Superheroes by Derek Rodenbeck
“If you really want something and you focus on it, truly believe in it, and want it to happen…you can have it!”
Derek Rodenbeck now works as comic book artist, but his path to success hasn’t always been easy. Along the way, he’s failed art at school, spent time in the military, and put his own health at risk (not to mention driving ridiculous distances) just to get to art college. In this podcast, he tells us why all those hard times only make the good times taste even sweeter!
As a kid, Derek would tear pages out of his favorite comic books and copy them. “They were all variations on Wolverine”, he jokes, but at this stage in his life, art was the one thing young Derek loved to do.
Then life happened. He was the kind of kid who couldn’t sit still in class for longer than five seconds and was easily distracted. Art lessons took place during first period at the public school he attended, and his short attention span wasn’t a good match for this early start. Amazing as it sounds now, he ended up failing his favorite subject.
As he got older, Derek drifted further away from his first love. He joined the military and was deployed to a wide range of countries. And, ironically, it was during this time that he re-discovered his love of art and started to use every minute of his spare time to learn more about it. He began studying art, drawing as much as he could and reaching out to fellow artists online. Then, one day, he made a connection that would change the path of his life forever.
His new online buddy was no less than comic book writer, J.T. Krul – famous for his work on Aspen MLT‘s popular Fathom series. He offered Derek the support and guidance he needed to finally start doing what he loved – making art.
Derek’s Decision To Become a Comic Book Artist
When Derek eventually left the military and returned home from overseas, his mind was made up. He went to community art classes first, before eventually applying to and being accepted for The Kubert School in Dover, New Jersey. There was just one issue. Getting to art school involved driving for more than five hours every day!
His first year was tough, to say the least. Getting up at 2.45am to drive from Pennsylvania, attend 10 classes a week, and then come home to five hours of assignments took their toll on Derek’s health. He was out of shape, not eating properly, and would eventually have to go to hospital as a result.
Thankfully, when he entered his second year, things started to improve. He found an apartment much closer to art school, and Marvel and DC legend, Mark McKenna, took him under his wing as mentor. Derek was still playing catch-up, but by his third year, everything began to fall into place and he was even offered some professional work as a comic book artist.
Why Networking Works For Artists
Although he says he’s still looking for that one huge, illustrious project that will make his name, Derek is certain he chose the right path. He’s now a master of networking, but he’s had to work hard to overcome his natural shyness and have the confidence to approach fellow artists at conventions.
He’s also become something of a role model for anyone who wants to improve their fitness and physique. Still feeling out of shape from his first year at college, he took up bodybuilding in October 2013 under the watchful eye of a close friend and flatmate. After training together for a while, Derek’s friend suggested he enter a competition. Derek agreed, and with typical enthusiasm, put everything he had into it. For the second time in his life, all Derek’s hard work paid off. He not only won the competition, he also walked away with a pro card!
Interestingly, Derek says bodybuilding has actually helped him become a better artist. He started reading books on philosophy and psychology and found the right balance between art and his other interests.
How has he gone from losing his way to doing what he loves as a career? In Derek’s own words: “If you really want something and you focus on it, truly believe in it, and want it to happen…you can have it!”
Listen to this week’s show and learn:
- Why it’s never too late to follow your dreams
- Why putting yourself outside of your comfort zone can help you develop
- How to strike the right balance between art and your other interests
People on this Episode:
Mentioned in the episode:
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