Dark Star: Sean Dietrich

By December 11, 2008 November 19th, 2016 Culture

We take a look at some of the artwork by one of the world’s most interesting artists and illustrators. Sean Dietrich has penned and designed work that is just as enthralling as it is unnerving including ‘Mess’ and ‘Fervor’ . He has recieved much critical acclaim from other artists including Jhonen Vasquez and Roman Dirge. Now, Sean talks to us about the inspiration and drive behind his weird and wonderful creations..

S] What kinds of films and other artists inspire your work

SD] Well, films inspire my work more so than other artists do. Pretty much anything David Lynch, Se7en from Fincher, Nightmare Before Christmas shows it’s face in my work from time to time, and anything old. Citizen Kane is my all time favorite movie, but a lot of the classics with Hepburn, Bogart, Cagney, and Mitchum carry a big influence in my art and writing. I use a lot of the classic ‘old guys in a bar drowning their sorrows, listening to the piano man while some gorgeous girl sings’ imagery in my books. As far as artists that have influenced me- I have been more influenced by musicians than artists – they have included Sam Kieth, Trent Reznor, Al Jourgensen, Ralph Steadman, Francis Bacon, and Gerald Scarfe.

S] You have fully embraced the digital age, and made your work available for download – do you think that the internet has helped you find more exposure since your work could be interpreted as niche?

SD] Yes, I do believe the internet has been critical in reaching a broader audience. Obviously this interview would probably not happen without the help of the internet. The downloads of books work well, especially for my fans and readers in the European market, and it has allowed me to not have to solely deal with Diamond for distribution to comic stores as my only means to get my art and books to the public. The internet especially helped when, as you said, my art was considered a niche – and in some ways still is – but much more so before I branched out into the realms of children’s books, concept art, and pin ups. When ‘Industriacide’ was the only art that the world knew me for, I had to make sure I was reaching as many people as possible, and that had to be on a global scale. As it turns out I have a better response to my artwork in Europe than I do in America, in the sense that the emails I’ve received the most passionate and kindest emails from England, Germany, Spain etc. It seems my style is very well received on the other side of the Atlantic, and I love it. Even my largest art dealer, Marc Mokken, is out of Amsterdam – all of this possible through the internet.

S] Where can UK fans get hold of your work at the moment?

SD] My books are available on my publisher’s website http://www.rorschachentertainment.com/, commissions and original artwork is available by emailing me at [email protected], and also my originals can be purchased through www.wizardsleevetoys.com. Also, as I mentioned previous, most of my comic art is owned my Marc Mokken, and is available through art and comic conventions in Europe. 

S] How will you be developing as an artist into 09, can you tell us about any new ideas or concepts you are working on, also do you plan to utilise multimedia methods in the future?

SD] Well, ’09 is looking very good so far. My new book the ‘Nazi and the Rabbit’ is in production right now.  The writer and one of my best friends, Richard A. Webster, is about halfway through writing the book, and I’m expected to start drawing it very soon. I’m also in talks right now with a major independent clothing company to put out a line of shirts, hats, hoddies and more, featuring my artwork.The live paintings will keep getting bigger and I plan on expanding out side of the San Diego area, perhaps a west coast tour.  I’m also going to be at the Seattle and San Diego Comic Cons. I do plan on utilizing some multimedia methods in the future. My buddy and I are working on a little live action with 3-D animation piece in honor of the five year anniversary of ‘Industriacide’ in ’09, and I’m working with a few college students on some film work. 

S] How is ‘The Nazi and The Rabbit’ coming along – you describe it as the ‘most fucked up thing you have worked on’ –  why is that?

SD] It looks like this book will be around 30,000 words when all is said and done – we are working on a novel/comic hybrid since he is a brilliant novelist and I wouldn’t want to limit his writing abilities to the confines of a standard comic book. So it will be similar to reading a novel as if it had an illustration, or comic short on each page. We will be playing around with format, design and other aspects, just making sure the pages itself look and feels like the destructive, booze and drug soaked feel of the book. As far as it being ‘the most fucked up book I’ve ever worked on’, it is! Simply put, the combination of the psychosis that Rich has come up with that has become this book, the characters themselves, and obviously the controversy I’m sure the title of the book and the logo will cause, definitely puts it into that category of the most fucked up book I’ve worked on.  I’m so excited about this project, though – I get emails on a weekly basis from Rich that just make me want to start drawing this book as soon as possible. 

S] You have said previously that you set music as the soundtrack to your work when you write and draw – what has been the soundtrack to your latest work and why?

