Daren is a self-taught illustrator living in Ojai, California. He stumbled into becoming a full time artist without any real game plan, and often finds himself playing catch up to his own reality.
“I try to honor the earth through my work. The earth and how we interact on it is my muse. I take all my inspiration from her existence, in all her effortlessness. I am truly humbled to be a part of this system.”
So many people "doodle" at work, but somehow you saw or felt something more was there. Was it a long lost passion you noticed wasn't being expressed to its fullest capacity?
I remember loving drawing as a kid. I would lose myself in my drawings. I think that feeling remained in me but became latent over the years. I think using it again to escape from my reality of doing something I didn’t enjoy reignited that joy. So, in a way, I am grateful for all those shitty jobs that drove me to finding the thing I truly love.
You mentioned that your life was not fulfilling; you were managing a car wash and you knew that this just wasn't your purpose. What awakened you to that reality?
I don’t believe that anyone’s purpose is to spend their time, a truly precious resource, doing work that doesn’t fulfill them. I hit a breaking point when the majority of my time in a day was spent doing something that I hated. It just couldn’t be any clearer. I didn’t want that to be my reality any longer.
At first your pieces started off very simple and light, but now you can find yourself deeply immersed in them and see that there is a profound message being shared. What inspired you to take it to that level and bring spirituality into your art?
Honestly, without coming across as a humble brag, I don’t put too much intention into what my work ‘says’. I certainly don’t intend to come across overtly spiritual. I feel too naive and young in my existence to speak confidently from such a place. I prefer to take the position of not knowing and speak from that place. This is all a great mystery to me. I am learning as I go and I hold way more questions than answers. I hope that my work illustrates my curiosity more than my authority.
I love how your career started with a simple postcard. Can you share that story?
After having moved from the Bay Area to this small town we now reside, I had an opportunity to rebrand myself as an illustrator, and not a guy who works a menial job and also illustrates in his off time.
So, very shortly after we moved here I thought that I needed to get my work into people’s hands and the idea for a postcard appeared. Capitalizing off the love the residents have for this town and the influx of tourists that come through, it was the perfect medium to give away functional art and in turn essentially get people to take my business card and mail it to someone else.
I emailed local businesses and asked if I could give them out for free at their register. At this point, two and a half years later, there have been three iterations of the postcard and I have given away well over 10,000.
As an artist and father how do you balance these two and what are your self care rituals?
Boundaries are essential. They aren’t easy, but they are essential. When you love your work as much as I do, you never really want to be off the clock, so it takes a concerted effort to shut down work mode and be present in the moment. I don’t know that I have found the balance yet. I am still in the process of working on systems that will allow for me to put work aside more often and be comfortable with that.
My self care rituals are greatly lacking. I have a tendency to put other people’s needs before mine. I have a difficult time allowing myself the attention that is needed to ensure that I am taken care of. Again, another thing I am working on in this process of life.
What do you mean when you say "art to me is not a team sport?"
I think that anytime money or power pervades into any art form that it becomes diluted and impure. Art is the purest expression of a soul and when there is suddenly a committee trying to control the look or the message that expression is compromised. The artist should be free from confinement or rules and be allowed to create freely.
Now, with that being said, the line of work I am in where I do work for clients the team aspect is necessary, the goal is to make sure that the artist remains the captain.
How do you honor Mother Earth?
I try to honor the earth through my work. The earth and how we interact on it is my muse. I take all my inspiration from her existence, in all her effortlessness. I am truly humbled to be a part of this system.
Oh, and for god’s sake, don’t litter.
Follow Daren Thomas Magee @Realfunwow