We had the good fortune of connecting with David DeGrand and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi David, do you disagree with some advice that is more or less universally accepted?
Advice I used to hear a lot was that the only way you’re going to make it as an artist is if you spend every second of every day constantly drawing and never stopping until you’re happy with your work. This is ridiculous advice for several reasons. First, as much as I love drawing, I have to take breaks for however long I feel I need to or else I would have burned out years ago. Of course it’s important to be disciplined if you want to improve but you also don’t want to suck all of the fun out of drawing by turning it into a dreaded chore. Second, I don’t think there’s a single artist out there that will ever be 100% happy with their art, so learning when to just be happy enough and moving on to the next piece is important.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am a professional cartoonist and illustrator, which means I have dipped my toe into lots of different types of projects. I’ve written and drawn stories for comic books based on properties such as SpongeBob SquarePants, The Simpsons, Adventure Time and Garfield. I was one of the Usual Gang of Idiots at MAD Magazine for 9 years, and I’ve illustrated numerous children’s books including The Zombie Chasers series, the World of Weird Animals series, and a book of gross tongue twisters called Twisted Tongues. Most recently I worked with Augenblick Studios as the designer on the animated series Death Hacks for Snapchat. Currently I am working on a horror comedy graphic novel for kids. I’ve enjoyed drawing cartoons ever since I had to write and draw a comic strip for a fifth grade art class. Up until then I enjoyed reading comic strips but never tried actually writing or drawing one, so I credit my art teacher for getting the ball rolling. I had so much fun with that assignment that I started writing and drawing comic strips for fun as a hobby. I collected them into books and would make copies for my friends and family. I did this all through middle school, and even got up the nerve to submit some cartoons to my local town newspaper which they actually published. I was on the staff of my high school and college newspapers as a cartoonist, and even won a few national awards. At this point I felt that pursuing a career as a cartoonist would be tough, but I couldn’t imagine doing anything else for a living. After graduating college (I studied art at the University of Texas at Arlington) I spent a few years showing my work around with no luck at all. Mostly it just wasn’t at a professional level yet. I spent the next several years polishing my style and networking with other cartoonists online seeking advice. Long story short, my work eventually found it’s way in front of Chris Duffy who was the editor of SpongeBob Comics. He liked my work and invited me to contribute to SpongeBob. I was absolutely blown away. Around this time too I was approached by Ryan Flanders at MAD Magazine who invited me to submit some material to them as well, and I eventually started selling to them. These two breaks were huge and started me on my career. The hardest thing for me in becoming a professional artist was getting the confidence to keep showing my work despite all of the rejections, and then trying to apply the feedback I got to my work. It became a tricky balance of making work more commercial without taking away what I felt made it unique. These days, I’m fortunate in that I’ve developed a style that is definitely my voice but it can still be utilized in fun ways by clients.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
I can’t thank my parents enough for being so supportive and encouraging while I was growing up to never stop pursuing my passion. Also, my wife Kathy has been amazingly supportive of my art career from the very beginning. Knowing that it can be very financially unstable, she never once told me to give it up since she knew how important it was to me. I owe much of my current success to her support.