Ricky Daniels interview
Plus-size and (SS)BBW artist Ricky Daniels has been drawing women for most of his life. Like me, he is very passionate about his work and is always working on something involving plus-size women and (SS)BBW (although each of us obviously do different things).
Around the end of November, 2014, I approached Ricky to do an interview for curvyshrine.com. Over the course of several weeks Ricky and I exchanged questions and answers and today I present you the finished interview which you can read below.
Coen: Ricky, to begin this interview I'd like to ask you to talk a little bit about yourself as a person (versus being an artist); where were you born, where did you grow up, maybe your age if you'd like to share it, and how you got involved into drawing.
Ricky: In a nutshell... I was born and grew up in Southern California. My dad was a blue collar worker and I used to make him draw cartoons for me when I was a kid. He was a pretty good artist and just had the natural ability to do it. I loved watching him draw. That's I guess where I got my start. I started drawing along with him. Eventually it lead to more art classes. When I was 30 I decided to go back to school and get my degree. That was in 2005.
Coen: That's an interesting start to a career of drawing.
You nowadays draw plus-size women and (SS)BBW. What about your love for these women, have you always been an admirer of larger women your whole life?
Ricky: Well yeah. I've been an admirer for most of my life. I think that I really found out more about it when I hit my twenties. The internet just became more accessible and in every home. That's where I found out more about Fat Acceptance as well as all BBW models.
Coen: So when did you start drawing plus-size women and (SS)BBW?
Ricky: I'd draw BBW off and on then, but I didn't really make it a regular thing; that I did sometime around 2009/2010.
Coen: Did you do it purely for fun or more or less also as a means to rebel against the modern day beauty paradigm, showing that big is also beautiful?
Ricky: At first it was purely for fun. I was graduating school and already working as an illustrator then. I only had a couple of classes so I had more time to do some art for myself. I knew that I wanted more adult work, fun and sexy with the type of women that I'm attracted to. I took a few of my BBW drawings and posted them on a couple of the BBW forums that I used to go to just to see what other FA's thought, as well as the girls. The reaction was so positive.
I don't think I really started to do any of it to go against the modern day beauty paradigm. At least not on purpose. I just wanted to show others why I think big is beautiful, BBW in particular. I've been admiring BBW for a long time now and it was a subject matter that I feel is important to me. Making these women feel beautiful makes me smile and I love it when the guys let me know how sexy my art is too. It's so important to know who you are and not let anything bother you about a having preference of some sort. Mine just happens to be BBW.
Coen: Well it may actually be a good thing not to try and prove a point, but just doing what you like to do (which is drawing) and thus getting the message across that way (that big is beautiful as well).
So did you ever get a backlash from people in the illustrator business for drawing plus-size women and (SS)BBW? If so, what kind of reactions did you get?
Ricky: Actually I've gotten very little negative response from the illustration business. There are always going to be a few that aren't into it. Overall the response has been rather positive. I've even gotten nice comments from other professionals and non-FA alike.
Coen: Well that's very positive!
Let's talk a bit about your drawing tools and methods. So many artists nowadays still use traditional non-electronic drawing tools, but a growing number of artists make the transition to digital painting. Have you made that transition as well?
Ricky: Well I still think the best way to start learning how to draw is with traditional mediums (pencil, ink etc). It's how I've learned to understand how to work in layers for the digital world.
Coen: And what are your views on this change that other artists make into the digital world?
Ricky: Nowadays our technology is moving so fast that it would not surprise me if many of the young artist today have done more work digitally than the traditional mediums.
Coen: So do you think it opens up new possibilities (for example using layer-based drawing or painting) and the ability to undo changes? Or do you perhaps think drawing is really a paper-and-pencil profession?
Ricky: I still feel that I know and understand how to work digitally so well due to the fact that I took the time to learn how to draw and paint traditionally.
All the same principles of art apply when you work digital. To be honest; it's understanding the process and the tools of the program to get what you want. When I started doing my BBW art back in '09/'10 every piece started with a pencil sketch, then was scanned and inked and painted in Flash or Photoshop. The better my skills got at the programs and a tablet the more digital I went. Now I work completely digital. It's much faster for me now and it's non-destructive. We can save in layers. If a client doesn't like something in their commission piece it's much easier to turn off that layer and start a new one. I don't have to draw the entire thing all over again. A few years ago I bought a used Wacom Cintiq. It's so nice to be able to draw right on the screen. Since then I have been able to get the job done much quicker and even improved my skills.
