Yeah, I draw cartoons, and they’re not supposed to be photo-realism or technical drawings ... but I believe, even in a cartoon, you still have to get the details right. The details are everything that makes that car or bike – especially if I’m drawing someone’s personal pride and joy.
For illustrator Derick Miller, 'God is truly in the detail'.
"I like to research what I’m drawing, painstakingly so. Yeah, I draw cartoons, and they’re not supposed to be photo-realism or technical drawings … but I believe, even in a cartoon, you still have to get the details right. The details are everything that makes that car or bike – especially if I’m drawing someone’s personal pride and joy," Miller says.
Born and raised in a small beach town just outside Boston, Massachusetts, Miller has always drawn. His art is about everyday people and simple pleasures – country living, cool rides, and of course a cool scene.
"That’s the stuff that inspires me, that I relate to, and that makes me smile. And the people that come to me asking for a custom illustration of their kustom car or motorcycle (and more recently a car hauler!) - that’s the stuff that makes them smile too," he says. "The art, the style, the mood is what it’s all about."
— Derick Miller
He was first inspired to take the art seriously in 1985, back when he was racing BMX bikes.
“That’s around the time I first noticed Bob Haro’s and Andy Jenkins’ work,” he says. “I was obsessed for a long time in creating a cool style all my own and I think I’ve achieved that, but those guys definitely lit the spark.”
His first real paid artist work came a few years later drawing characters for T-shirts, logos and flyers at 17th St Surf Shop in Virginia Beach.
“I was 18, had nothing tying me down and was hungry to learn more about art, so I headed to SoCal. I stayed there about 17 years, hand-painting signs at Home Depot and soaking up whatever knowledge I could from the area air-brush artists and auto painters. The SoCal hot rod scene was hugely influential on me and led me to start noticing the details of engines, body lines, and stance. After leaving Cali, I headed to Motor City and started hanging with some cool bike builders. I was designing their flyers, t-shirts, painting shop signs, lettering tanks and in return they were teaching me. I was picking up more on the mechanical details of different engines, how a bike comes together from the ground up, how to weld, how to shape metal, and adding that knowledge into everything California taught me about cars. I would do local showing from time to time, but I definitely wasn’t making a living on the art alone. Still, I was watching and learning from some amazing builders and I was incorporating all of it into my art.”
Currently Miller’s favorite medium for drawing is Prisma Color on illustration paper.
“Pencils and markers were my first tools, so Prisma is just second nature to me.
— Derick Miller
But, my preferred medium really depends on the project. For larger pieces, like my current Legends series (36 x 48 canvases of builder legends; Part I: Bill Hines), I prefer acrylic paints,” he says.
“If I’m painting metal, I reach for the one-shot. A lot of drawings or paintings I’ll incorporate airbrush, and lately I’ve been thinking about ink work. I’ve exposed myself to and learned from a lot of different styles, methods, and mediums – which I think is a positive. It allows me the freedom to choose the right tool for the job.”
Miller’s new 3,600-square-foot studio is located 15 minutes from Watkins Glen International Raceway, and surrounded by country roads.
“So my plans are to split the studio up into a small silk screen shop, artist studio, and garage space for fabrication and painting. I own a ’72 Triumph custom-built track slash bobber and am building a rat rod with a 283 and 400 transmission between consignment orders.”
You can view more of Miller's work on Instagram: @derickmilllerart.