Derek C. Wicks Full Biography
“Nature and art have always been a constant thread throughout my life. As early as I can remember I was interested in the mystique and nature and the beauty of art. Nature gives to the world unconditionally and we in turn must accept that we are a living breathing part of nature and not its master. I have a love for the wonders of nature and art in combination and want to show the world the connection between the two. From as early as I remember I wanted to be a nature artist, share nature with the world while conserving its beauty. Conservation became an important part of my values and beliefs and is a large part of the man I am today.” - Derek C Wicks
Painting a Life
“The Creative Process has always been a driving force in me. I thrive on the knowledge of how things work and the challenge of recreating them. My creative side began with plastic model kits. I would build them in perfect detail. As I grew older I began to build models from scratch, a hobby I still love to do. Model building was the foundation for my patience and discipline, two assets that have helped in my development as an artist. At the age of nine I began to draw out and plan the projects and models I wanted to create and then build them. I was a Star Wars and Battlestar Galactic junky, the obsession of most boys in the 70’s and 80’s and my greatest memory was of building a “Cylon” costume from scratch out of boxes from the local grocery store for Halloween. How I loved to create. At age ten life took a drastic turn and I found myself in the care of the Children’s Aid Society and foster homes. Over the next six years I was moved to thirteen different Foster and receiving homes. Moving around so much made it very difficult to build friendships and art became my constant companion. I devoted a lot more time to art than the average adolescent. Art became my world. Sketch book in hand, I would disappear into the parks and forests to catch a glimpse of nature and wildlife. A whole new world opened up to me when I began high school in 1982. Aside form the academic courses I was required to take I could choose courses of interest to me. Every extra credit course I took was art based. People started to see the artist in me and my teachers were very encouraging. Unfortunately with no other support system in place and a rebellious teenager trying to find his way in a world of foster care, I foolishly dropped out of school and at 16 moved out on my own. I abandoned my art the next three years, barely touching a sketchbook or paint brushes. I applied for several illustration positions, only to be told lack of education and a weak portfolio were holding me back. At nineteen I decided I needed to go back to school, further my abilities and build a strong portfolio if I wanted to succeed. Returning to high school at nineteen was the toughest decision I had to make but I persevered and graduated. I then applied and was accepted into the technical and scientific illustration program at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario. College opened up new horizons for me and allowed me the freedom to explore other forms of art. I discovered painting with gouache, airbrushing, dry-brushing and many other techniques. Watching how others painted gave me ideas on how I should approach my own painting style. In my three years of college I painted very little wildlife, but it always remained my favorite subject matter. Architectural rendering and conceptual drawing began to play a strong influence in my artistic development. Through architecture I was rewarded for being detailed and accurate, a characteristic that has been present in all my creative endeavors. In 1993 I graduated from Sheridan with a diploma in Technical and Scientific Illustration and won the Artistic Excellence award in my graduation year.
After graduation, my career led me to free-lance illustration where I specialized in architectural rendering. Attention to detail became my commercial trademark, a trademark that would find its way into my wildlife art. I was fortunate to have a very successful freelance business and used that to finance my true passion: nature art. I painted as a freelancer by day and as a nature artist by night. I entered every art show I could find and slowly developed a solid following of collectors. As the years progressed I found myself able to paint more and more nature art and began turning down freelance architecture jobs. In 1995, young and inexperienced in the art world, I found my first art distributor, Shabban Serra LTD. Shaba Serra offered a guiding light and helping hand. My first gallery show was at the Prestige Gallery in Mississauga, Ontario. It was an opportunity of a lifetime. I was so thrilled to be part of the show. Quickly thrill became horror when I realized my originals were hung beside none other than Robert Bateman’s art. It was the most intimidating feeling. Little did I know that this would be the biggest break of all. So many established collectors came to see Bateman’s work and saw my work beside his. It was exposure I never expected and I was fortunate to sell several of my originals and receive many invitations to some of the biggest shows in art. Since then I have had a very fulfilling career in art. I am lucky enough to be one of the few to make a living from his work and fortunate enough to make so many connections with other artists, students, collectors and art enthusiasts.
As a young artist in high school and college I was very inspired by Robert Bateman’s work. As the years have passed I realized I was more inspired by his fame than his work. Since early in high school all my teachers said “you have to learn to paint like Bateman to be successful in wildlife art.” His work is beautiful but I am the total opposite of Bateman. I paint strong dominate lighting with solid crisp lines, whereas Bateman is muted and subtle. I spent so many years trying to be another artist, never exploring my own style and techniques. I thought that emulating Bateman’s style was the only way to legitimize my art and the only way to be a successful nature artist.
It was not until many years after college that an artist showed me my style of art was legitimate. Daniel Smith, one of the biggest names in art, had a style very similar to mine. Dan and I met at a show in Lancing, Michigan in 1998 and I instantly took to Dan’s tutelage. I spent many hours during that show just listening to Dan’s advice and suggestions. He sent me home with new inspiration and vigor. A few years later I had the opportunity to paint with Dan for a week in Montana. I really believe I learned more from him in one week than I did in three years at college. After working with Dan I realized my style was working and that I needed to learn how to be the first Derek Wicks rather than a second Bateman or Smith. The biggest message I try to convey in my workshops now is “Be you, let your strengths define you.” Over the years, Dan has been a wonderful mentor, always happy to offer his knowledge and expertise to me without reward. Dan’s willingness to help has given me a standard in which to measure oneself by; always help those less fortunate and give without expectation. Today the bulk of my inspiration comes from the world around me and the connections I make with others. Teaching at workshops has become an endless source of information and inspiration. When you have a room of twenty artists that are all sharing, you cannot help but absorb knowledge."