We had the good fortune of connecting with Darel Carey and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Darel, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
Pursuing a career in art was not something I always knew I wanted to do. From a young age I did have strengths in creativity, and I loved to draw, but I didn’t realize art could be a career for me. I was always encouraged to pursue something more conventional, and art was viewed as more of a hobby, or something to do on the side. Although art was a great passion of mine, I had many interests. I studied language, biology, and psychology, and served 11 years as an analyst in the Air Force. All worthy subjects, and a worthy career, but I still had creative inclinations in the back of my mind, and would make art on the side. Throughout my life I dabbled in many creative fields, from graffiti, to drawing portraits, to tattoos, to photography, to making logos and shirt designs, all as hobbies. One epiphany moment I had that really changed my perspective on pursuing art, was seeing a friend from high school who taught me how to tattoo, on TV as a successful tattoo artist. I knew her as Kathy, but by then she was known as Kat Von D. I thought about a point in time many years in the past, when I was shadowing her as she began tattooing. I soon left, and went on to enlist in the military, while she continued her creative passion. To see that she made a career, a life, out of her passion really shifted my perspective on what was possible. With the idea of possibility in my mind, I thought a lot about pursing art for the next few years. I had a great career and was happy, but I knew I had a passion to create. In deciding what to do, for me it boiled down to two things. One was the question of regret. I asked myself if I would regret not trying to pursue a career in art. And the answer was: Yes. Later in my life I would look back and regret not trying. The second was about purpose. Where did I fit and how I could best contribute to the world? I thought about my current career as an analyst, and about other possible future careers in science. Although I was good at what I did, so were a lot of other people. But with my art, I was more unique and stood out. This made me think that I could make more of an impact and be more fulfilled in the world of art. Once I realized these two things, it was a no-brainer for me.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
Regarding art, when I was younger, all I knew was that I was good at it and that I really liked to do it. As I’ve grown older and explored medium and subject matter, I’ve been able to narrow things down a bit. To pursue a career in creativity is never easy. It took a lot of risk, sacrifice, and failure. But that journey is all part of what it means to be successful. So many decisions: whether to leave my career, whether to go to art school, what major to study, what path to take? I had to make many big decisions that would affect my future. I was fortunate that my wife supported me. We had a tag team system where I would work for a few years and she would go to school, then she would work while I would go to school, and so on. I experimented a lot, trying to discover my purpose. I spent a lot of money and energy on a small business, a clothing brand. I explored my roots in graffiti, and my inclinations towards realism. At times I wondered if I made the right decision to pursue a creative career. It’s one thing to make art, but it’s another thing entirely to make a living making art. I learned a lot about myself and about my purpose. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. You can’t find anything if you aren’t looking, and anything worth finding isn’t easy to look for. Two important factors that helped me succeed are perseverance and focus: keeping my eye on the prize, and not giving up. People see overnight successes in others, but they don’t see the years of hard work that led up to it. In pursuits of substance, there are no short cuts or luck, it just may look like that to others. What people call luck is just what it looks like when you’re prepared for opportunity. I’d say that the most important lesson I’ve learned is the importance of self-awareness. Being able to reflect and understand your own strengths and weaknesses clearly is an invaluable tool. It’s a foundation for everything you do, a compass that guides you in the right direction. Without it you can be lost without knowing you are lost. After years of searching, I found where I fit best. The art I’ve been creating now for the last several years has been a deep exploration into perception and emergent properties. I combine my interests in visual aesthetics with my interests in science and philosophy. The creative principles I use to create my work coalesce well with my fascination with the natural world. I’m interested in perception, how we perceive. I’m familiar with illusions, and how what we experience and what is really happening aren’t necessarily the same thing. With my line work, it’s less about the lines, and more about the arrangement of those lines. As one of my pieces builds up organically, the lines aren’t just lines anymore. Something more emerges… a perceived illusion of curvature and depth. This emergence is analogous to how the natural world works. From atoms to cells, cells to organisms, organisms to super organisms. We are made up of atoms. The atoms that make us up aren’t special atoms, what’s special is the way that they are arranged. We are complex arrangements of simple things. Art is pretty subjective. Art isn’t the same thing to everyone. To some art is something that evokes emotion, to some it’s something that makes a political or social statement. My art evokes thought and wonder. Well, that’s my intention anyway. I hope when people experience my art that it makes them think. How an arrangement of simple lines can create something more complex, and how we project our perception onto the world around us. I’m not excited or proud of anything specific per se, but I am very grateful that I’m able to make a living contributing to the world by doing what I love.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I really like good food and beautiful views, so we would do a lot of eating and sightseeing, and check out some museums. I’d have to take them to iconic places like Venice Beach, we could have some fish & chips at the Sidewalk Cafe, rent bikes and ride to the Santa Monica Pier. We could go to Sushi Hanashi on Lincoln afterwards. I’d also take them to Hollywood, and to the Museum of Selfies where I have an installation on display. We could have Korean BBQ at Genwa or Ramen at Tatsu for dinner. I’d also take them to the Griffith Observatory, and hike up to the Hollywood sign and see the view of the city. Also Skyspace at the top of the US Bank Building in Downtown. Great views. We’d have to hit Grand Central Market as well, there’s all sorts of good food and drinks to try there. I’d take them to The Container Yard in The Arts District to see some street art by artists from around the world. We could go to Wisdome LA to experience psychedelic art and shows, where my friends Visual Eyes perform. We could eat and have a drink at Wurstküche or Umami Burger. I’d take them to LACMA to see the museum and the well known Urban Light lamp posts out front. Right across the street is the Petersen Automotive Museum, we could check that out too. Afterwards we could go to Break Room 86, a hidden retro bar, where we could have a few drinks and play some 80’s arcade games. We could eat at anywhere from Leo’s Taco Truck, to Ima for some shabu shabu, or head down to Inglewood to have some jerk chicken patties at Simply Wholesome. I’d show them the Venice canals neighborhood, and we could go to the Killer Cafe in Marina del Rey, where they make great Bloody Marys. At some point we’d have to cruise up the cost on the Pacific Coast Highway. We could stop at the Malibu Farm Pier Cafe, then check out the Getty Villa. There’s just so much to do in LA, so many places, so much great food. Some of these places popped into my mind, but on any given day we could do almost anything.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I’d like to dedicate this shoutout to my wife, Priscilla. She has always been compassionate and encouraging, and she supported me while I tried to find myself.