Meet John DeLucca, a Cleveland-based illustrator originally from Woodbridge, Virginia. At a young age, John decided that he couldn't imagine doing anything other than illustration as a career. After high school, he attended the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida, graduating with a BFA in Illustration.
John is currently working as a designer at American Greetings by day, and a freelance illustrator by night. He's done work for bands like Andrew W.K. and Makeup and Vanity Set. Over the last few years he has worked closely with The Protomen, a rock opera band who writes music loosely based of the video game Mega Man. His work is known for incredible amounts of detail, believable world building, and characters that are overflowing with personality! We've had the pleasure of working with John on several projects in the past such as: BOSS RUSH, Rolemodels: The Battle For Vyk'Tornaahl , and his work is currently on display in the ROBO Show!
Below you can read about John's inspirations, process, and favorite robots! You can also find more of his work on his tumblr here.
Take a look and enjoy!
What is your studio/workspace like? What are your favorite materials to work in? What are your favorite/most coveted reference resources?
We have a room at home we’ve designated as 'The Studio' but it’s really more of a storage/guest room, so I do most of my work at a desk and a computer in our living room. As of right now, I mainly work digitally, but early on I painted in oils. Recently, I’ve played with pen & ink and watercolor, but it’s hard to deny the ease of manipulating digital work. It’s both a blessing and a curse, because while it’s incredibly easy to adjust color or composition, the pursuit of perfection can eat up a lot of time.
In a similar manner, when it comes to reference, searching in an analog format just devours time. So, I do pretty much all of my referencing online. It’s such a powerful tool for finding just the right thing. Additionally, I’ll also photograph my own reference using myself or others as models when I need a specific pose or perspective.
A lot of your work is centered around incredibly believable characters and environments that seem to come from a real time period and place. What are some of your favorite time periods to make artwork from? Any specific kind of history you're most interested in exploring?
So, I feel like a bit of a fraud here. My love of certain historical eras stems directly from my love of film, and more specifically, genre films. I’m by no means a history buff and my affinity for certain periods tends to be aesthetic. I am very detail oriented, though, so authenticity is important to me and I do spend time researching the subjects or time periods I will be illustrating. I love the look of WWI; the uniforms, the vehicles, even the battlefields themselves have such a unique feeling about them. You can tell the nature of warfare was evolving radically just by looking at it all. The Old American West and Feudal Japan are also among my favorite settings both aesthetically and because both periods operated by rules that are so far removed from society as we know it today as to seem almost alien. History is a master of world building, I guess!
What is your process typically like for creating your artwork? How does your workflow move between ideation/research and putting an image down on paper?
I don’t really like process work, so I spend a lot of time in my head working out the composition; trying to avoid doing a lot of sketches. I’ll do a few sketches, pick the one I like best, and start refining it a bit. Around this point, I try to figure out the details by collecting reference and occasionally doing additional sketches if I have to work out the design of a character or object more fully. Once I figure that stuff out, I do my final drawing. Sometimes, I’ll draw different elements of the composition separately and combine them digitally. For example, I drew the soldiers and the robot separately for my ROBO Show piece so I could be sure that I got the scale I was hoping for. Then, I just go in with color and work that bad boy to death.
Can you tell me a bit more about your piece for the ROBO Show? Any specific inspirations, challenges, significant moments while creating it? You chose to ground the piece in the realism of WWI, what influenced that decision?
So, this piece is one of a series of work I’ve had beating around my brain for a few years now. I wish I could remember exactly what put it there, but illustrations of robots in historical contexts aren’t exactly new ground. However, I never really felt that other work I’d seen was really nailing it (not to say I did, necessarily). The robots didn’t feel like they belonged in that era; they didn’t feel “authentic”. So, I challenged myself to answer the question “what might this actually look like”? In my research of the war machines of the era, I noticed a lot of hard edged blockiness and straight lines so I brought those into the design. In the early stages of roughing the robot out, I just had a block for the head. Thinking it sort of looked like the bow of a ship, I rolled with the idea that it was basically a walking battleship, and things just started falling into place.
Are robots something you think you'll continue to explore in your artwork? Any favorite robots? Any favorite real life machines?
This is a whole can of worms, right here. I will absolutely continue doing work featuring robots. I’m a huge fan of robots and have been since I was a kid. I grew up watching Voltron, Gigantor, Transformers, and Robotech, and I’ve been seeking out media featuring robots ever since. I have a pretty good collection of robot toys from vintage to modern, from imported to domestic. The four posters I have hanging in my cubicle at work are Voltron, Terminator, Pacific Rim, and Robocop (I know Robocop is actually a cyborg, don’t start with me). I love robots. If I had to pick a favorite, I would have to say the Veritech fighters from Robotech. They have such a well considered design. They’re the most believable transforming robot I’ve seen.
Do you have any exciting projects you can say anything about?
I’m currently working on my first graphic novel written by my friend Milo Miller. It’s sort of a hyper-violent, biker revenge story. It’s going to be awesome!
What's your favorite project you've ever worked on?
Is it cheesy to say that it was this one? As a totally self-directed art assignment that gave me motivation to bring to life an idea that has been knocking around in my brain for a really long time, the ROBO Show was basically the perfect project.
What are some of your favorite hobbies outside of art making? How do they spill over into your artwork?
I’m an avid film viewer, and honestly, it doesn’t spill, it gushes over into my artwork. It’s actually difficult for me to not just do movie fan art all the time. It’s the same story with video games, really. I’d love to be able to make the intersection of film and illustration into a career somehow. My dream is to work with Mondo or one of the many other great places producing licensed poster art.
Where can people find/follow your work?
They can follow me at johndelucca.tumblr.com or @johndelucca on twitter.
Thanks a ton, John!