December 1st, 2011
By: Dennis M. Kelly
DK: Good day Derek. I want to thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with me today, it is very much appreciated! Let’s start off by taking the time machine back to where it all began for you and your art. Apart from childhood crayon drawings, what were some of your strongest initial pieces of art that you created?
DR: I didn’t really create any “strong” pieces; they were mostly bits and pieces, often not finished. Mostly I just drew with pencil, pen and ink. When I was twelve to fifteen years old I used to draw a lot of comics (just for me, never published) and I used to study art history a lot (Michelangelo, Leonardo, John Martin etc.) My paintings, when I was young, were mostly a huge learning curve, just trying to work out how to paint stuff and make it work.
DK: Do you feel young artists should be schooled, at least a little to learn how to better unlock their own potential?
DR: No. That’s all bullshit. College tutors tell lies to bolster their own self- importance and ensure their job security. All they turn out is run of the mill, carbon copy, clones of artists. If that’s all you want to be, join the queue. You can teach yourself everything and find your own way if you have the courage and are willing to do the work. Look at art history, Picasso got thrown out of Art College, Dali got thrown out, Max Earnst never went to art college at all, and neither did Van Gough. What are you waiting for? Get on with something.
DK: Is anyone else in your family artistically inclined?
DR: Both parents were competent drafts-people but they never did anything with it.
DK: Were you encouraged or discouraged with your art by your family?
DR: Slightly encouraged
DK: Did you work in other mediums at all (sculpting, etc)? If so, did it help you with your painting in any way?
DR: I have sculpted a bit, I draw with pencil a bit, and I have worked in all paint mediums. I have created figurative art, abstract art, and sometimes I have worked as a portrait artist. To a degree, they all feed back onto each other.
DK: How much of your sketches from the seventies do you still have?
DR: None at all.
DK: What kinds of settings were you creating your artwork in? Did you have a lot of space to spread out and look at the painting from a distance or pretty crammed in, in tight spaces?
DR: No, most of the time I painted in a corner of my bedroom. All of the early Maiden works were done in the corner of my bedroom. When I was working on computer in the 1980’s I still worked in a corner of my bedroom. About the middle of the 1990’s I used a loft space. I only used a separate room when I moved to America.
DK: How important is it to have the proper setting and even mood before you started working?
DR: It doesn’t really matter to me, really. When I did the picture of Bruce being impaled on a trident by Eddie/the devil, back in the early 1990’s I didn’t have anywhere to live and I was living in a friend’s spare room. So I put some boxes on top of each other and used them as a work table. Right now I am doing some pen and ink drawings on the living room table and there is an oil painting set up in the kitchen (because the light is good in there).
DK: What music did you tend to listen to while you painted?
DR: I don’t listen to much music when I paint, it bothers me.
DK: Before working with EMI, had you had many clients then?
DR: A few, in those days I tended to work with record companies rather than individual musicians. So my contacts were with the companies and the art directors.
DK: I understand you had done a portrait or portraits for British Pop artist, Kate Bush? Are there any prints available for anyone to see?
DR: No. I did it as a private commission back in the early 1980’s. I do not have any copies. I do not know if the pictures even exist anymore.
DK: While I am on the subject, you have a book out there entitled “Run for Cover – The Art of Derek Riggs”. Unfortunately, I have not had the pleasure of seeing it yet, but what can you tell me about it?
DR: It’s fucking great; you should buy a copy right away. Don’t wait or you will beat yourself up over it for years…
DK: Is it a pretty complete picture of you through your art?
DR: No not really, it’s mostly about the published works and the Maiden years. I am much more deep and complicated and interesting than that… Honestly… What?
DK: Well, you can buy it directly through your website at: www.derekriggs.com, and you can even get an autographed copy of it too!
DR: Yes. It’s fucking great… did I mention that before?
DK: After a little while of working with Iron Maiden, you ceased freelancing and signed a contract with them. Can you tell me a little bit about the contract? Have you ever worked with any other band (past or present) in a contractual form?
DR: Maiden was the only time I have worked under a contract like that. The contract gave me some royalties and ensured that they got lots of tour merchandise when they needed it. It wasn’t a really great contract, but it was functional for a few years, and saved me doing too much work.
DK: What would you suggest for any artist who may be at the same point in their career as you were then? Are contracts a good thing for an artist?
DR: Contracts are always a good thing for the people who write the contract. Not for anyone else. But they will always tell lies and say the contract is in your best interest. Everybody lives by selling something, so add up your options and make a choice.
DK: Do you feel you may have been able to create more Iron Maiden images longer if you were still freelancing for them. Did the contract stifle your creativity?
DR: The contract got in the way of a lot of things, I was glad when it was over.
DK: In a lot of the times, you were given very short deadlines with which to create their album covers. Deadlines are certainly par for the course, but do you experience the same short notice deadlines with other clients these days?
DR: No. Maiden’s deadlines were stupid. They asked me for a picture on the Friday and they would want it finished by the Monday. So I would work without sleep for two days. I don’t do that anymore.
DK: Can you describe the process you typically took when creating an album cover with paint?
