Getting Offbeat with Derek Yaniger March 13 2018
Derek Yaniger is an artist that was born and bred in the American South. He was inspired by cartoon art all around him – on his father’s jazz albums, his mother’s recipe books, Mad Magazine, Rat Fink model kit box art. After feeling uninspired in the advertising industry, Derek made his own comic book and landed a gig with Marvel Comics, then Cartoon Network, then decided to go solo with his retro-inspired art. His career spans over 18 years, and his own artwork delves into the retro world of beatniks, tiki bars and Vegas glamour.
We recently had a chat with Derek in the lead up to his group show, Syncopation, with Richie Fahey and Jeff Raglus.
Music lives through so many pieces of your work, tell us the role music plays in your life outside of your paintings?
Happy as a clam that ya see the beat in my scribbles! I want everything in my paintings to bounce...to wiggle...Music with a jumpin beat is a huge part of that whole scene! So many of the ideas for my art come from the music I'm listening to. So that's why I dig a tune with a boppin beat!!
Many of your artworks imbibe island and tiki imagery, what is it that attracts you to Polynesian Pop?
It's the music, it's the art, its the booze drinks, it's the ugly ass shirts, it's the hula gals and the mermaids! it's all the great friends I've made over the years in the tiki scene! It's my bag... and it's NEVER a drag!
One of many fabulous indulgences of this culture is its fruitful and tropical cocktails. What's your favourite tiki drink?
Have you ever been through a formal artistic education or were you way too cool for school and found your own way?
Naw... I was an eggheaded square! A pencil-pushin bookworm I tells ya! I got myself a BFA at UGA in Athens, Georgia... But it was workin for the man where my skills really developed... Ad agencies in Atlanta, Marvel Comics, Cartoon Network... after too damn many years I gave them bigwigs the boot and started with all this Mid-Century madness!
Give us an insight into your creative process, where does it start? And what steps do you take to get to a piece fresh and final?
Everything starts with pencil scratchin paper! Sometimes I have a vague idea of where I wanna go. But usually it just comes out of drawing and drawing and redrawing! I work standing up, my sketches in the beginning are very fast with lots of energy... the tricky bit is to hold onto that energy all the way through to the final piece!
Over your career you have produced an incredible amount of work and continue to do so. What was a source of inspiration in the works we are about to see in your upcoming works in Syncopation at Outré?
The pieces I have in the Syncopation show pay homage to my favorite Mid-Century genres, but they all also have a rhythm... a soundtrack that is just, ever so slightly, off beat! When you eyeball my paintings in the show, squint yer peepers a tad and listen REALLY carefully... I guarantee you'll hear that Boppin Beat!
For a man who lives creatively and musically every day who are some band or musicians we have to get an earful of?
I submerge myself into a Mid-Century mindset by surrounding myself with vintage art and artifacts of them bygone days... So of course I surround myself with the sounds of vintage vinyl! Usually I listen to either the weirdest wildest rockabilly I can get my paws on or I go to my steady standby, mid-century jazz. Willie the Wild One by the fabulous William the Wild One is the greatest thing ever recorded!! And Jazz-wise... Monk, Bud Powell, Red Garland, Modern Jazz Quartet... Can't go wrong with ANY of them cats!
Thanks so much for your time, Derek! Super eager to see your pieces for the show.