DARREL MILLSAP was born in Ontario, California, in 1931. His family soon moved to the small town of Soquel, California, where he spent his humble childhood with his parents and older sister. Darrel’s parents knew he had a talent at a very young age, when they saw him drawing incredible pencil sketches on his lunch bags as a child. They let him continue with his drawing freely while growing up. His Mother was an accomplished artist, however, she never pursued her passion and talent beyond doing simple paintings for the house.
Darrel went into the US Navy. Upon fulfilling his commitment, he was immediately accepted into the Art Center College of Design, where he graduated with a Commercial Illustration degree, in 1956. He moved to San Diego in 1957 and began working for Frye and Smith. He then branched out on his own with another budding illustrator, Robert Kinyon, forming Millsap and Kinyon Illustration. Upon the sad passing of Robert due to Cancer, Darrel created his own company, Darrel Millsap Illustration, where he blossomed as one of the most respected and popular San Diego illustrators between the 60’s and 80’s.
Darrel was commissioned by Home Federal Savings Bank to create some iconic cartoon posters for various cities around California. While his main medium was acrylic, he also created masterpieces in pencil, airbrush, water color and magic marker. Companies like Daiwa and Graffaloy commissioned Darrel’s work for their ads in educational books, ads, posters and magazines. Phillips Ramsey was one of the largest advertising agencies in San Diego during the 70’s and 80’s, and they commissioned Darrel’s work for some of their largest accounts, such as the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Wild Animal Park.
This work alone began years of an incredible relationship and ad campaign that contained great art, good humor and lots of buzz around the city. Darrel received close to 100 illustration awards during his career and his peers considered him to be one of the most diversified artists in San Diego. From air-brushing, to cartoons, and movies to books, he has done all of these professionally, and he didn’t get classified into a specific art style.
In Darrel’s later years, he began partnering with various book publishers that commissioned his work for book cover art. This became Darrel’s new “bread and butter” as an illustrator. His commissions ranged from Roadwork, as you see on this site, to other book series, such as “Casca”. Other later work of Darrel’s consists of a historical Mayan mural, which was digitally enlarged from his original and now resides in the San Diego Natural History Museum . While these commissions kept his wallet in the “black”, his true passion as a fine artist took a quiet back seat in the privacy of his own home. While he commissioned some personal works of art for close friends and family, his other fine are paintings and drawings lived in every room of his house, where only family and close friends knew they existed.
Darrel suffered a major stroke in 2003, where his painting days sadly ended. His wife of 49 years took the utmost care of Darrel, tending to his Diabetes and 24/7 care needs, until she passed of Ovarian Cancer in 2008. Darrel was taken care of by his two children until his passing in 2012. His legacy happily lives on in both of his children’s homes today, with his fine art warming the rooms of their homes.
His son graduated from Art Center, with a degree in Transportation Design, where he is a Master Clay Modeler for Nissan North America. His daughter obtained an Architectural Degree from Cal Poly, Pomona, where she branched into interior Space Planning and Design for years. Their lives growing up were filled with memories of painting on easels in their backyard, watching their Father paint in his home studio, the smell of fresh acrylic paint down the hall way and years of asking “dad” questions about what he was painting and who he was painting it for.