SD] Yes, music has been the biggest influence on my artwork, and I do have certain ‘soundtracks’ depending on the mood, or subject matter of what I’m working on. Industrial, and associated genres, have been a huge influenced on my artwork and continue to be. With the WWII pin up girls and some of the latest pieces I’ve been working on, Funker Vogt has played a big part. I’m actually working on a series of paintings based off of a selection of their songs. The first will be based off of the song ‘Blind Rage’ from the album ‘Aviator’. I’ve also been listening to alot of VNV Nation and Combichrist, and I’m a sucker for the old stuff I was listening to when I was a teenager, such as Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, Pigface, KMFDM and Ruby. I also mix in a lot of the oldies such as Billie Holiday, Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, and the like.  Depending on what I am drawing, I will put on the appropriate music- other bands I have been listening to lately include Pink Floyd, Portishead, Coil, Sheep on Drugs, and Robert Johnson.

S] You have recieved attention from ‘alternative’ artists including Roman Dirge and Jhonen Vasquez – what has been some of the best feedback you have recieved from people within the media?

SD] One of the more memorable moments I’ve had as far as reviews, was when Steven Grant gave ‘Industriacide’ a good review on Comic Book Resources -he rarely gives a good review, and either he didn’t read it because it was 120 pages of heavy, dark, stream of conciousness writing and didn’t want to give it a bad review for fear that it might be genius, or he really did like it – who knows. I’ve also gotten reviews that have compared me to Ralph Steadman, Orson Welles, Hunter Thompson, and Tim Burton, which were flattering. Not necessarily in the media, but a nice compliment, I was at the San Diego Comic Con and a professor from UC Irvine came up to me, held my book ‘Mess’ up and said this is the best comic he’s read in years, and then proceeded to tell me that he uses it as a reference in his class on superheroes at the college – that was a huge compliment. 

S] We particularly love the ‘cyberpunk’ concept for Industriacide, can you describe an event in your personal life that gave you the inspiration to pen that title and similarly is there a particular character in your life that inspired ‘Fervor’?

SD] Sure, the character of Schmaltz is kind of an alter ego for me, a definite reflection of how I was feeling during the writing of ‘Industriacide’, and what I was going through in my life at that point. I was freshly moved out of my house at the ripe old age of 18 and was on the road, living around the U.S.The book reflects my post high school, teen angst bullshit, now it’s time to grow up, be a man and actually take this art thing to another level. Not only was I in that transition period that we all go through in our lives at that time, but I was wielding this incredible talent that had ruled my life until that point, and now it was looking at me going, ‘ok, I’ve done my part, now go out and spread your art to the world.’ I think any artist, writer and musician has a great burden and blessing when they decide to take on their talent and expose it to the world. It’s obviously very personal, and when you start to get the praise or rejection of the public you are trying to please you really do find out an incredible amount of who you really are. So, not only was ‘Industriacide’ the first book I wrote, and by making the main characters kids I wanted them to reflect the infancy of my career, but it was almost an account of my life on the streets of New Orleans and San Diego, where I lived when I wrote this. 

As far as ‘Fervor’ goes, that came about from the My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult album ‘Dirty Little Secrets-Music to Strip By’. I had put the album on and just did a stream of conciousness writing if you will, and that became the core of the book. From there I worked in the concept of the 500 lb girl actually being the good looking girl on the front cover, just only in her day dreams. My late friend Matt Lane and I, as well, were kicking around the idea of me putting out an anti vanity book in retaliation of those comic geeks who look at books like X-Men. as if they are a porno because of how they draw the women. So I thought ‘hey, why not put out a book that introduces a really good looking woman, and then hook the readers, and then pull the curtain back and make you realize that it’s all a dream and she is really this obese woman who is tortured with her weight problem, and the taunts and torment that goes along with it and how society treats those who look like that’.

S] What is the underlying theme in ‘Mess’, it has the potential to be pretty positive in meaning and impact?

SD] Well, as in any of my books, I love to make the main character a dissident of society, deformed in image, but strong of mind and heart – Vincent, the star of ‘Mess’ is no exception. The underlying theme is that you can get beaten down and you can have physical deformities etc, yet that’s no reason or excuse to not go out and do what you want to do in life. There’s never anything super deep, or profound about the concepts of my book, I just retell and re-introduce simple concepts that we as humans need to remember in a very fucked up way. Almost as if I’m saying ‘hey, you think you have problems – look at this person and how they have overcome, and yours don’t look so big anymore.’ ‘Mess’ was my attempt at bringing a book into the world that explored what I had to go through with my art career so far, in that I have just kept pushing forward since I was a very young boy and have kept going and have never given in to those who wished to deny me the path I wanted to take my talent on, nor those who never believed in me. It was definitely a big ‘fuck you’ to those who think that being an artist is just a hobby and only those with money and connections make it. I mean, hell, I look at those kids who have gone through art school and at the end of it all most are left with massive student loans, the creativity beaten out of them by a conformist art education entity, and a shit job that isn’t even in the art field. I feel sorry for those kids that went through that and didn’t have the support or guidance from someone to say ‘it’s ok if it feels wrong to have to go to art school – you don’t have to!”

