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Derek Domnic D’Souza

Derek Domnic D’Souza
Derek Domnic D’Souza is a super-talented visual artist & animator from Bangalore. He is a prolific creator of beautiful digital paintings & visual artworks, with a good social media presence in Instagram & Youtube. Let’s talk to the artist himself.
Illustrations Made for Recent Reels
Hi Derek, how would you describe yourself? Also share with us your interests and creative journey so far?
Hello! Thanks for having me on board for this cover. I would say that I am one of those people who would sit in a corner and sketch all day but also be up for any sport or athletic activity as well! I love art just as much as I love sports, working out and being active. I am not a very social person at first which usually makes other people think that I'm really serious, focused and hard working. But in reality, I'm just a bit socially awkward and a goofball.
Regarding my interests, apart from sports such as basketball, swimming and working out; I also love reading novels and manga. Along with this, there is the usual amount of binging on animated content as well!
To summarise my journey, I used to draw a lot in school and believed that there was some career ahead. Even though I didn't have much knowledge or guidance at the time. When I joined Srishti, back in 2014, for a 4 year Bachelor's in Digital Media Arts, a lot of windows were open to me. I really loved the view of the concept art and animation world, as it felt like it was the most inviting way for me to tell stories, which then became my door.
Practise thumbnails
When did you start sketching? What was the moment you realized that this could be a career path?
I first started drawing consistently when I was about 4 years old. It was actually something that started in Church every Sunday; where my parents would give me a book and crayons to prevent me from being restless and causing any distractions. That's where I fell in love with art. It was like playing with toys, but here I could draw out entire stories and live through them! It was such an awesome feeling! What fueled that more was the compliments I would get from friends and family, which made me feel like I was doing something 'commendable'. I especially loved watching animated movies. Every week, my dad would take me and my two older sisters to rent a movie each from the nearby DVD store. I would always pick the DVD which had some animated character on the cover. Hence I ended up watching most of the early Disney movies in that way and would draw them out from memory and imagination whenever I could! My sisters loved animated movies too so we never really had any arguments over the TV as well.
When I got to know how animation was actually made was when I realized that I could have a career path ahead in it. If that job really existed, to sit and draw and bring cartoons to life all day, I wanted it!
Practise thumbnails_2
How many hours do you practice creating artworks? And what are your favourite tools/softwares to paint/render them out?
I would normally draw/paint for 4-6 hours almost everyday after college hours back when I was at Srishti. Now, because of my work schedule, I get about two hours at most everyday for personal artwork. Apart from that, all my learning and practise comes from the work I have been assigned at the time. On average, it's about 8-10 hours of working on art everyday except for Sundays.
Rough Ghibli sketches during free time
I really love Photoshop the most! I've been using it since the beginning and it fits perfectly into my workflow. Lately, I've been switching over to Procreate on the Ipad pro because of it's convenience alone. On paper, I mainly just use micron pens to ink out rough ideas and sketches. Most of my professional and personal work is done digitally these days.
Sketching in an airplane while traveling back home
Working at Disney
Derek at the Disney office
You started working for Disney after your internship with them. Can you tell us how it came about? Any tips for aspirants who wish to apply to Disney?
Working for Disney was a dream come true! In my fourth year of college, Disney came by to offer us a 6 month internship, which would also replace our final semester in college. I was blessed enough to get selected for that and created an animated short for Disney, over my time over there. Soon after, I was hired back as an Associate Producer and to be part of the Animation Development Team - This was a team that was dedicated to creating new IP for the company. Which included coming up with new show concepts from scratch and developing them to a Pitch Bible stage or even an animatic at times.
At the moment, Disney isn't hiring anyone new because of the pandemic and the new change of the company's plan. But! There are other companies, such as Turner (Cartoon Network), Viacom (Nick and Pogo), Discovery Kids, Sony and so on who do take in applicants for the roles of a producer. They can be reached out through sites such as LinkedIn itself. Always be on the lookout for job postings!
Paintings made during my third year at college
What does your daily work life/schedule look like? Also how do you deal with stress/burnout situations?
I barely have any social life at this point! Hence, my daily schedule would not be ideal by any means but here's a rough idea:
- 10am - Wake up
- 10:30 - 11am - Quick Warm up painting
- 11am - 1pm - Work (Meetings if any)
- 1pm - 2pm - Lunch break
- 2 - 4pm - Work
- 4 - 5pm - Hit the gym for a workout
- 5 - 6pm - Break
- 6 - 7pm - Work - Emails, preparing and organizing work for the night - Collecting references
- 7 -8pm - Family prayer and dinner
- 8 - 9pm - Personal Artwork
- 9 - 4am - Work
Over time I have learned that stress is a part of the work life and to accept it without putting too much pressure on my side.
Lately I have also been saying 'no' to a lot of projects which I would have loved to work on for the sake of my mental health and time.
