Dean Samed is an amazing man, artist and just and all around good guy. He does amazing book covers and has beautiful artwork. If you haven’t seen anything he has done then you must check him out. He has done artwork for Stephen King and Jay Bonansinga the author of the Walking Dead to name a few. He has traveled the world and has a wealth of knowledge and experience under his belt. I highly recommend getting to know him better. You won’t be sorry you did. Please welcome Dean Samed…..
1. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into the horror artwork industry.
Hey team, my name is Dean Samed, and I’m a professional cover artist from the UK. I’m a lifelong ‘horror’ illustrator, but took up the mantle professionally in my mid-20s, when the e-publishing boom really took off – previously my client work had been in urban dance music.
Horror is my first and greatest love, so to have the market open up in such a way, has pretty much been a dream come true.
2. How has the horror community at large received your work and what impact has it had?
I was very fortunate to jump in during the early days of ‘Post-Apocalyptic Fiction’, when Zombie / Survival Horror books were selling like wildfire. As a true-blue Horror aficionado, I like to think I bring a specialist understanding to the table, as opposed to the horror covers handled by generalist graphic designers.
I have been extremely humbled by the response to my work, and it gives me a real buzz to hear from my authors that my rebranding for their covers has exploded their sales figures. When all is said and done, that’s the name of the game – capturing the imagination of our customers, and shifting units for my authors.
3. What’s the one piece you’re most proud of? Where do you think your work shines most: book covers, posters, t-shirts?
I do have lots of favourites, but I will always have a soft spot for the Lucid cover art, that I did for Walking Dead author Jay Bonansinga. Book cover art is illustrative design – you need to find unity between illustrative and typographic elements, whilst maintaining a sense of compositional and narrative impact. I like to think we hit that balance well with the Lucid cover.
As I’m a book cover designer, I’d say my current style of work, works best in that format. Down the line, we shall see…
4. What scares you? How do these fears inspire your work?
For me, Horror / Macabre Art is a celebration of the unknown. Many of the great mysteries in life are being systematically solved by modern science, so I’m interested in the peripheries, the primordial anxieties, the uncertainty of mortality and what lays beyond.
Violence is in our DNA, and is a driving force of the universe. I like to explore the beauty in the carnage.
In terms of what scares me… not a lot really. Traditional boogeymen, and the such, I’m unperturbed – but ‘Body Horror’, the idea of losing your humanity / beauty (like David Cronenberg’s The Fly), now that DOES wig me out!!
5. Where would you like to see the horror genre take you?
Whilst I absolutely adore working with my clients in the publishing industry, at some point I’d like to exclusively work on my own narrative concepts, in a greater fine art / contemporary sense.
As we’ve seen with Jake and Dinos Chapman, there’s plenty of scope for transgressive / uncompromising art in the contemporary sphere. I would love to share my own concepts with an international audience, beyond the remit of genre fiction.
6. What’s the most difficult part of creating? Is there a subject you refuse to touch?
I’d say the most difficult part of creating, is being ready to rock, every second of every working today. Art is a very cerebral pursuit, and sometimes you just don’t feel like doing it – developing the lifestyle and strategies to overcome that challenge has definitely taken some work.
I’ve never received a horror concept that I’ve turned down… and I’ve had some right crazy ones!! Conjoined twins, paraplegic sex-torture victims, sadomasochistic daemons, and a selection of medical-fetish works are a few of the more risqué concepts I’ve worked with.
The only time I’ve felt uneasy, is when I’ve done graphic design for action / political intrigue books that have a strong right-wing slant. They are the only subjects I’d refuse to work on, in the future.
7. You’ve done art for Stephen King and Clive Barker books, among many others. How did it feel the first time you were contacted for those projects? Has the novelty worn off?
Both of those A-list gigs came very early in my professional horror career, and both were the result of my personal fan-art being discovered.
Clive Barker is my all-time favourite author, so for me that was an incredibly intense / rewarding experience. I had tagged him in a tweet, sharing my ‘Female Cenobite’ piece, and he responded personally – asking if I’d like to illustrate some covers for the Hellraiser: Darkwatch series. Took me a while to come down from the high of that one!!
In regards to my Stephen King gigs, which I am / was equally stoked about, my ‘Dark Tower’ fan art was discovered online by the french publishers J’ai Lu, and they invited me to illustrate the entire Dark Tower series for the french markets. That process has been an absolute blast, and it’s been a true pleasure illustrating for ‘The King’.
8. Any advice for those who want to create their own dark-themed art?
If you’d like to produce dark-themed art professionally, you must be active, and you must be visible. Develop a personal brand across multiple platforms. A unique slant, process or aesthetic will make you a ‘one-of-a-kind’, and more desirable to prospective clients.
If you treat the pursuit like a hobby, you’ll get hobby results – and that’s a universal truth across all disciplines. If you treat it like a business, grind daily and attack your pursuit with tenacity and volition, then the world is truly your oyster.
9. Who or what are your influences? What do you do in your spare time, if you have any?
I’m inspired by a whole smorgasbord of influences, including the fantasy world-building of Clive Barker, Esoterica / the Occult, Lloyd Kaufman’s anarchic Troma films, French Extreme Wave cinema, Cyberpunk, soundtrack music / electronica and Vertigo comic books.
Outside of my nerdy pursuits, I like to lift weights, watch MMA, go to Drum n Bass raves, music festivals, and general beast-like partying!!
10. How do you make fear beautiful?
For me, the beauty comes from elegance. Whilst the undertones are violent, the muted tones, poise or sombre delivery can elevate a concept from gratuitous to refined. Find the poetry in the supine pose, and inject it with filth. It’s a delicate balance, and the reason why I find this genre so intriguing.
As always Dean, thank you for letting us get to know you better. I wish you all the happiness and success there is to have in life. You are amazing my friend.