If you didn’t already know, fashion editor turned director of fashion partnerships at Instagram Eva Chen has penned a children’s book coming out in November. The adorable character Juno Valentine was illustrated by Canadian-based Filipino artist Derek Desierto who is also the Creative Director of upcoming eyewear brand Friendly Universe. We talk to Derek and get to know how he got into art and what it was like illustrating for Eva’s book.
Was art always a part of your life? What got you into illustrating?
“Absolutely! I think I got my appreciation for art and design from my father who was an architect. He also took fine arts in college and always had an interest in art, film, and animation—a big reason why I took animation in college. Illustration was always just a fun passion project for me. I worked as a designer for animation for a while and I illustrated for myself on the side. Eventually, I started getting interest from companies and publications in my work and it has now become a part-time career!”
Growing up, were your parents supportive of your art? What was it like pursuing a career in design?
“My parents were supportive for me just to do whatever I felt like to do. Perhaps, they were probably a bit scared in the beginning when I told them I wanted to pursue a career in art and design but as the years have progressed, they've seen that I can have a career doing art, which has eased their worries. [Laughs] Pursuing a career in art and design is pure joy for me. I get to work with creative and inspiring people and it's just like playing for me! I feel so lucky that I get paid to do things that I would really do for free (don't tell my clients that).”
When it comes to designing, what is your creative process like? Are you partial to digital illustrations or do you still start out with a piece of paper and a pencil?
“My process starts with whatever moves me. I let my inspiration for something guide me and that's why it's very important that I only take on projects I feel passionate about. I want my work to radiate a sense of joy and happiness and it's hard to fake that stuff when you don't like what you're doing! It doesn't really matter to me what I draw with. Sometimes I just draw on the computer, sometimes I'll start a drawing on paper. Usually, now I just draw on my computer and finish everything on there because it's quick and easy. But I would like to go back to pencil and paper soon because I really miss that sense of touch when it comes to drawing.”
We love the animated film you created. What was the inspiration behind it?
“Thank you! Wouldn't It Be Nice is inspired by a book I read by Michael Harris called The End of Absence. It's a book about our Internet-immersed culture and what we're missing out on from all that connectivity. The idea came to mind when I felt I was spending way too much time on my phone and I wanted to step back a bit.”
Your street style illustrations are lovely. What made you combine hand-drawn elements with photos/patterns?
“It actually came from necessity and nothing to do with trying to find a style. When I was working at an animation studio, I wanted to draw for myself before I started the day, but I gave myself half an hour to do it. Close to the end of that time limit I knew I needed to add color and that's where the photo textures came in. I just kept doing it and doing it and now I guess it's become a thing for me!”
Can you tell us a bit about how Eva Chen discovered you and your art?
“It started one day when I drew Eva and her daughter Ren as my warm-up drawing. I posted it on Insta and she liked it and posted it and we started an Insta relationship from there! A few months later she asked if I would illustrate her book and after I squealed in excitement for five minutes, I said yes.”
What was it like illustrating for a children's book? Any challenges you encountered throughout the process?
“It was a lot of fun! It's similar to doing an animated film actually, but you try and condense scenes into one picture. As for challenges, I would say getting the right cover was our biggest challenge. A lot of thought goes into the perfect cover and it took time to get there for me. But well worth it, I think, because I'm really happy with how it came out.”
Tell us more about your project, Friendly Universe.
"Prior to animation and illustration, I used to design eyewear. Friendly Universe is a return to my old design roots but with an exciting new team and concept. We're set to launch in a few weeks and I'm super excited to show everyone what we've been working on!"
Any plans to turn your street style illustrations into a book? What else can we look forward to from you?
“Oh my goodness! I have not even thought of that! I would love to! I have a few projects in the works right now, definitely you can see something from Friendly Universe very soon and hopefully some fun illustration projects in the very near future.”
Juno Valentine and the Magical Shoes will be released in November and is available for pre-order on Amazon.