Artist Series 2023: Derek DeYoung

by Wagner Skis / Sep 30, 2022

Derek DeYoung was born in Northern Michigan, and grew up on a bayou near the shores of Lake Michigan.

It’s no wonder that fish were what captured his interest early on. He was never one for traditional school, which no doubt caused worry in his academic-oriented parents, but he always knew how to draw and paint fish—something that eventually became his vocation and career.

Derek DeYoung's 2023 Artist Series collection for Wagner Custom SkisDerek DeYoung's Artist Series Skis.

Colorful fish scales turned out to be an eye-catching graphic for skis, and DeYoung’s art first appeared on a pair of Wagners we built a few years ago. Now, we have a whole collection to offer. But this new series of skis will be available only until November of 2023, so if you want them, now is the time to order!

When we launched his original 2022 collection, we caught up with him at home in his studio to find out more about his art. Here’s what he had to say.

(Note: Ski images have been updated from the original article to reflect his 2023 collection.)

Artist Interview

Wagner: How did you first get interested in fish?
DeYoung: Growing up, there were all kinds of bass and bluegills and carp right everywhere in the bayou, and I just spent my entire childhood wandering around and fishing. Trespassing had no meaning to me. My earliest memories were begging my mom to take the rowboat out on my own.
"Rising Brown" by Derek DeYoung for Wagner Custom Skis
"Rising Brown" by Derek DeYoung for Wagner Custom Skis.

Wagner: Did you gravitate to art from a young age?
DeYoung: Art came naturally to me form the time I picked up my first crayon. Thank God, because nothing else came easy for me. I was always drawing. I would spend whole afternoons fully entertaining myself. I went straight to my sketch pads, and before you knew it most of my drawings were inspired by the fishing I was doing. I mean, there were also some ninjas and monsters and jets and cars…but mostly fish.

"Man in the Mountain" by Derek DeYoung for Wagner Custom Skis
"Man in the Mountain" by Derek DeYoung for Wagner Custom Skis

Wagner: What makes your paintings of fish so special?
DeYoung: Well, I equate art to poetry, and would you want to read a love poem by someone who’s never been in love? If you’re truly inspired by something, there are things that happen in your art that are beyond even what you meant to do. I immerse myself with being in the water and fishing. It’s home for me and all of my friends. I understood early on that I couldn’t sit on the sideline and do authentic work. 

"Brown Trout Flank" by Derek DeYoung for Wagner Custom Skis
"Brown Trout Flank" by Derek DeYoung for Wagner Custom Skis

Wagner: You mentioned that you grew up in a very academic family, but struggled in school. 
DeYoung: I do think it still resonates with both of my brothers about how I got it together. My brother would grab my homework do it all in less than five minutes and turn it in. That I even passed any test was a total shock. But the good news is that I don’t use that type of math in my business. My mom was very adamant that we get a good education, so art school didn’t seem like a viable option to her. But she also did understand that this was going be my way of life. 

"Teton Riser" by Derek DeYoung for Wagner Custom Skis
"Teton Riser" by Derek DeYoung for Wagner Custom Skis.

Wagner: What are you working on now?
DeYoung: Right now in my career I’m taking this conscious step toward getting the absolute best out of myself. I’m getting to that age where I’m realizing that all that I’ve worked for is right there on my lap right now. I’m just absolutely trying to focus on appreciating every day in the studio. Because, ultimately, I paint for myself, for the sole opportunity to do the best painting every single time. 

I need to be better than I am know. I need to keep shooting for the stars even if I hit the moon. That’s a really positive place to be in my life and in my career. I really do feel like there is a dynamic between God-given talent vs hard work and discipline. Every millimeter past that god given talent takes years of dedication to achieve. 

Instagram: @derek.deyoung

Custom Graphics? Yeah, we got those at Wagner Custom Skis