I don't really think that drawing is ever going to go strictly digital as a profession, but I do think learning it helps. I find more fine artists still use traditional mediums over digital. Really it all depends on what you want to do as an artist. Other BBW artist like Jason Shronk (Phat Beauties) and Les Toil (ToilGirls) still work traditional. I've spoken with Les about his ToilGirls and he starts with pencil sketches, then inks over them, scans and paints in Photoshop. But Les knows that so well because he is a trained oil painter and a comic book artist. His work is fantastic and inspiring. Jason Shronk works completely traditional with colored pencils. Both those artists are great. Right now I prefer digital because I live in an apartment and I just don't have the space to work traditional and because most of my contract work is in the digital media world.
Coen: That's interesting to hear, that besides old school drawers and painters and those artists who rather use new technologies there are also artists who use both methods, and where the old methods can lay the foundation for the new digital tools.
So you mentioned how layer based works are non-destructive. Can you also mention an advantage that old school drawing has over digital drawing and painting? In other words, what specifically are reasons for people to continue to use pencil and paper?
Ricky: The main reason to hold onto traditional methods is simply that it's exactly what is going to each you your craft; anything from understanding basic drawing skills and painting like figure drawing, perspective, composition, proportions and color theory. When I started getting serious about drawing I wanted to use what the professionals used. At the time it was sketch in pencil, ink, then color, usually a mixed media of Prismacolor makers and pencils. When comics and animation started to be colored in digital I felt I needed to make that jump. All I did (and I feel what most artists do) is take the traditional method and apply it when I was taught how to use Photoshop.
The main reason I've found when most traditional artists do not want to make the switch into the digital realm it's usually because they just don't have the desire or time to learn how to work digital and they are usually comfortable with their current process. It even took me a year or two to be as comfortable as I am with the programs.
Working traditional is a linear process leaving less room for error. That's one advantage digital illustration has over it. When you have figured out how to organize your project file in a non-destructive state then it becomes editable. Also you can save down in large or small files very easily. I usually just paint my pin-ups high-res in CMYK so they are print-ready, then save an smaller RGB version to post on the web. It's much easier to email off of a print ready PDF (Adobe Acrobat) file for a client and keep your original artwork. Also, printing a color copy is less expensive now. That's the advantage of digital. I'd say the only disadvantage is spending the money on the programs and apps. But, it only feels expensive at first. You can end up saving a lot of money on art supplies throughout the years. If you learn the program well, then you can make your money back.
Coen: Earlier you mentioned that you also don't have space for traditional drawing methods because of your apartment. If you did have space for that would you use traditional drawing methods? There must be a desire to still use those methods. Why still hold on to them?
Ricky: If I had the space to use traditional methods I'd absolutely love to branch out more by using them. I've always wanted to do a few pin-up paintings on wood panel using acrylics or gouache. Or even do a very large sized BBW painting. I was given an old overhead projector that is collecting dust in one of my closets. It'd be great to use that again. Another medium that I am dying to get back into is sculpting; well mainly figure sculpting. Which I feel I just might have to break down and make space for in my apartment. How cool would it be to hold a BBW pin up in your hands? I've been craving to build up some armatures and get that going for a really long time now. Plus I really miss sculpting.
Coen: Overhead projector? You mean for using that as a guide to draw over? Is it like doing a very large size BBW painting? I imagine you are then able to put in more details as opposed to making a small drawing and enlarging that by projecting it on a wall for example?
Ricky: Yes. I can sketch it all out first. Then use the overhead projector to enlarge the sketch over a bigger canvas. Sketch that in and paint. I haven't done anything like that in a very long time.
Coen: Can you describe the process with the projector screen? Are you saying you are drawing over the projected image on the wall you're projecting on, or you are simply using the projected image (on the wall) as a guide while you are drawing the art on the image that is on the projector? If the former, do you use a large piece of paper to draw on or do you draw directly on a wall?
Ricky: Yes, basically I draw over a projected image on the wall, usually a good cleaned up sketch. It's like a guide for me. My drawing usually starts with a basic 8.5x11 sketch. I then project it up on the wall, canvas, board or whatever surface I end up painting on. After that I use it as a guide and sketch it large. Finally I start my painting.
Coen: That really blows my mind, all the various ways in which you create art.
I think with that we should wrap this up. You've been very generous with your answers, talking about the Big Beautiful Women/BBW you love so much and describing the processes. Your answers have been very elaborate and you provided additional insights of your own. I want to thank you for your time and I will keep an eye out for any new art you publish!
Below are some more of Ricky Daniels art works.