary Dragon Ball Z, Beyblade and Pokemon era. It was then that I knew I wanted to go into the 'animation' field somehow. It felt like the coolest job. By the 12th standard, I decided to attend my college at Srishti, Bangalore as I didn't want to leave the city or country at the time. 

In Srishti, I was exposed to a whole new world. It was quite a revelation; Going from being the one of the very few artists in my old school to a college that was filled with them. I feel like that experience in college is what made the biggest change in my life. 

To be surrounded by people in similar fields, mindsets and goals. It opens up so many doors of learning and exposure to opportunities that I didn't know existed. Over the span of those four years, My views changed from wanting to be a CGI artist, to a book illustrator, to an animator and now a Visual Development Artist. 

During the summer break between my third and fourth years of college, I had to take up a mandatory internship for credits. After being rejected by a lot of places I finally got in at Vivi5 in Bangalore. The two months over there opened my eyes to the advertisement side of the animation/illustration industry in India. 

It wasn't something that I was really keen on continuing within and I was considering shifting abroad to Canada or so. Then during my fourth year, Disney came by to take in interns for their IP development program which they were running at the time. 

I was blessed enough to get selected for that and went to Mumbai for those 6 months. It was a great experience, as I was not treated like what I had imagine an 'intern' would be treated like. My views were just as valued as anyone else's and I was also sitting amidst large meetings. 

After those six months ended, I was hired back to work as an Animation Development Artist and an Associate Producer. My role for the former was to develop and pitch new IP ideas for animated kids shows and for the latter, it was to help with producing shows that were already on air or going on air.

I really enjoyed my days there, as hectic as they could get. I gained a lot of valuable knowledge and experience. Once the pandemic hit and we went into lockdown, I flew back down to Bangalore and continued to work from home. I realized just how much more comfortable I am over here in this city and also saw opportunities for freelance projects. 

As the company was also changing it's allocation of resources due to the pandemic, it was a good time to leave and start my own thing. Coincidentally, three of my other friends from college were here in the same city and we saw an opportunity to collaborate on a project. 

This is how Studio Sideline came into existence as we now are being officially registered as a studio and have a few projects in the pipeline. At this point of time, I'm really happy.

2. When did you decide you wanted to be a visual development artist/animator?

It was during my second and third years of college. A friend of mine, Vignesh, from college was really headstrong on his dreams of being a concept artist. I learned a lot from him. At the time, I was very interested in 3D modelling and was taking up such courses. 

Slowly I began to shift over to being interested in the pre production side of things as it delved a lot more with creativity and storytelling. I looked up a lot of popular artists in the field such as Goro Fujita and Nathan Fowkes and also joined Facebook groups like Level Up! and Daily Spitpaint. 

I began to paint a lot everyday to get better at it and also tell stories in my work. Regarding animation, I always had a love for it and would continue to be up to date with what was happening in the industry. I developed the basic skills of animation using software such as photoshop and would use it occasionally in my projects. 

I drifted more towards the Visdev side at the time because I loved creating work that could be finished in a short period of time. Animation requires a lot of time and dedication for which I was really impatient.

3. Is it a financially stable career?

Yes, it is definitely a stable career option if you are good at it. And to be good at it, you need to have a lot of love for it. So I wouldn't suggest that anyone should take up any of these fields if they don't really love it at their core. When it comes to earning an income from this field, it's mostly about creating a demand for your work. 

The better your work is, the better the demand. There are also different ways to go about it as well. For example: Work created for the animation/film/game industry can be very different from work created for the Advertisement industry which in turn can be very different from work made for social media. 

Depending on where you are placed, you could create that demand in one or all places. People don't know what they want unless they see it, so we as artists have that power to bring one's imagination to life. There are different ways to earn money through this field. 

Some are as follows
  • Animation/ Visdev employment at a studio 
  • Working the same job but in a freelance position 
  • Book illustration 
  • Growing your social media and monetizing it 
  • Individual commissions

4. Who is your favourite visual development artist/animator and why?

There are so many to choose from! At the moment, I'll have to pick the few who have been the most influencial in my life - Atey Ghailan - Goro Fujita - Zac Retz - Ramon Nunez I love their individual styles and the way they choose to represent ideas. I learn a lot from each of their works and try to use them on my own pieces.

5. Where do you get inspired from to create art?

A variety of sources all depending on the purpose. If it's just personal art which I create for fun, I usually get inspired from other peoples art, movies/shows, personal life experiences and movie shows. If it's with regards to a project I'm on, I then get very specific and look for certain kinds of reference images or videos. 

If I were to summarise all my sources of inspiration, it would be as follows: - Pinterest (I create a lot of boards here for different purposes) - Art Station (To look at different works on the gallery page and also my favourite artists) - Instagram (Following my favourite people and pages) - Netflix/Prime/Disney+ (For all the movies and shows that I watch) - Reading Manga (One Piece is my all time favourite)

6. What piece of advice would you like to give to future aspiring artists? 

Here are a few points of advice 

Don't expect success too early. Don't rush your process. It takes time to learn and grow. If you put out one work of art, it may not get you any success. But when you put out 100, there's a higher chance of that changing. It can be really hard at times and there will be moments where you will feel really low and down. It's all part of the process, push through it and it'll be worth it.

  • Focus on the story. When you are creating personal work, don't just blindly copy another artwork, idea or photograph. Add your own story element to it. You can copy as much as you want for your practise to learn and improve, but apply more of yourself to your personal or professional projects 
  • Improve on your fundamentals. It's very easy to get carried away initially and try to create really impressive looking art and animation. But instead, you wont be able to put your imagination down because you don't have the skills to. Focus on the basics first - Perspective, anatomy, lighting, composition, values, colour balance and so on.

7. Which is your favourite book and why? 

I cant really book one book in particular, but my favourite kind of books are the 'Art of' books. I love seeing the Art Of books of movies, games and individual artists. These are my favourite - 
  • An Artistic Journey - Atey Ghailan
  • The Art of Into The Spiderverse
  • The Art of Posuka Demizu
  • The Art of Witcher 3
  • The Art of How To Train Your Dragon
  • The Art of Zootopia

- Interviewed by - Aditi Vakani

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