Meet a Local Illustrator: A Chat With Darrenn Canton
Darrenn Canton and I struck up a conversation after a recent presentation by Kevin 'KAL' Kallaugher at a gallery off Dupont Circle. The D.C. native is a young illustrator, at the start of his career, but he's got a good list of artistic influences. We had a bite to eat together, and he agreed to answer the usual questions.
Washington City Paper: What type of comic work or cartooning do you do?
Darrenn Canton: It's tough to put into a single category. I'd say my work took a strange turn somewhere on the road between fantasy art and childrens' book illustration.
WCP: How do you do it? Traditional pen and ink, computer or a combination?
DC: I normally paint with watercolors over ink lines on watercolor paper.
WCP: When (within a decade is fine) and where were you born?
DC: September 4th, 1986, right here in Washington, D.C.
WCP: What is your training and/or education in cartooning?
DC: That's a tricky one for me to answer. Although I studied Communication Arts at Virginia Commonwealth University, I didn't take a single formal art class until my sophomore year at Drew University at the age of 20. My original intended major was music, but I've been drawing weird-looking stuff since as long as I can remember.
WCP: Who are your influences?
DC: My work comes from a truly strange mix of influences, everyone from cartoonists like Matt Groening and Bill Watterson to fantasy illustrators such as Mike Ploog and William Stout, children's illustrators including Maurice Sendak and Graeme Base and classical artists such as Honore Daumier and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Trying to list them all would make my head explode.
WCP: If you could, what in your career would you do-over or change?
DC: Nothing at all. Every mistake and rough patch in the road has led to a learning experience.
WCP: What work are you best-known for?
DC: I have no idea. So many people respond so differently to so many different pieces of mine, it's impossible for me to pick out one and say "that's it".
WCP: What work are you most proud of?
DC: I can't pick just one. If I do, all of the other works I've done will get jealous.
WCP: What would you like to do or work on in the future?
DC: I'd love to write a big illustrated novel one of these days, or maybe do some work on a board game. Maybe even a board game about a big illustrated novel.
WCP: What do you do when you're in a rut or have writer's block?
DC: I go to a museum to jumpstart the creative process. That's one of the great things about living in D.C.—the Smithsonian is just a quick bus ride away and everything is free.
WCP: What do you think will be the future of your field?
DC: I think print will still be around. It's impossible to replace the feeling of opening up a book and looking at something tangible in front of you with an image on a tablet screen or a computer monitor.
WCP: What local cons do you attend? The Small Press Expo, Intervention, or others? Any comments about attending them?
DC: I do Baltimore Comic Con every year. Last year was my first time exhibiting. I also attend SPX and Intervention yearly.
WCP: What's your favorite thing about DC?
DC: It's a big city that brings a lot of different people and cultures together without having that "angry New York" feel. I also love that the Smithsonian museums and the zoo are free.
WCP: Least favorite?
DC: Dulles Airport.
WCP: Really? How come? You're the first person to mention that.
DC: Dulles Airport is awful. I can't even call it "Washington Dulles Airport" because it's way out in Loudon County or wherever. It actually takes me less time to get to BWI than to Dulles. The whole place feels like a fallout shelter; it's nothing but concrete. They still have those little bus things to take you to the terminals, but then you still have to walk across the terminal to get to your gate. And the terminals aren't designed for those small regional jets, so if you're taking a short flight into or out of Dulles, you have to go down a flight of stairs and walk outside to get to your plane instead of having a covered walkway. The entire airport feels like it's stuck in the 1970s.
WCP: What monument or museum do like to take visitors to?
DC: The Air and Space Museum, because visitors always ask to go there and because it reminds me of my childhood fascination with airplanes. I also like to go to the American Art Museum; it's sorta off the beaten path being right across from the Verizon Center instead of on the Mall so there isn't quite as much tourist traffic there during the summer months as some of the others.
WCP: How about a favorite local restaurant?
DC: I really love Horace and Dickey's fish sandwiches.
WCP: Do you have a website or blog?
All images courtesy Darrenn Canton