As I said yesterday, I first met Derek Toomes through an introduction by Mat Curran on a First Friday walk back in 2007. The local celebrity that Mat was, it was hard to go from gallery to gallery without him getting caught up in conversation. That left Derek and I often to our own devices between stops. I didn’t know it then, but that would be how I would get to know one of my best friends.
Side note: It’s ironic that today Derek is the local art scene celebrity and I can’t walk the street with him anymore without getting caught up. Nonetheless, I’m happy for him, his success and the following he has been able to build over the years.
While his signature long red beard may make his outward appearance somewhat tough, deep down Derek is one of the funniest, nicest and kindest people I have ever met. He has a huge heart. For instance, Derek has taught several art classes for children and at risk youth at local Raleigh schools and through local art programs. He also was one of the artists who helped with the VAE grant murals in City Market outside of ArtSpace and he’s taught screen printing and mixed-media workshops.
But more than that, Derek is one of those loyal friends you know you will always be there whenever you need. No matter how big or hectic his schedule is, you can always count on him. He has helped out so many people in Raleigh beyond just me. He’s done a lot for local businesses, galleries, non-profit organizations and the arts community.
Beyond this though, Derek’s work is inspiring in and of itself. It combines mixed media collage with pieces of graffiti, hand-lettering, technical drawing and latino art. He has an incredible attention to detail that allows him to convey a depth that brings more life to the stories he is telling.
While Derek’s work can regularly be seen at Flanders Art Gallery, he’s exhibited at NC Art Museum, CAM, ArtSpace, VAE and SECCA to name a few. He and Mat Curran also created the downtown Durham mural you can see at the top of this post. Unfortunately, that building was torn down not too long ago so that mural is no longer with us. But you can still see the mural Derek completed for the American Underground’s Raleigh office on Fayetteville Street.
Below is a small sampling of Derek’s work over the years. It has been a pleasure seeing it evolve over the years and I can’t wait to see what Derek does next.
He is an inspiration to me as an artist, a person and a friend.