He’s regularly recognized by a different moniker, but CRAIG “DARCEL” REDMAN isn’t disappointed at all. The prolific artist turned his cynic character into a celebrity, a brand, and an icon in the art and fashion communities. Jealous? Just do as he did, and take it one day at a time.
“My literary skills are terrible, so I thought [Darcel Disappoints] should probably be an illustrated blog.”
Meet Darcel. Wink, don’t blink, or else you might miss him. He lives in a virtual Empire State of mind, documenting observations, encounters, and Big Apple bloopers on his blog, Darcel Disappoints. He keeps his critical eye on the quirky deets of the daily grind while his paranthesis-stick hand is placed firmly on the cultural pulse. He wears wooden frames always and frowns even on Fridays. He boozes at his workplace and sulks in posh cafés. There’s always something sarcastic to say when he’s around, whether it’s at a Fever Ray concert, a Motor City bathroom, or Paris Fashion Week.
Meet Craig Redman, the flesh and blood behind Darcel’s pixels and vectors. “I started the blog as a means of keeping track of my thoughts and observations when I first moved to New York,” he begins. “My literary skills are terrible, so I thought it should probably be an illustrated blog.” It’s no ordinary blog, though. It’s a self-curated, self-illustrated semi-autobiography online—the lovechild of Twitter, Instagram, and Craig’s personality, which is unexpectedly soundtracked by Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine. “I like bright, shiny, colorful art and dreary, depressing music. Kind of sums up the ridiculousness of Darcel perfectly!”
The artist considers moments of boon, bane, and boredom equal game for Darcelification, musing on everything from Lichtenstein at the Gagosian to Facebook tagging, alleyway-pissing, and rolling with life’s punches. As Craig explains, though the monocled avatar is definitely him, Darcel tends to dramatize. “I’m an inherently cynical person, unfortunately,” he confesses, “Particularly with Darcel, that comes through in the content of my work. On the surface, though, there is a vibrant optimism through the colors and the simplistic shapes; it’s a strange and perplexing juxtaposition.”
“I’m an inherently cynical person, unfortunately…Particularly with Darcel, that comes through in the content of my work. On the surface, though, there is a vibrant optimism through the colors and the simplistic shapes; it’s a strange and perplexing juxtaposition.”
It’s also a theme that comes out in his other work. Way back, before Darcel and internet cult status, Craig was just another talented Aussie artist/student knocking back beers with fellow artists/students (Karl, Adrian, Rilla, and Steve, to be specific) in Brisbane’s Queensland College of Art. The five eventually became the Rinzen collective, dedicated to the weird, wired, and wonderful world of melting ice cream cone cuties, CMYK-fied objects, and enough type to write a novel.
After uni, Craig moved from Australia to New York, where his dreams were made, oh. There was nothing he couldn’t do. Frequenting galleries, greasy Chinatown takeout spots, and the Chelsea neighborhood, Craig found his ultimate muse in Lady Liberty. At the same time, he admits, “If you don’t have the drive and hunger, then you can quickly get crushed here. It can be a struggle, but if its the thing you really love, then you probably don’t know how to do anything else anyway.”
Although the Rinzen group eventually grew apart to focus on establishing individuality, Craig stayed besties with fellow Rinzen and teenage classmate, Karl. Now, the duo compose Craig & Karl, a geographically-challenged collabo, considering Karl is in London. Craig shrugs, “As brutal as New York is, at least it forces you to figure out whether you’ve got the stamina to succeed or not… just keep doing it whether you’re in New York or Buenos Aires.”
“As brutal as New York is, at least it forces you to figure out whether you’ve got the stamina to succeed or not…”
The Craig & Karl arrangement works for them over daily Skype conversations. The proof is in the laundry list; the two have designed for umbrellas, Google, bags, The New York Times, restaurants, LVMH, galleries, Vogue, boutiques, Nike, and even for charity. Pure energy bursts out of the pair’s art, manifesting in bold projects such as painting a room floor-to-ceiling in a prism of hues or simpler endeavors as a 7th dimensional rave poster.
On his own, however, Craig is an unstoppable force himself. His portrait series of mish-mashed patterns (from polka dots to grid checks and graffiti) bagged him a gig with Turkish Airlines. He’s worked several times with Colette—once on a series of Darcel lighters enumerating the ways life sucks and, more recently, on a series of 150 Darcelized portraits of icons ranging from Björk to Rihanna, Bill Cunningham to Suzy Menkes, culminating in a feast for all eyes. His fondness for type experimentation has produced gems such as psychedelic drippy rainbow text, snap-to-grid found-item treasures, and trippy dream font. Considering all that, please stop calling Craig out for looking weary all the time. Instead, raise a glass and pat him on the back (especially once he’s over the toilet, vomiting.)
“The art world doesn’t like you doing design, but the design world loves it when you do art.”
It’s difficult to pin him down to a certain style, with the gamut his creativity runs. When prompted, though, Craig articulates, “The idea is more important than the process. I mostly get inspiration from the world around me. It could be some crazily dressed homeless person on the tube in London or some mega exhibition in New York that triggers a thought process that eventually leads to a new interesting outcome. It’s a matter of constantly being aware of your surroundings and taking snippets of lots of different things that you can Frankenstein together into a big new idea.” The answer hits the nail on the head: evil genius Craig Redman has created monsters out of the mundane. The designer is first to admit he’ll obsess over The Real Housewives of Atlanta as soon as he’ll get nerdy over Yayoi Kusama.
“The art world doesn’t like you doing design, but the design world loves it when you do art,” he talks about some of the industry’s challenges and complexities. Thankfully, he gets “just as much pleasure from doing an ad campaign as I do from putting together an exhibition, so I guess it’s just a matter of having a manageable balance between the two,” referring to managing work for both Craig & Karl as well as Darcel Disappoints.
Natural progression suggests Craig should be launching his own empire soon, but he’s too comfortable dominating his personal HOV lane for now. “Maybe one day,” he considers. “In general, I find producing my own product to be a total pain in the ass, which is why I like collaborating with brands that are much more experienced and better at doing that stuff than I am.”
This don’t-fix-what-ain’t-broke attitude keeps Craig from going broke. In spite of all the hustle he puts out and the ton of bustle he has to get done (for Colette, Opening Ceremony, the Olympics, Sephora, exhibits, et al), Craig is unsurprisingly composed, even moreso than his online counterpart. When asked what selling out means, he offers a quick, refreshing reply: “Success!”
Story by Giano D. Dionisio