#Captain’sQuarters: Darker Days Illustration

It’s been a while since we’ve put up an interview, or a post for that matter (whoops), so we decided to get back on track and present you all with an interview of the very talented and super cool dude behind Darker Days Illustration.

Within one year of starting his illustration series, Michigan’s own Josh Snitgen was able to give college the finger and focus full-time on what he loves; art. So, we were fortunate enough to get Josh onboard and pick his brain about his work, his influences, Detroit’s renaissance and more. If you didn’t know about Darker Days, then we hope you’ll become a fan after this and join the some 90K folks on Instagram who dig it.

Let’s get it on!

 Your first post on March 25, 2016, is a little different from what your fans know and love today, but the brand identity is still very much there. What inspired you to kick it into high gear and start dabbling in the dark arts?

 I’ve always thought of art as a hobby of mine growing up. I started bringing a sketchbook with me everywhere I went towards the end of high school, and the habit stuck with me once I started going to college, too. My art before Darker Days was just words or phrases that filled most of the page, and I’d add a bunch of abstract/trippy colors around them. Two years ago I was having one of the worst times of my life. I was working a dead end job, dating a girl who was no good for me, and I had lost a few people I was extremely close with.

I started my Darker Days Instagram account towards the end of that year in hopes that it would distract me or help me focus on what I really wanted out of life, which is to do what I love for a living. I saw a bunch of other dark artists on the social media platform with the same idea in mind and they inspired me to try and do the same.

 Right on. So, Detroit gets a bad rep, but we’re starting to see an art and tech renaissance happening over there. As a motor city native, what have you seen that’s attributed to this and what’s it like being part of this revival?

 I moved to downtown Detroit with a couple friends in February of this year. It was definitely a change of scenery from the suburbia I was accustomed to most of my life, but I’m happy I got to experience this change and explore more of what this city has to offer. Aside from all the really cool murals and graffiti on the buildings down here, there are also plenty of art installations, museums, and galleries that have found a home in this city. Detroit does get a bad rep and some people have justified reasons to think that way, but from my perspective it’s really not as bad as it sounds.

Every place has its pros and cons, as long as the residents of Detroit keep striving for a better environment, the city will continue to grow. Maybe one day we’ll even see it thriving the way it used to again!

 What do you do in your spare time that fans of your work might not expect just based on your art?

 A lot of my following probably think I lead this really fun lifestyle with loads of friends, partying, and sex. Contrary to popular belief, not every “big” IG artist has an exciting life. When your hobby turns into a full time job, it’s really difficult to figure out what to fill my free time with. I don’t have many close friends, parties make me uncomfortable and my fiancé currently lives in Austria, so sex is put on hold until she comes back to visit for the holidays coming up haha. I’m just a perverted introvert who enjoys smoking a bowl and watching Twilight Zone before bed, then the workday starts all over again!

 Finding your own voice and style as a creative can often be one of the hardest things to do. What was this process like for you, and what advice would you give to artists, aspiring or established, who struggle with finding their niche?

 Finding my own voice was a little easier compared to other artists since I like to include little quotes in most of my work. I feel like it helps guide the viewers towards the point I’m trying to get across. Finding my own style was a little more difficult. Like I had mentioned before, most of my previous work was filled with bright colors and abstract nonsense. So Darker Days was a huge change for me when I started drawing the human figure and skulls, I just practiced everyday to familiarize myself with the human anatomy. There are plenty of other dark artists out there making reaper/skeleton art. The way I separated myself from them was by using different colors in my work, using a different shading technique, touching up on different subject matter or referencing different movies or songs that meant something to me.

The best advice I can give others is to make art for no one but yourself. If it makes you happy, great things can blossom from commitment, practice, and a strong will to keep improving. No one should expect to post up a couple different drawings and expect to blow up over night, everything takes time!

 I see a lot of historical art references across your work, and on occasion your style and collaborations seem to pay homage to the greats of the past. The Death tarot card has a real Rembrandt feel to it, for example. Who are your favorite historical artists and what have you taken away from their work that influences your pieces now?

 The Death tarot card was definitely a reimagined version of Gustave Doré’s reaper pieces. He had such an amazing talent for detail and line work. I’d like to think of him as one of the OG’s of the dark arts haha. I’m also really inspired by pulp art, too. The dramatic poses and vintage feel of it all is very appealing to me. One of my favorite pulp artists is probably Alessandro Biffignandi, who actually just recently passed away this year. He was an Italian illustrator who specialized in horror pulp art. He made a lot of covers for graphic novels from scary stories to fictional erotica.

I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to draw that type of material in the 50’s without getting criticized all the time. It’s people like him that I find really inspiring because he stuck with what he was passionate about and made a very decent living off of it before anyone else would even think about combining horror with erotica the way he did.

 Who are your favorite contemporary artists, and what are some of your favorite IG accounts to follow for inspiration?

 Some of favorite IG artists as of now are dvrkshines, junkyardchicago, godsteethillustration, scoobtoobins, sam_heimer, behemot_crta_stvari, broken_isnt_bad, m_r92, seaofdoom, cvspe, earth_to_monica, chloeleesays, glambeckett, animvs_, fourfires, kingkollo, and porous_walker. The list could go even longer than that, but those are just a few accounts that I find really inspiring and unique.

I’ve also made friends with most of these artists and it makes the social media experience so much more fun when you get to work with other artists and shoot the shit with them on a daily basis. The IG community for the dark arts is just filled with talent and support for one another other and I think it’s so important that we all connect with each other and work as a team instead of looking at it in a competitive aspect.

 On July 18, 2016, you hit nearly 400 likes on this post — by far your most successful in terms of impressions at that time. Did that flip a switch in your head to let you know that you found the right formula for your work, or did you approach the success a different way?


 I don’t think there was one particular post that gave me guidance. I’d say it was just a lot of trial and error with different quotes and designs. It’s really hard to not let the amount of likes or comments influence what you should and shouldn’t do. Worrying about numbers will only drive you crazy and make you second guess yourself or your work. At the end of the day, it’s better to just draw what makes you happy and hope that others will connect with the piece the same way you do.

 You’ve doubled your followers since April of this year — what do you attribute that solid growth to, and , more importantly, how incredible is it as an artist to see such a steady increase in fans and engagement?

 I attribute the solid growth to my stubbornness and dedication to keep improving and making something new everyday if I can. I also have to thank the supportive followers who actually take the time to give me credit when they repost my work. I never expected my art to blow up like it has in this past year. It’s still very surreal to me and I try to stay as humble as possible about the situation in its entirety.

I know I’m extremely fortunate to get to do what I love for a living, especially being an artist in this day and age. I always try to respond to fans within a 24-hour period and make sure I thank them when they purchase anything from me or show any other kind of support in general. I know I’m just a little spec in the universe of IG art and I don’t want to let any fame go to my head. There are plenty of artists out there with way more talent than myself that deserve just as much exposure as my work gets!

 Every artist has a different creative process, tell us a bit about yours and what you do to get the juices flowing.

 My creative process is kind of all over the place. I’ll get inspired by listening to music, watching something on tv, or just having random conversations with friends. When I hear a particular phrase or lyric that I like, I quickly write it down in my drawing ideas list on my phone. Organization can be key to success. I work much better when I have a list of solid ideas in front of me then when I’m just winging it. References are also very helpful for someone like me who is still learning how to draw body parts.

Google image search and the like are very helpful tools when it comes to looking for a specific theme, subject, or pose that I’d like to try and tackle. I’d say overall life experiences, (good or bad) are the things that get me the most inspired because without them, my art wouldn’t have as much feeling for others to connect with.

 If you find yourself in a bit of a creative slump, what do you do to break out of it?

 It’s a toss up. Sometimes I will just revisit older work I think I could improve on, I don’t like to pretend that every piece I’ve already made is perfect! I might also go searching for references or listen to music to help inspire something new. I think one of the best things I can do for myself when I’m in a creative block is to just take a step back and enjoy some down time to rest my brain from exploding haha. After a day or two, I’m always anxious to get back on the grind.

 Your art allowed you to give college the finger and start creating full-time. That’s a dream come true for most people in the creative world. How did you go about realizing that and what has the journey been like? What have you learned along the way?

 I started attending college full-time for graphic design right after graduating high school. The college I went to wanted to focus more on the digital aspect of art and advertising instead of the traditional methods of drawing on paper or using different kinds of mediums. I think that’s mainly what bummed me out the most. I’ve always loved mixing both digital and traditional methods to make my art feel more unique. After I got my Associates Degree I took a year or two off. Then I decided to go back for my Bachelors Degree. I only needed a few more classes to finish it off but I was too focused on taking my art in a different direction to care about a piece of paper that basically implies, “I know what I’m doing.”

Looking back on it, I definitely don’t regret dropping out. I’m not saying college is completely useless all together, there are some professions that definitely need that kind of schooling but I don’t think art is necessarily one of them. Now we have all of these different social medias we can use as tools to help gain the exposure we want for our work and I think artists should focus on trying to be successful on their own before they immediately jump right into college, expecting it to pay off right away. There’s nothing worse than being a starving artist with a degree and nothing to show for it besides debt.

 Hah yeah, student loans are the pits. Which piece is your personal favorite (I know you love the “just the tip” one), and which means the absolute most to you?

 It’s really hard to pick a personal favorite! I think the design I’m most fond of right now would probably be the “Die Young & Save Yourself” piece I made recently, which is kind of a giveaway since I made it my new profile photo for my account. The piece that means a lot to me is probably the “Life’s Not Always Shitty” design. I like that one a lot because of the positive message it portrays when people see it. I know a lot of dark artists probably think that everything they make has to be doom & gloom all the time but from my experience, you can still be a dark artist and portray a positive message or utilize color without it loosing that ominous flare.

 How many members of the Darker Days tattoo club are there right now, and how stoked are you to be the leader of a mini legion of doom haha!

 Oh man, I never even bothered to keep track. It’s very flattering to see how far my art has spread onto people’s skin all over the world. One of the most repetitive questions all artists get in our DM’s is “can I get one of your designs tattooed?” Now, don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate that people ask before doing so, but I can only answer yes to that question so many times before I give up and just stop responding to the requests. Half the people that ask either never get it done, or go get a shitty version of it in their friend’s basement haha. I mention in my “About Me” page of my website and in past posts that I don’t mind people getting my work tatted but with so many new people finding me everyday, I guess people don’t want to look around for answers, they’d rather just ask me personally.

Hopefully I don’t sound ungrateful, it’s a huge honor to have my work on someone else’s skin for life. It just gets overwhelming because I’m only one person running an entire business by myself with hundreds of comments, emails, and direct messages to try and respond to on a daily basis. I grant everyone permission for two reasons, the first being that I’m not stupid. I know that people will go get tattoos whether I want them to or not. Moral compasses are becoming a thing of the past, which is sad but true. The second reason is that I’m hoping that by granting permission, less people will try to hide it from me and maybe I’ll actually receive of couple of photos of a job well done!

 Haha fair enough. What can we expect to see from you next? Will you be trying out different forms of art or are you content to hone your craft in ink and digital?

 The funny thing is, I don’t think about the long term very much yet. Since quitting my day job in February, I feel like I try to just focus on one day at a time instead of looking at the big picture. The main reason being that I never thought I’d even get through this first year all on my own haha. Trying to establish Darker Days as a legit business had many hurdles in itself. People might think making/selling art from your home is a very cushy gig but let me assure you it is anything but easy. I had to find health insurance, establish my business as an LLC, apply for a tax ID number, get a separate bank account for the business, and figure out how to go about paying taxes to the government.

All of this needed to be done almost immediately after quitting my job but it took me almost up until this last month to get it all finalized. While that process was going on, I also had to try and file paperwork for my fiancé so she can come move over here with me permanently. Juggling all of that while I try my best to make, sell, and ship out my art was very daunting and discouraging at times, but I’m very happy to say I think this first year has been a great learning experience for me and I’ve definitely done more adulting now then I ever have in my entire life haha. It feels good to look back and see how far I’ve come and I hope to inspire others to try and do the same because working for yourself is in the end is its own kind of special reward.

 If you were the human to make first contact with aliens, how would it (ideally) go down?

 I would hope that if they wanted to probe me, they’d at least take me out to dinner first. But we don’t live in a perfect world haha

 Hawaiian Punch or Kool Aid?

 I gotta go with Kool Aid! I grew up on that stuff as a kid. Hawaiian Punch is okay too, but I feel like it has even more sugar in it. As soon as I take the first sip, I immediately feel this grimy film on my teeth and mouth that makes me question why I even bothered in the first place haha

 Batman or Sherlock Holmes?

 I think my followers know that I’d pick Batman over anyone else in a heartbeat haha. I grew up watching the animated series in the ’90s and have been a committed fan ever since! Sherlock Holmes does have a different allure to him, though. I’ve always been interested in anything vintage, including stories or movies themed in the past. I guess I like Batman more because he’s just like Sherlock when it comes to being a detective except he gets the benefit of running around in the shadows and being a mysterious creep haha.

And there you have it, folks! Hopefully now you’ve got a sense for where Josh’s art comes from, and if you weren’t a fan before we hope you are now.

Remember to keep up to date with all of Josh’s work on his Instagram @DarkerDaysIllustration and on his website, where you can buy prints, original illustrations and apparel.

Massive thanks to Josh for taking the time to chat with us, and stay tuned for the next edition of the Captain’s Quarters!

[Featured Image courtesy of Darker Days Illustration]

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