Today, we're talking to Derick Jones about his move to Philly, what inspires him, and the impact of social media on his work!
What name do you go by?
Derick Jones, formerly Skuds Mckinley.
Formerly - why formerly?
Uh, I switched drawing subjects I guess. Before, when I was Skuds, I was just drawing very gross monsters and kind of just, like, very punk rock and metal-themed art. And I kinda got bored with it, and kinda burnt out. I like switching up my names - a lot of rappers do it - like MF Doom goes to Madvillain. Danger Doom. So I kinda wanted to do that with Derick Jones. Now I’m trying to draw bodies and places, and just…kinda real slice-of-life, normal stuff. I felt like I couldn’t do that under the Skuds name.
What drew you to Philadelphia?
I kinda came here by total accident. I dated a girl, and we lived on the outskirts of Philly- we lived in Bucks County for like 5 years. And then when we broke up, I was basically like, well I’ve never lived in a city proper. So I moved down here cause I thought at the time there would be a lot of art opportunities and art communities and all that stuff. And it was cheaper than trying to move to New York or California or something like that.
Do you feel that you have had access to more art opportunities living here?
To be honest, I’ve gotten more jobs outside of Philly, just because I built up a little bit of a network while I was living out in Bucks. So when I came down here…I’ve always been doing freelance stuff that keeps me in the house. I hadn’t gotten much chance to explore. When I finally did, I found it kinda hard. You know? You gotta know a lot of people and constantly be on the grind. Cause there is stuff happening, but it’s a matter of knowing the right person and staying connected...I feel like you find a lot of people making their own thing, making their own opportunities.
What impact does the Philly scene have on your art?
The Philly "scene" doesn’t really have an impact on my work, but Philly does. Philly’s buildings, Philly’s people. Philly, just vibe-wise, has implanted itself in my work - especially the last few years of me going around drawing buildings. The disgruntled-ness and the angriness and the blue collar-ness of this city has injected in my work now. It’s hard to draw monsters when you’re sittin' next to a dude that’s gotten off from a factory, or guys that have been riding their bike 10 miles - that seems way more interesting than some sci-fi shit. I wanna know why that person is doing what they’re doing every single day and keep on doing that. What is it about this city that always has people on the go?
Four years ago, when I didn’t live here, it seemed like this place of craziness. So much stuff was happening like punk rock flea market, all these little zine fests, and a lot of the vets that were here like Pat Aulisio and Box Brown were doing these little meet-ups. And there were a lot of little art shows that were happening. And now, since I’ve been here, it doesn’t seem like that’s the case anymore, especially with Locust Moon folding. I feel like Locust was the spot to go; whether you liked it or not, it was where a lot of people gravitated.
Would you say that’s the biggest hardship of working in Philadelphia as a comic artist: trying to find your exact scene? What are the hardships?
Finding out where you fit in is hard because there’s so many comic book artists here and you don’t even know those people. In comics, and in freelance, it’s so hard to get out of your house. I’ve met other comic book artists. The people that are doing what you’re doing are also working crazy hard. It’s hard ‘cause, being in comics, a missed day can throw you back three days. So it’s really hard to get people out of their house and out of their comfort zone to all come together and hang if it’s not a book signing or a con. The other hardships are just finding work. It’s been really hard finding work. And trying to figure out the art world in general is a normal hardship, especially in Philly where it isn’t as established as somewhere like New York, where it’s like, “Go to the Hall of Illustrators.” I’m sure we have something like that, but I haven’t been able to find it. I haven’t really looked that hard.
Does social media have an impact on your art?
I used to be a social media freak. But for some odd reason, the last two years, it’s been like poison to me. It’s made my current situation where - it’s like I’ve said, I only have 4 or 5 art buddies to hang out with and be around. Seeing all these other artists doing all these crazy things all the time, I feel like I’m in this weird rat race with other artists, and I’m competing for likes. And I had this weird, existential moment where I was like, “Why the fuck am I trying to get likes?” I reached this threshold: “OK, I got 100 likes.” But it’s not like 50 people bought my art. Or like, I got a gig out of it. And that kind of used to happen with Facebook, but with Instagram, where everything is now, it hasn’t really happened.
I feel like social media…and this is probably gonna sound like a cop out, but...it’s like a popularity contest. The times where I push myself to post something every day or 3 times a day, I can only keep that energy up for maybe 2 weeks, or I’ll try to build a buffer to do it and I still end up falling short. I don’t know the end game for social media. I know we’re supposed to have it. But I don’t know what the end game is. People will be like, “Can you draw me?” and I say, “Sure, here’s my price,” and then…nothing back.
If you weren’t doing comics, what would you be doing?
