We had the good fortune of connecting with Darrell Abney and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Darrell, what habits do you feel play an important role in your life?
While I do consider myself a talented artist, I think the main thing that helped me acheive my goals isn’t raw artistic talent but me being a bit bone headed and persistent, and not listening to the negative. Everywhere you go there is resistance. There is even a book called The War of Art that talks alot about this. I think my passion for making art always has driven me and even tho it sometimes feels like you vs the world, it’s really you vs that voice inside your head saying “This is hard” and keep pushing forward.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I think one thing that helps my art is that I try to always do my own art in my spare time. I work full time as a character sculptor in the film industry, as awesome and thankful I am for that, I still need my personal art. So I am always chipping away at my own creatures in my spare time. My art career was not a always a straight line/linear path. Before becoming a digital artist, I started out as a traditional clay sculptor and airbrush artist in Orlando Florida making animatronic animals for The Rainforest Cafe. Then I worked as a makeup artist on the Beetlejuice show at Universal Studios Florida as well as worked as a scenic painter for Walt Disney World. I moved from Orlando Florida to L.A. with no job then eventually got a job as a game tester and it took a couple of years before I got another art job. I built up a small humble online portfolio of some of my 3d models and I ended up cold calling visual effects studios and eventually a small company called Eyetronics gave me a shot. Since I am primarily self taught I did not have any contacts in the film industry so it was a bit intimidating at first but cold calling actually worked in my case. Some things I learned along the way are to always believe in yourself and work on your weaknesses. Check your ego at the door. No matter how good you are there is probably someone out there better than you. I also think to work in film you need to have thick skin and not take everything too personal. Remind yourself that you are making art but someone is paying money to have your art in a film, so the only real art is the art you do for yourself, so keep those personal projects alive and healthy! I’m in my early 40s now but I want to keep growing and really pushing my personal art to the next level. I don’t think I will ever stop learning, the drive is still there as much as it ever was. Lately my drive is to push my own ideas, concepts, etc out there instead of copying pop culture stuff. This is really pushing my design skills. Some of my short term goals are to concept a creature for interesting sci fi or horror film, and to get some of my creature art out into the world in collectible resin form, or onto a tshirts, really just get my art out there and not just living on my computer hard drive. Giving back is a big thing for me lately as well. I started teaching for Think Tank Online, a really good visual effects school located in Vancouver, B.C. I also have a series of 3d modeling tutorials available on gumroad.com/dabney It really is a good feeling to see my students learn and create really cool art.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I love walking the beaches at Marina Del Rey, Playa del Rey, and Redondo. Malibu too. I mean its L.A. why not check out the beach? I grew up in Kentucky so no beaches there so I guess I have to make up for missed time. I like to eat at the German restaurant Wurstküche in Venice, they have amazing brats!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would say a few key people influenced my art career. One is a good friend and also talented artist, Steven Hansen that always believed in me even when I wasn’t in the industry yet. Having that voice of positivity really kept me from dipping my head and encouraged me to go for my dreams. Another influential person was my friend Josh Kilgore, who was a student with me during my times at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh where we both studied Special FX Makeup. Josh is a mega talented creature artist and it was a pleasure having a talented guy to push me and bounce ideas off each other during those long college assignments.
I would also like to give a shoutout to my highschool art teacher Abby Ivory.
She always kept her art classes fun and we got to explore lots of different mediums.
Keeping a fun vibe in art class allowed me to creatively “play” and explore without feeling so much pressure, and really isn’t that the point of doing art in the first place to have fun?
I feel we can lose track of this chasing down those Instagram likes and recognition.
Photo of me by Tony Chen. The rest is digital art created by myself.