SPOTLIGHT On Local New England Artist… ‘Dean Calusdian’


Yvette: One of the first things I wanted to ask was with your darker work on your website Art Of Dean, where do you get the inspiration?

Dean: For the darker stuff, it really comes from literature. A lot of the pieces were based off of Poe. Three of our biggest on site are based off of the Black Cat, the Premature Burial, and Murders In The Rue Morgue and then obviously H.P. Lovecraft with Cthulu. I love drawing Cthulu!

Y: Growing up in New England, you’re always surrounded by the stories and lore of Lovecraft and I love how your Cthulu print almost takes on a Celtic knotting type of form.

D: I love doing art deco type design without really doing it. I get a lot of inspiration from artists like Gustav Klimt who have a lot of woven and Celtic influences in his work. I love working within an abstract medium and tend to do be more dark with my work when I’m alone and have that feeling of isolation.

Y: The one that catches my eye the most is the piece where there’s a woman with a mortar and pestle and her hair is popping out with different colors.

D: That on was actually a cover for Motif Magazine where she has flowers and butterflies in her hair.

Y: Yes!

D: Yeah, Motif did a health issue and I got to design that and had about a three day get it done. It’s 3 different layers too. It’s a painting, charcoal, and there’s some computer work on there too.

Y: So what’s the general timeline in which you have to finish a piece?

D: It depends. When it’s a design that someone is asking me to make, it’s usually a shorter amount of time. However, when I’m doing stuff for myself, I’m usually done in about a week unless I put it to the side and start a new one. If I’m not sure on how I like it or if I’m getting bored with the piece, I tend to post it on Facebook to kind of gauge what people think or to see it through a fresh set of eyes. A piece like the Genobite for example, before I was done I posted what I had to Facebook and through that process figured out what needed to be done to fix it.

Y: With that in mind then, do you have a portfolio of unfinished work?

D: I have sketchbooks upon sketchbooks of drawings that never really went anywhere, but there’s only a handful that I never really finished.

Y: Before you kind of talked about how your mood affects your work. So is there work that you started when you were in a darker frame of mind and stop once that feeling passes?

D: I don’t really leave a piece if the mood fades because the whole point is to feel that emotion out and get it on paper. But even after that emotion passes, I’ll continue to shade and shape the figures to what they need and what I want them to be, so by the end of the process it feels almost like an exorcism!

Y: To transition a bit, what can you tell me about The Stocking Dead?

D: After running haunted houses for almost ten years, I ended up creating a Christmas village for the Walpole Mall in Massaschusetts and wanted it to be pure Christmas fantasy. Unfortunately, the fiberglass elves ended up looking a little creepy and not a lot of people weren’t willing to walk through haha. I felt like Jack Skellington by accidentally creepifying Christmas. So afterwards I went home and started drawing and one of the doodles turned into a zombie snowman chasing elves and I decided to see if I could make anything out of it. So I started writing the story and it took about a year. It was originally going to be called A Very Zombie Christmas, but somebody already had that name, so we decided to change it to The Stocking Dead. It took about 3 years to complete it.

Y: So how well is the Stocking Dead doing?

D: It’s sort of fluctuating. The first year went really well, but the second year didn’t go as well due to me having to put my attention to other projects. This would be the third year though and it’s doing really well again. If I put all my attention into advertising and do conventions promoting it, the pay off is great.

Y: So it’s getting positive reviews?

D: Yes it is getting very positive reviews. The comic is everything I love about horror and comedy so it’s great to be getting such positive attention.

Y: And from what I can see it’s available through Amazon and your website ‘Dreams Within Dreams’ as well.

D: Yes and it’s the one graphic novel. The sequel will be World War Xmas.

Y: Now, for someone who has been behind the camera, does theater workshops for kids, and comics, I’m sure you see things in a different light than the general public.

D: Usually when I’m asked what I do for a living, I tell them I’m a storyteller. Whether it is a picture or play, it’s all in service of telling a story and trying to transfer what’s in my head onto the stage or canvas. Certain things make a great show, but won’t make a great comic. So even though all of the mediums are the same for me, some things work better for a specific medium. Right now I’m writing children’s horror plays for a bookstore Jeff Kinney owns.

Y: How is the children’s Summer Stage in Walpole doing?

D: Yes and we’re actually celebrating our 20th anniversary!

Y: So having done that for 20 years, was that any inspiration for your Story Emporium?

D: The Story Emporium has come out of some plays I’ve been writing for 10 years for a group in Norwood, Massachusetts where we do Fantasy Footsteps which is a haunted house for little kids. I wrote these 2 or 3 minute plays that kids could watch and go from room to room seeing a different fairy tale. Of course, like the Stocking Dead it’s filled with really bad puns and humor. So when I wrote Story Emporium, we doubled or tripled the length of the plays. Even though they’re written for little kids, the word play and humor is universal as well.

Y: It’s hard to find a lot of plays or movies for kids nowadays where most of the jokes aren’t directed towards the parents.

D: When I’m watching a cartoon, I appreciate the humor that is there for an adult. But if I feel that it doesn’t fit with the story or the characters, it just doesn’t work. Shrek does it perfectly where the jokes all work.

Y: I love the fact that you love working with kids! is it because of their imagination?

D: My days consist of being surrounded by kids from all ages and I really enjoy hearing their point of view. One of my friends explained it perfectly who was a horror film maker. It’s like living a Willy Wonka life, you do all of this dark stuff but it helps you keep in touch with the kid in you. Understanding horror is to understand childhood. Kids understand horror and it all comes from the same place. Roald Dahl is a great example. Look at something like Witches or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Y: It’s great to see how for children the dark side and the light side are all in the same world unlike adults where everything becomes black and white with age.

D: I’m amazed at seeing some of the stuff kids come up with! With a lot of the improvs I have to say “alright kids, a little less murder and death okay” cause their minds are constantly experimenting with what is reality and where monsters come from and what scares them. Some of my favorite horror stories are from a kids point of view. If there is a Santa Claus, there can be a demon coming down the chimney too.

Y: Are you doing RICC (Rhode Island Comic Con) this coming November?

D: Yes we are. The schedule is tighter, so a lot of the bigger cons were moved to the beginning of this year.

Y: I know you’ve mentioned several things, but is there one thing that is most important right now that is time consuming or fantastic?

D: The big thing for me right now is getting a second book of plays out. I have a dead line of the beginning of June. I’m trying to get these plays that I’ve worked with for a long time that I need to add more material to and put out as another book of plays. That has been the big thing. I’m also writing a 4 page Bernie Wrightson inspired horror story for a comic book collection of horror stories.

Y: It sounds like you have a lot going on. Well, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with us!

D: You’re very welcome and I had a great time!

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