That’s a hard one. I mean…maybe…I don’t know. I’ve been doing this for 6 years, and I’ve tried so many different forms. I’d start with comics until I got kind of a little bit bored, then I’m like “I’ll try doing illustration work." Get bored with that, I’m like, “I’ll try album covers, I’ll try doing some t-shirts, or graphic design.” And everything keeps going back to comics. My palate hasn’t been filled; my stomach’s not full from doing comics. But it’s so hard. One of the hardest damn things to do is doing comics. And a lot people don’t understand that, but it’s so goddamn hard. So what else would I be doing…maybe animation? I’d like to do storyboards. I thought about massage therapy.
Do you have a main hobby besides [comics]?
It used to be Gundams. It used to be building model kits and making music. I used to make music and listen to music. I was in a band for a while, and then I made beats, and rapped for a little bit.
Yea. Very badly.
Please, tell me you have recordings of that somewhere.
I successfully deleted all of it from the internet. It was fun! I wanted to be like Kanye West. That was the plan. “I’m gonna be like Kanye West - I’m gonna do 3 albums, and then I’m gonna switch to doing comics, so I’ll have enough money to be like the My Chemical Romance guy. That dude’s a genius.” I don’t know why, but drawing is like being a samurai, and you have to cut all these other fun activities out. And now I’m seeing that that’s not a good thing to do. You should have hobbies. You should have free time. You should be doing other things, because that can influence your work.
What would you like to see change about the Philly comics scene?
I guess more go-getters that were totally about the scene and trying to build a scene. The problem that I’ve seen in the past is, you have people that have decent intentions, but once ego starts getting in, and once an actual thing starts building, it always seems to split in half. And egos get in the way, and selfishness starts to come up, and it starts to be this thing where you have to prove yourself to these people. I wish there was someone like, “I want to start this scene, and I want this scene to be A SCENE.” And they only have that motto. Pat Aulisio is that guy. Pat does events, and does little comic cons, and it’s not to stroke his ego. You go to his table, and he has the same size table as everybody else there - no huge stands or anything, or nothing like “I CREATED THIS EVENT.” Where in the past you had these other guys, where like, you had to stroke their ego to get in.
What do you like about the Philly scene?
There’s some amazing artists here. You find these people, and you’re like, “Oh my god, you’re not bigger?” There are a lot of good Black artists here, and they’re not just drawing standard Black art - they’re not just drawing ankhs and stuff. They’re really pushing the envelope, and drawing Black superheroes, and doing their own stories, and drawing in their own way. That’s exciting to see.
There are people that are willing to host shows. And I feel like when there are events here, people do come out and buy stuff. When there is an event, I feel like there is usually a success on some level. ‘Cause it is hard to do these events and it is hard to get people together. It takes a lot of energy. So I can see why there isn’t so much of it happening.
Comic shops - there’s good people. There’s a lot of cool people here. It’s just so spread out, you know? Every artist is an island, essentially.
Does your background affect your art?
I grew up around nothing but White people. I had, like, a certificate in being a token. I always feel lost, and I’ve always felt like an outcast, so that always plays into my work. For some odd reason, I’m really good at drawing White people.
I think everyone is, you know? It’s what you see in every comic book. I mean now, there’s more diversity, but I know growing up, you had two options: you could be Bishop or you could be Storm.
Or Falcon, right. But that’s what you’re around, and so you end up drawing those characters.
You churn it out. Unconsciously. But there is no, like…even in the "How To Draw" books. They teach you on this White template. That’s been a weird thing to try to balance now. Since moving out of that, it makes you think about that stuff....no, the first thing I put down when I’m trying to come up with a character doesn’t have to be a White guy. It doesn’t have to be a White chick. They can be Asian, they can be Black. So yea, my background - it used to be a lot heavier, but now, since moving to Philly…now that plays into being around all different types of people, now I wanna draw those types of people.
Who are your current favorite artists to get inspiration from?
Oh my god, these motherfuckers have been ruining my life. I had to stop. It’s been Lesean Thomas, Ron Wimberly, Chase Conley, Eric Canete, Phil Bourassa, Cheeks Galloway, a lot of guys from animation…Takeshi Koike, so many Japanese artists, Watanabe - he’s a goddamn champion. Ulises Farinas - he’s a buddy, but he’s constantly getting so good, and every new drawing is just out of this goddamn world. I don’t know how he’s managed to figure out 24 hours in a day, and keep getting better, and better, and better, and better, and better, but he just keeps getting better. It’s so insane to watch. From someone who was already good - he was already dope, but he just keeps getting crazier. So all those guys. They keep destroying my life, wanting to be like them. Also Felipe Smith! These are all people of color, and they’re all disgusting at what they do.
After being attacked by a billy goat at a young age, Jaz decided that leaving her Detroit, MI home was for the best. She moved to Philadelphia, PA, where she received her BFA in Animation from The University of The Arts. She currently works in the tri-state area as a sequential artist, occasional animator, and tea enthusiast. She has yet to be attacked by another goat.