DR: I cut out a bit of board, I drew a sketch onto it and then I painted onto it until it was finished or I ran out of time. That’s the process. If you intellectualize artwork too much you just fuck up everything. Just do it, get on with it, get something done and get it out of the door.
DK: Did you ever have much trial and error with your painting supplies?
DR: All the time. Paint is shit, board is dodgy, airbrush sucks, and brushes are rubbish. None of it works really, you just kind of potter through it and do the best you can with it.
DK: You’ve painted in oils and acrylics and are now creating on the computer. Do you feel that your years of painting experience have helped you work better with illustrations on the computer in any way?
DR: No, the computer cleared out the bad experiences of using paints. I had to stop using paints anyway because I was getting poisoned by the nasty chemicals in them. If not for computers I would have stopped painting years ago.
DK: What sort of time differences are there from working in paint verses computer? Can you create a work of art in about as much of the same time as when you were painting?
DR: I can do it as fast if I want to, I just don’t want to work at that breakneck speed any more. These days I don’t spend my days waiting for paint to dry. And the colors mix better as well.
DK: What computer(s) and software programs do you use for your artwork these days?
DR: all of them, I think.
DK: Have you ever animated your artwork in Flash?
DR: No, I can’t be bothered.
DK: One Iron Maiden cover I would like to point out in particular is Powerslave, one of my favorite, in fact, for its lavish detail and the original record had an enhanced texture to it which added to its appeal for me. Many years later though, you came back to this piece, aged it and tore it apart with a massive Somewhere in Time “Eddie” breaking through the pyramid. How did you approach the original painting and how did you come to revisit it and improve upon it?
DR: The idea I had was that the original pyramid was destroyed by the robot Eddie popping out of the top like a stripper out of a big cake. I didn’t see any point in re-painting the original so I got hold of a scan of it and aged it with sand and stone textures from a real pyramid and then re-drew the robot eddie from scratch. and then stuck him in the top and color shifted him to make him fit in and give him the right distance. The extra bits of pyramid were made using textures from real pyramids.
DK: When your contract with Iron Maiden had ended, you continued to work with them on and off for various images while taking on new clients. How has it been working on new projects since then?
DR: Well look at my portfolio, I have done a lot of work. Sometimes it has been fun, sometimes it has been just work and sometimes a definite pain in the ass. Just like everything in life I guess. sometimes I even got to do a good picture or two.
DK: Do you work with any corporate clients much (if at all)?
DR: A few. I did some work for Sprite recently (the soft drinks people) the pictures are all on my website (www.derekriggs.com)
DK: What other types of projects are you working on these days and what are some other projects you’d be interested in taking on should they come your way?
DR: For the last few months I haven’t been doing anything at all because I blew out a disk in my spine quite badly and all I could do is lie down in bed or walk around a little bit. Sitting at the computer for hours was not even possible.
DK: What can you tell me about the man behind the art, what can you tell me about you personally?
DR: I am an insane psychotic with paranoid delusions. I have to paint pictures to stop me from killing everyone in sight. My mind is now so close to god that I can hear the singing of angles all the time and my mind is clawed at by demons day and night. The demons scream and howl incessantly… Please elect me president of the USA.
have you noticed how my eyes glow red in the dark?
DK: What do you think of the world we’re a part of? Pretty messed up, right?
DR: Yes it’s crap, Lets blow it all up. Use all the nuclear weapons at once, one hundred million tons of instant sunshine. BOOM!! Fuck em all, let god sort em out. Then go out for a burger.
DK: Are you married and do you have any kids?
DR: Married for four years in the USA. Had a daughter 17(ish) years ago in the UK. Then we blew em all up with nuclear weapons…BOOM!!!. and we went out for a burger… see? a happy ending.
DK: The reason I ask is I am curious if have many time conflicts between your projects and family sometimes and how you tend to resolve them?
DR: I kill everyone and move on before the police find out.
DK: I understand you moved to L.A. some time ago, what prompted the move and how has life been since the move?
DR: I have not moved to LA. I have moved to California one year ago. California is a bit bigger than LA. Life in California is mostly sunny, and we have lots of mountains, and sometimes we drive over the mountains to the California coast and spend time on the beach watching all the girls run up and down like they do in Baywatch. That’s all they do you know, run up and down the beach in swimsuits, night and day. I like California.
DK: Is America really the “Land of Opportunity” (for you)?
DR: We shall see, it’s looking quite interesting so far.
DK: What is next on the horizon for your artwork?
DR: I might do some oil paintings on canvas and have an exhibition, or I might not. Or maybe I’ll become a famous actor or host a game show…
DK: Do you have some short and long term goals in place? If so, what are they?
DR: I am still trying to finish a novel, I would have finished it but I fucked up my spine and I couldn’t sit at the computer. Also I am still messing around with music, one day I might think about trying to make some money with it. The music business has gone all to bits these days and I am still trying to make some sense of it all.
DK: For anyone that would like to contact you regarding a potential project, what is the best way for them to reach you?
DR: Email me from my website www.derekriggs.com
DK: I would sincerely like to take this time to thank you once again for taking the time to talk with me today. As a fan of your work for so much of my life, it is a great honor to share some details about you on our site. Thanks again!