In the last several years, UK-based horror-lit cover artist Dean Samed has graduated from genre darling to mainstream icon, thanks to collaborations with the likes of Clive Barker and Stephen King. His photo-composite composition work is nearly peerless as he finds a way to reveal the beauty hidden inside the grotesque. We caught up with Dean and chatted about his influences, getting to work with the biggest names in the business, and why horror and sci-fi are at an all-time peak level of popularity.
French Davis: Can you tell us about how you got your start and the transition from working with musicians to horror illustration?
Dean Samed: I got my start in design/digital art, when I started producing event flyers for local dance events when I was 14. I worked day-jobs, and produced commission work in the evenings right up until my late 20s. The publishing boom that came as a result of e-readers / tablets created a whole new market for digital illustrators, so I jumped onboard, when that started taking off!! Horror is my first love, so specializing in that genre allowed me to produce work a lot closer to my heart.
FD: It’s clear horror and sci-fi are at an all- time peak in terms of pop culture interest. What do you think is driving that?
DS: Tastes in horror (and sci-fi) are usually a reflection of the period of history that we face together… for instance the “Giant Monster” movies of old were a reflection / criticism of the devastating power of nuclear weapons. These are particularly turbulent times in many ways, so our escapism reflects the realities we face.
FD: How did you get connected with icons like Stephen King and Clive Barker? Tell us about your first interactions with them? DS: Before I was a full-time illustrator in the horror scene, I spent a lot of my time producing fan-art of the properties that I love the most. The images I produced were discovered online by Clive Barker and Stephen King’s European publishers respectively—allowing me to be a part of two mythologies I love dearly—Hellraiser and The Dark Tower! These big gigs actually came pretty early in my horror illustration career, and came as a result of the groundwork I put in as an “up and coming” artist.
FD: Who are some of your biggest influences as an artist? Both in your genre and outside of it? DS: My influences are extremely varied, and include music (soundtrack music, electronica, drum n bass), comics (Vertigo Comics; Preacher, Swamp Thing, Sandman), horror movies (Martyrs, The Fly, Dawn of the Dead), and art—both contemporary and classic!!
FD: What’s been the most challenging part of your career so far, and how have you overcome the obstacles related to it?
DS: The most challenging part of my career has been the development of a ‘working day’, as a freelance practitioner. When you work for yourself, there are no rules or schedule, or any- one to kick you up the ass. You need to develop a new level of discipline in order to be success- ful. Creating and adhering to these systems has definitely been the most challenging part of my career thus far.
FD: You’re available for commission work. Have you been commissioned for anything that surprised you (i.e., illustration on a guitar or park bench or something)?
DS: The most surprising commissions are usually the extremely outlandish horror concepts that get handed to me!! Alien Sperm Refrigerators, Conjoined Twins, Amputated Torture Victims, Sadomasochistic Daemons, you name it!!
FD: What projects do you have coming up? What else should we be on the lookout for?
DS: I’m switching focus to stock photography, which is a totally new and exciting challenge for me. One of the biggest frustrations we share in the field of photo-manipulation/digital design, is the lack of decent stock images for genre concepts. Alongside the publishing community, my team and I working very hard to solve these problems.