Artist Q&A: Dean Christie

The beauty of art is not just in the statement it makes, but also in the limitless forms it can manifest itself. How even in adulthood that our experiences as a youth still inspire and drive us towards our passions. The artist conundrum of today seems deeply rooted in the balance of creation vs exposure. To exist in the realm of creative expression is not easy. What’s even harder is to exist in this realm while striving to make a living in that space. Dean Christie (The Deanist) is someone I think is a great representation of our times. The artist in the purist form. Trying to balance artistic integrity and marketability. In these times of double taps and swiping left or right its often a challenge to find your target audience. Dean Christie has definitely found his niche and in doing so I think is closer than most at finding that audience.

Dean Christie has somehow found a way to blend a wide array of colors in specific geometric patterns that come together in an aesthetically pleasing way. This attention to meticulous detail has not been lost on his mass produced lapel pins, which are unique and vividly eye catching. There’s always that appeal in work when a artist takes something familiar and spins it into a piece unique to the artist and his/her individuality. It’s a very human thing to be drawn to the familiar. Its also very human to seek originality as well. Dean Christie‘s work is that balance. Let’s call it individual familiarity. I like that, but lets get to his perspective. We hope you draw as much inspiration from his insights as we did.

How did you develop your technique?

It all started when I was a kid. I used to make these pencil drawings of animal heads and human faces and inside them create playful free-form patterns. I subsequently forgot all about these sketches and in adulthood I did stencil / spray painting and created miniature military sculptures out of insects to some success. Then one day I re-discovered these old sketches I made as a kid and one in particular, that of a self-portrait piqued my interest. So, I decided to paint it in full color on a large canvas and that gave momentum to the body of work I have now. In a way it came full circle and I re-discovered my innate technique from childhood.

You’ve found a cool way to market your work with lapel pins. What made you decide to take that less traditional route of marketing yourself?

To be honest, I just wanted to see my art in different scales and also being used in a more practical way. It interested me a lot to give people access to my designs that might not necessarily see it through the traditional routes. I think paintings on white walls that only a limited geographical range of people have access to is an old paradigm. Now, its all about being experiential, being able to engage with art and accessing a global audience. What better way than to adorn yourself in a lapel pin that is essentially a miniature representation of the original artwork. I took great care in making sure it was an exact reproduction of the line work and as close in color match as possible. I was rejected by numerous factories that refused to make my pin designs due to the complexity and sheer amount of colors used. But, I persisted and found someone that was willing to take the challenge and they came out great. As an extension of this concept, I’m currently working on a 3D vinyl model of my Vader design to share with a completely new audience.

What was the inspiration for your technique, any particular artist inspired it?

As I explained in the previous question, the inspiration came from within. In a way it came from a pure place – the mind of a child’s ability to play, draw and imagine without influence or care of judgement from others. If I had to post rationalize it, I think it was to make something beautiful out of chaos. The beauty being the color palette and the chaos being the line work within, the overall effect creating harmony. There is enough darkness in the world, I wanted to make beautiful things.

Are all your pieces done by hand , or do you draft them up on a computer?

They are all conceived by hand as sketches with pencil on paper and all the paintings are oil paint. But as my work has evolved and my curiosity to see the designs manifest into different mediums has progressed, I’ve needed to learn how to digitize these pencil sketches. I’ve tried to skip the ‘hand on paper’ step but its not the same feeling. If you look closely at my work, you can see the lines aren’t completely straight or connected, the curves aren’t mathematical and they are asymmetrical because they are born from the imperfection that is inherent in human eye-to-hand coordination.

Is there a deeper meaning that you try to convey in your work?

There are two main concepts embedded within my art. Firstly, I like to reframe the beauty of the strange or macabre. I take images that elicit fear or aversion and then use my art to render them harmless by making them look beautiful. This seduces you through geometry and colour and makes you look at the subject in a different light. A skull, snarling wolf or Vader’s imposing visage all looks quite beautiful when you change the context of fear we normally associate it with them.

Secondly, to find your voice. The name I go by ‘deanist’ alludes to the fact that I’m trying to be as ‘dean’ as possible. To become a specialist in doing my style. Just as someone who writes novels is a novelist and someone that does art is an artist, I’m just trying to do me as much as possible, hence the name deanist. No one else can be a deanist, just as much as I can’t become a karenist or johnist. Just truely do you.

Any artistic influences that inspired you?

Everyone and then no one. First you get inspired by everyone and then you have to forget it all and find your unique voice inside. Once you find your voice you get inspired by everything that makes up life again.

Is your choice in subject matter purely for marketability or is there another aspect to it?

All my subject matter has a core theme– illustrating that one canre-frame the beauty of the strange or macabre.’ So I aim to redefine beauty by shedding light on common symbols of fear and mortality. My work contains images of predatory animals in states of attack such as wolves, tigers, snakes, owls to symbols of our mortality such as skulls and also characters that epitomize human darkness like Vader or Batman. Then I flip them with beautiful color palette and shapes. It just so happens that these images from the dark side are cool as fuck and thus also marketable.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your road too where you are now with art?

There will always be the conundrum of trying to balance art and income. Which means painting what you like with painting what’s marketable. I think we are in a very fortunate time in which social media can help connect you with your niche. People who love and resonate with what you create. What that perfect balance is I haven’t figured out yet, so maybe ask me in a decade.

What’s the most valuable lesson being an artist has taught you?

You will always have people that no matter what you do will love your work or on the opposite spectrum hate your work. So don’t bother catering to what people say, what is trending or what other popular artists are doing. Just stick to doing something that makes you happy and that authenticity will come out and live in your work. As long as you stay true to your vision you will always find people that it resonates with.

Also, don’t be afraid to reach out and DM other artist about questions, collaborations etc. You might not get a reply from half the people you reach out to but from the ones you do you can form amazing relationships and birth new projects. This is how the #tigerswitchproject came about. I reached out to different artists to collaborate on completing half a tiger head and what started out as a small group ended up with over 70 artists from around the world participating in it. I’m planning on releasing a book of the tiger collaboration artworks this year.

Any advice for other artist.

You have to find your own path. From my experience if you ask 10 artists what their path to success was, it will be different and specific to who that person is. So all you really have control of is being you and then any peculiarities innate to you will become your strength in the long run. No one can do you better than you.

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