My Desk at Disney
Derek’s desk at Disney
Regarding burnouts, even though I have faced them a lot, I do not glorify them and wish that there was some way to totally avoid them, which I haven’t found as yet. It's just that sometimes, work may not go as easily as planned, and it may need a longer time, but the timelines don't change. We can't avoid such situations, but it helps to be kind to oneself.
It is also very normal to fall into a slump! Where we feel low about our art and even question our life's decisions to a point. What I've found that helps me in such situations is to take a break from art, but not to take a break from doing things in life in general. Switching the focus onto something else, really helps. When you fail at one thing in life, making a small achievement in some other aspect can really turn things around! For example: If you're failing at producing 'good' art, taking a break and trying to cook a good dish of food and succeeding at that helps immensely. It can be anything! Finishing a new book, making a new personal record at the gym, learning a new hobby, anything!
Character design for a show at Disney
Character design for a show at Disney
My current workspace at home
Derek’s current workspace at home.
What process do you follow for each illustration? How much do you rely on references or photo-bashing?
For my personal work, I mainly think about what mood or story I want to tell.
That is the key point that drives each artwork. I either want the audience or myself to feel a certain way, by the mood I create or relate to the story that is within it.
Hence, in order to bring that story to life, I use a few different approaches. If the composition I imagine is a bit complex, I usually start with a rough sketch first, and then paint in the colors. Else, I directly go ahead without any rough lines to guide me.
I feel the most important aspect of my workflow is that I always paint in the background first before the characters. This helps me set the mood and create the setting before I add the main story element to it.
I do rely a lot on references, all the time! My main sources for references are pinterest and image packs from sites such as photobash and gumroad.
Even if I am drawing something from imagination, I still am referencing some colors, mood or composition that I remember from somewhere.
I don't use any photobashing in my personal artworks which I put up on social media, but I rely on it heavily in my work at Disney Plus to speed up the workflow greatly.
Reference Image VS illustration
Reference Image VS illustration
What are your plans for the future? Are there any personal projects that you would like to share with us?
At the moment, I have left my employment as an animator and associate producer for Disney and switched over to freelancing. I am currently working on a live action project for Disney Plus and a storyboard and concept artist. Along with this, I also take up some freelance projects such as animated music videos, album covers and book illustrations.
My present plans are to continue freelancing for a while as I just got into it and see how the waters are. I would also like to grow my social media, mainly Instagram and Youtube and help other artists along their path as well.
I am working on this top secret project with a few friends which I can't share as yet! haha, But personally, I am working on a series of art videos for Youtube which will be coming up in this new year and I would also like to put up a comic on Webtoon, a story for which I have already developed. I hope it works out!
Thumbnails for animated music videos
Thumbnails for animated music videos
Rough character design sketches at Disney
Can you list-down your favourite artists that inspire you? Also which are your favourite movies (live-action/animated)?
My favourite artists keep changing over time, but at this point, here's my list:
- Zacretz
- Ramonn
- Pascal Campion
- Goro.fujita
- Feng Zhu
- Guweiz
- Wlop
My top favourite animated movies have got to be these:
- Into The Spiderverse
- Kimi No Na Wa
- Kiki's Delivery Service
- Klaus
- Akira
- Tokyo Godfathers
- Ratatouille
- How To Train Your Dragon
- Spirit
- Princess Mononoke
My desk at home in Mumbai
Derek’s desk at home in Mumbai
Any thoughts on the Indian animation industry? Is there any improvements you would like to see about?
I think we are at the dawn of a great rise in the Indian Animation Industry. The main issue we face is the lack of en established 'industry'. People dont have faith in the medium that is animation, hence, at this point, a lot of artists/ directors cant go to producers with a pitch and expect it to be funded like a Bollywood movie. Hence, most large scale projects currently on the Indian scene are self or crowd funded. There is no 'industry' backing as such. But slowly, this is starting to change as we are now seeing more animated music videos being released and shorts getting the attention of the masses. It's a small spark, but by no means is it weak. It'll soon be a raging fire and I definitely want to be in the midst of it!
The main improvement I would like to see would be related to the audience. I see how Netflix is pushing anime, which is now getting more traction towards the youth and young adults, but the majority of the population still looks at 'animation' as being a kid's medium. I would definitely want to see that change. Because, a market of 1 billion plus people would definitely make us the centre of the scene in the future if that ever comes about. I love how Marvel really turned the 'super hero' genre into something that could be appreciated worldwide by all. If only there was a way to do the same with the genre of animation.
What advice would you give to aspiring Indian animators?
Here's my advice:
- Focus on the story. You can have all the skills you want, but being a good story teller is key. Even if you are making a simple sketch of a dog; give it some context - What breed is it, is it a male or a female, does it have an owner? okay, so it has a collar then, how old is it, where is it coming from, etc. Just thinking about these things while sketching the dog out would elevate it to a whole other level. Most artists miss out on this when starting off. They just want to make a good looking artwork. The same goes for animation. Keep the story as the core, the rest of it is just ways to give it life.
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We thank Derek for taking time to answer our questions, and we wish him the very best for the future! You can view more of his works in the following links: