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Spotlight On: Illustrator Darell Fuentes

December 2015

By Valli Herman

If you’re a Costume Designer, who do you want to deliver your holiday presents? Sure, Santa Claus. But how about Edith Head?

That’s the idea behind the holiday card that illustrator Darell Fuentes, a new member of the Costume Designers Guild, created for the local chapter this year. In holiday red and her signature glasses and bangs, Head checks her watch as she and Santa Claus seem to strategize about how to deliver racks of costumes, bolts of fabric and colorful handbags.

“I wanted it to be a really fun card. It’s Edith Head guiding Santa Claus into an adventure so they can meet all the deadlines for all the costume designers all over the world,” said Fuentes, who signs his work with one of his five given names, Alfie.

He started the illustration as a line drawing, and inked over it with a fine-tip black ink pen. He put his digital skills into play by coloring the card in Photoshop.

“I was going for a softer aesthetic than I do in my usual work,” said Fuentes of his first-ever holiday card design.

Fuentes has built a diverse career since earning a BFA in illustration at California State University, Long Beach. His work has even ended up inked into tattoos. His illustrations have provided him with steady work as an independent contractor.

“Coming out of that program, I dove into freelance, doing storyboards and graphic arts for apparel for Tony Hawk and things like that,” he said. His portfolio also includes storyboards for a Motorola smart phone commercial, graphic design for Juicy Couture and concept pitches for television shows.

But soon, he heard the siren call of costume illustration.

“I went to Comic-Con and the CDG panel that had illustrators I knew from Long Beach State–Phillip Boutté Jr. and Brian Valenzuela. I thought it was really cool. Brian was showing his ‘Star Trek’ stuff.

“At Long Beach, they were in a class ahead of me. So I reached out to them via LinkedIn in for advice. I wanted to do what they did,” Fuentes said.

The university’s Robin Richesson, a veteran member of the illustration department faculty, also urged her students to pursue guild membership, said Boutté, who is the guild’s illustrator representative. Other guild member costume illustrators from the Long Beach program include Oksana Nedavniaya and Alan Villanueva.

Fuentes set about learning what he needed to do to make a career transition. His CDG connections showed him how to build a portfolio of costume illustrations and get supporting documents to apply for membership. “I don’t think I would be here now if it weren’t for Phillip and his advice. “I got in and I was ecstatic,” said Fuentes.

Fuentes says that guild membership has proved to be a rewarding experience.

“I love how kind everybody is. There is a bit of a family community. A lot of these people I don’t know, but they are open to sharing their experiences. I was sharing with them my techniques, too.”

His next step? Landing some costume illustration gigs. “I want to draw for the rest of my life,” he said. If you see a superhero illustration in the future with the signature “Alfie,” you’ll know he’s made it.

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