S] Do you find painting is a release for you – can you tell us about the inspiration behind some of your favourite paintings – we were wondering about ‘Chained To My Mistakes’?

SD] Painting is a huge release for me, especially the live side. The comic work can get very tedious and being stuffed in my room all day drawing can get to me, so painting is a good way for me to let off steam, and explore some concepts that I don’t have to spend a lot of time on like with a book. My girlfriend, Zoey, is going to love that you pointed this one out, [laughs] the ‘Chained to My Mistakes’ painting was one I did when I pissed her off. I did something stupid and so I took relief from it through this painting. She lives in Germany and thus the German written on the big guy’s shirt. All is well now – I’m very lucky to have such a wonderful woman on my side, and we had a laugh at this painting when I did it. I’m also currently working on a pin-up girl series which I’ve had some requests for me to do, and have now finally had the time to. I’m a huge WWII buff, my grandfather always had war shows and movies on when I was really young and I loved to watch them with him – I guess it stuck! It’s weird, because much of the time I really don’t know what inspires me to do a painting until after it is done – then I sit back and can relate it to something in my life. Almost as if my imagination did the work for me and then let me in on what it was thinking. 

S] We know you took art courses but that you were self trained – was it harder than you expected originally to get your stuff out – you had a lot of knock-backs at first?

SD] Yes, my art ‘formal’ art training ended with high school. I had such a bad experience in high school art that no force on earth was going to put me through years of hell at an art college. I was so eager to get into the industry as well, that I didn’t want to wait – I wanted my ideas out there for the world to see, I didn’t have time to sit in a class room while some half-ass artist/teacher spoke to me for 45 minutes about the concept of lighting on a piece of fruit. The hardest part about getting my art out there was just knowing where to go. The internet helped with sites like Digital Webbing. that had a forum that would hook artists up with jobs. The San Diego Comic Con has been extremely valuable in my success – that is where most of my work has come from, and continues to come from. I didn’t suffer too many throw backs though, I knew I had talent, I knew I was different–though I was a niche–and I knew that I had to be careful, and that there was thousands of people competing, which is something you need to realize as an artist. I did go through some learning experiences as well, like getting fucked over by my first publisher, but those only made me stronger and more aggressive – not looking at the people that hire me as someone that I work FOR, but as companies that are LUCKY to have me. You really do have to have that attitude if you want to compete successfully in this industry. And most importantly, take care of your fans, and treat them with respect. They come to conventions all the time and want sketches and autographs, and I see some artists acting like total dicks to them – this is your job, get used to it and stop whining that you are signing autographs for people who shelled out good money for your art, or go home.

S] You also do live painting, something that is a very great skill – why do you put yourself under that pressure?

SD] I absolutely love live painting, and as of now, it’s the best part of my art career. I’ve been doing it for eight year, so there really is no pressure. I’ve worked out a pretty good system and I know what I can and cannot pull off in an certain amount of time. When I first started though, I was like ‘what the hell have I gotten in to?!’ at first it was nerve racking having hundreds and thousands of people watching you paint, but you get used to it. It’s one of the great joys of my life, being able to perform, and it’s only going to get bigger. 

S] You attend comic cons in the States, they are more rare here, but they do happen in Cities like Manchester and London, have you looked into any you would like to attend?

SD] I haven’t really looked into other conventions outside of the USA, but I would LOVE to get over to England and the rest of Europe and do some conventions. Like I said, my response from your side of the Atlantic has been wonderful, and I’ve made some really good friends over there. 

S] We want to ask, are there any plans to release Ernie the bear (from Industriacide) merchandise, we think it could be huge?

SD] [laughs] yes, I would love to do some merchandise for Ernie – he’s a character I’ve had since I was 13 years old and I think in the future he would be well served to have a plush toy or a figure. Nothing is planned yet, but it is on the back burner. If anyone out there wants to do something for him, please let me know, I’d be willing to talk. I am doing the 3-D short with him, but that is about it for now.

Check out more of Sean’s quirky and fantastic work HERE!

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