Driftwood Journey: An Interview with Vincent DiGerlando

Every individual artist has a special and unique voice, leaving their own distinct stamp on the creations that they bring into this world. Vincent DiGerlando is such an artist. His career has been a winding path that has brought him from working with the likes of the band Kiss, to creating commemorative coins in honor of George Washington, to the beautiful driftwood signs he is locally famous for at the Jersey Shore. In speaking with and getting to know him, every thing he’s ever done has come from that special place reserved in the heart of an artist, that well of creativity from which their work springs forth until—overflowing—it is bestowed upon the rest of us. It is my great pleasure to introduce you to Vincent DiGerlando.

1. I would love to know where you grew up and how you came to become a professional artist.

I grew up in Newark, NJ, the second child with an older brother and younger sister; children from a psychic mother and Italian immigrant father. My mother was creative but most of my early inspiration to become an artist came from an uncle who amazed me by being able to draw a likeness of my grandmother, as well as sculpt a bust of me as a young boy. I was later encouraged by my art teacher in grammar school; and was accepted into Arts High School in Newark during my teen years. It was then and there that I told my career counselor that I was interested in becoming a commercial artist.

At Arts High, my art teacher helped me prepare the portfolio I needed for an interview to apply to Pratt Institute for my BFA in visual communication, which was the beginning of pursuing my ambition to become a professional in the art field. Before serving some time in the military, I was hired as an assistant art director for a small lighting firm in New Jersey and I began my career in advertising design.

My next job was with a graphic design studio as an assistant art director for the Boy’s Life, Scouting, and Forward magazines, as well as designing promotional brochures for the Medallic Art Company that cast the medallion honoring the first landing on the moon. Years later, I was hired as an art director by an advertising agency and detail that and other job experiences in one of your later questions.

Although advertising and graphic design were my initial career objectives, I chose the art of photography for a need to express my more personal creativity, resulting in having gallery showings as well as the publishing of three books titled Mind Visions, Conceptual Reality and Collective Portraiture. Art Is My Life is the title of my last book which is all encompassing of my personal artwork as well as my professional designs.

2. You’re renowned in the area for your beautiful driftwood signs. When did you first get the idea? Why do you feel they are special?

Years after leaving the corporate world and working as a freelance designer, I moved down to the Jersey Shore to live a more simple artist’s life. It was then that I got the idea of creating what I call “word paintings.” I painted words of inspiration on driftwood as a way of using words not only for their meaning but also as works of art. Not to be considered a sign to direct or inform, but a painting with a spiritual energy, to create a feeling, an emotion—artwork that one could live with for inspiration, or to give moral support or to generate a mood. The wood surfaces cause the painted words to take an irregular form and the shape of the wood also adds to the uniqueness of each piece. I use cans of “mistake” paint, which is sort of a way of recycling.

I began selling the paintings at craft shows and in downtown NYC. People looked for my word paintings at shows, and some had stories of how the word paintings gave them mental calmness and moral support during times of stress or duress in their lives. Although the sales added income to my simple lifestyle, to me the experiences described were more rewarding and had more depth than the money earned.

It’s all about the energy. The driftwood experienced a journey and contains all the energies from that voyage. I believe infused within are the energies of the 4 elements: earth, water, fire and air. The wood once part of a tree (earth) and then washed out to sea (water) soon finding it’s way to the sands of the Jersey Shore where dried by the heat of the sun (fire) and the warm winds (air). Add the power of the word painted on it and you might feel the vibrations. Maybe you heard of Dr. Emoto’s experiment where he tested the consciousness of water when he exposed water to many things including words to find how various influences created beautiful or chaotic water crystallization.

I believe the same happens to the driftwood. Although it is made up of a more dense matter compared to water, I believe the driftwood as well as the person living with the word art, are positively affected, guided or influenced by whatever word is painted on it. Some words are even brushed with the waters from the sacred Ganges River of India which brings yet another dimension into play.

3. I’d love to know more about your involvement with the band Kiss, as well the other work you’ve done in marketing and branding.

During my time when hired by Howard Marks Advertising, I got to work on projects for Diana Ross, Paul McCartney’s Wings as well as the band Kiss. Having to do with promoting Kiss, I designed the fan club’s well known Kiss Army logo as well as three albums and some of their tour books. At the time working with Kiss was more like solving design problems never thinking that after 40 years plus of their popularity that my work would become collectables. Speaking of collectables, while at the agency I enjoyed designing silver ingots for client The Silvermint. They included American Patriots, Great Fortunes, a George Washington series, Chinese Zodiacs and Great Indian Chiefs.

After leaving the agency I worked as a freelance designer for Random House publishers on book promotions for Jim Morrison and The Doors, Ken Burn’s Civil War series as well as other projects. It was all very exciting and challenging that destiny put me in these places with the opportunity to create.

4. Tell me about your other passion—yoga—and how you help people who are struggling with multiple sclerosis.

I was introduced to yoga at the age of twenty eight by a popular book at the time titled Be Here Now. It contained yoga poses, recipes for healthy meals as well as a positive philosophy for living. In 1998, I was reintroduced to the discipline, practiced more regularly, and began leading classes. I inherited the MS yoga group from the previous teacher and have been doing it for about 10 years. Those who choose to come seem to enjoy the benefits and I feel a sense of pleasure in that I am making somewhat of a difference in their health and their lives.

5. If you had one piece of advice for aspiring artists, what would it be?

I would advise him or her to be aware of and open to your inner Self, your surroundings, as well as be mindful of how your creative process takes place, because I believe artists are instruments or conduits through which the Spirit of creative energies flow. Another important factor is to allow the Self to be relaxed and playful during the time void of inspiration, and to honor that nothingness which is the source from which ideas give birth. And last but not least, let the mind wander in the field of imagination.

6. Can you tell me why you think art is such an important component to one’s own individual life as well as to society as a whole?

Art is a means of expression. A procedure for one to communicate feelings about many subjects, from personal experiences to opinions about life in general. First comes the inspiration followed by the creative energy that motivates the artist to work the project as the innate life force flows through. I sometimes look at a finished piece wondering about the Spirit that guided me to the end result, feeling like it was a surreal religious experience.

Art is way of bringing to society a lightness of being, and a point of view that might open another’s mind set to a variety of new ways of seeing. It can also be a form of therapy for the artist as well as the viewer to bring about an understanding of the Self.

7. Anything new and exciting coming up that your fans can look forward to?

The title of my last book best describes that “Art Is My Life” so I see no separation between myself, my ability and the craft. I am aware of when my mind is exploring and when it is in a passive state. I look around and seek inspiration in people and my surroundings; finding emotional states to be the most inspiring. Romantic situations or the end of relationships along with the traumas as well as the high points all become nourishment for the creative mind.

The creativity usually doesn’t begin until I make a sandwich, organize my brushes or talk on the phone, examples of ways of distraction until the senses decide it is time to embark on what you describe as being the next “new and exciting.” Whatever it might be, it will incorporate fun, pleasure, and sometimes a surreal mystery in the end results.

In closing this interview, I want to express my gratitude to whatever vital force or source, be it in the form of Qi, an innate Life Force, God or Higher Self that placed me in such a life that allows my creative energies to flow through me into my photographic art, my paintings and designs, and that allows my artistic imagination to take flight, for this

I am grateful.

While summer is in full swing, it’s a perfect time to pick up your own special sign from Mr. DiGerlando.

You can purchase Mr. DiGerlando’s lovely artwork at his etsy shop here.