Thursday, March 26, 2020

DPW Spotlight Interview: Todd Derr

Each week we will spotlight a different DPW artist who will give away one of their best paintings. To enter to win Todd's painting "Wipe Out Rock" go to Daily Paintworks and click on the link at the top of the page announcing their interview.

From Todd's DPW Gallery Page:

Born, 1968

Todd Derr is an artist who works primarly "en plein air" or paints directly from life. His oil paintings of his surroundings are an attempt to capture the sublime beauty of an ever changing world. Todd was born and grew up in rural Indiana and has always been an avid outdoorsman, exploring the woods and creeks around his home. His love of hiking, canoe/kayaking, cycling, and just being outside, led to a natural fit to become a plein air painter. He loves to travel and paint.

Todd is an Air Force veteran and spent many years as a technician in civilian life before deciding to dedicate the rest of his life to pursue his dream to become a full time artist.

Todd has recently moved to Cleveland, Tennessee and is looking forward to exploring and painting that beautiful part of the country.


Apr. 2019 - Honorable Mention, First Brush of Spring Plein Air Competition, New Harmony, IN
Apr. 2019 - 1st Place, Henderson Society of Art, A Fresh Perspective Exhibition, Audubon Museum. Henderson, KY.
Nov. 2018 - Award of Merit, Indiana Plein Air Painters Association Members Exhibition, Carmel, IN.
Oct. 2018 - Award of Excellence, Oil Painters of America Eastern Regional Exhibition, McBride Gallery, Annapolis, MD. Judge, Kathy Anderson
Sep. 2108 - 3rd place, Owensboro Museum of Fine Art Buffalo Plein Air Paint Out, Owensboro, KY.
Sep. 2018 - 1st and 3rd Place, Village Paint Out, Brown County Art Guild, Nashville, IN.

Tell us a bit about how you first started painting.

I guess it started when I was a toddler and got into some paint in the garage and "custom" painted some of my toys and my dad's collection of slot cars (remember those in the '70's?). I must have always been compelled to put paint on something. My grandmother saw my potential and would always buy me art supplies and I would occupy myself for hours. Come to think of it, she had a pastoral landscape in her living room that I always was attempting to copy. It was in the vein of the Hudson River School.

Did you have any stops and starts in your painting career?

Definitely! After high school, I attended a local college, but got bored and impatient, and dropped out to enlist in the Air Force. I spent four years serving, but continued to draw while I was there. After I was discharged (honorably) I came home and ultimately went to work for my uncle's HVAC business. During that time I picked up an airbrush and taught myself to use it and began painting motorcycle helmets, Harleys, race cars with crazy paint jobs, flames and skulls and all of that. I eventually quit my job and devoted my time to that for many years until the economy tanked around 2008. I had been dabbling with watercolor and landscape painting too, so my wife and I decided I should stay home and take care of our kids and work on that side of my art.

Since then, I have worked full time at my art and moved over to oils and plein air about six years ago.

Wipe Out Rock
(click to view)

Enter to win by clicking on the link at the top of the DPW home page announcing Todd's interview.

What mediums and genres have you experimented with?

Everything from automotive urethanes, to watercolor, pastels, charcoal, and oils. I'm not much of a fan of acrylics for some reason. Genre wise, I'm mostly a plein air landscape painter, but pretty much anything painted from life. Rarely paint in the studio, although this virus thing has kept me indoors mostly.

Which ones have "stuck" and which ones have fallen away?

Early on I thought I would only be a watercolorist, but I'm hopelessly in love with oils right now. I sold all of my pastels.

(click to view)

Which ones are you looking forward to exploring?

Right now, I'm focused on seeing what all I can get out of oils. I think between the limitless exploring on foot I can do in my new backyard here in the mountains of East TN. Oils really work great for plein air.

Who or what inspires you most?

Gosh, so many. As I'm self taught, just the process of discovery has me getting introduced to so many amazing artists' work. But, the current list of contemporaries would be Joshua Been, Jim McVicker, Matt Smith, Scott Christensen... the list could go on. Historically, I'm on the J.S. Sargent train with Sorolla, Fechin, etc.

(click to view)

What does procrastination look like for you?

Spending way too much time on social media or watching YouTube videos... usually art related, but time better spent painting.

What techniques work to ensure that you make time for your art?

Keeping myself immersed and not distracted. Keeping the TV turned off and some great music playing while I'm in the studio or planning trips out to paint. Once I'm outside and thinking of painting, pretty much nothing distracts me.

Webb Bros, Reliance, Tennessee
(click to view)

How do you generally arrive at ideas for your paintings?

I don't usually have a firm idea, just some nebulous sense that I will find an interesting composition of light/dark and color while I'm out. I like to respond and interpret what's in front of me. My studio work is from my photos or plein air studies, so the idea has been established already in the field.

How do you keep art "fresh?" What techniques have helped you avoid burnout and keep your work vibrant and engaging? 

The fact that I'm constantly finding out that I don't know what I don't know. I'm the kind that can read all the books and watch all the videos, but until I do my own work and make my own discoveries, it means little. So, knowing that there is always something to learn keeps me pushing onward.

Bowl of Strawberries
(click to view)

What do you feel you are learning about right now as an artist?

I feel like I've started climbing another trail up the mountain after having arrived at a certain plateau from a previous climb. Although, now I know that there is likely another plateau and more mountain to climb in the future that I could not see before.

What makes you happiest about your art?

Watching something develop from nothing. The "happy accidents" that I've learned to leave alone. Mostly, I love when people connect with my work, whether they purchase it or not.

Thanks, Todd!

© 2020 Sophie Marine

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