An Interview with Cover Artist Zack Deus

Though most people would consider music a performance art, when the right visual artist comes along, you can see how music can transcend boundaries and provoke feelings through other senses than hearing. For this issue we asked graphic/web designer and photographer Zack Deus to capture this idea for the cover of our Motif Music Awards Nominations issue. I spoke with Deus about his artistic abilities, his inspiration for this cover and the process he used to create it.

Kleo Sincere (Motif): How long have you been [formally] making art?  Did you go to school for it? How did you get introduced? When did you begin?

Zack Deus: I think the story goes that around third grade my art teacher called my parents from the school and asked them to come in for a meeting. Originally thinking that I was in trouble for something, they were pretty surprised when she suggested enrolling me in private art lessons. From there, I took private lessons for about six years until early high school. In high school I continued to pursue drawing and painting primarily; I interned for my art teacher in my senior year and won a Golden Key award through Scholastic Arts. That same year I also started learning graphic design and screen printing and realized how fun all of that was, and that I might be able to make a more practical career out of that. After high school, along with a business partner, we released our first tee shirt design under the clothing brand (SOSICO.) and then later that fall, I enrolled in New England Tech to pursue a degree in graphics, multimedia and web design. Following the completion of my degree, I started my career as a graphic designer and held numerous jobs, but in August of 2016, inevitably went out on my own as a freelancer and continued focusing on my clothing brand. I haven’t looked back since, and I hope that I never do. I get to design clothing and work on cool, creative projects every day and hopefully, for the rest of my life.

KS: In which medium have you been working the longest?

ZDI used to draw birds a lot. My great grandmother had an old yellow-covered bird watching book that I somehow acquired. I would draw all of the birds in it, not because I even cared about the birds themselves, but because they were just interesting in their unique shapes and dimensions of each species. Aside from coloring within the lines, I think this was my first artistic venture as a child… I’ve been drawing and painting longer than anything else. Although I unfortunately don’t have too much time to do that very often since I’m focused more on the digital side of things now. As a basis, I try to start everything on paper though because there are no limitations. I may not create a full and final work of art completely on canvas or paper nowadays, but pretty much everything I do starts that way. Logos, websites, illustrations and even tee shirt graphics all start as a rough sketch and develop from there. I’m thankful to have a very solid background in fine art because I think that it makes me a better designer and photographer. Understanding light from a very young age and how it affects a subject is key to almost any visual art.

KS: What motivates/inspires you when you shoot or design for leisure and not work?

ZD: Everything — as a broad and uninteresting answer. More specifically, I usually have an end goal in mind for whatever I do — a statement. I pretty much know what I want the final outcome of something to look like, and from there, I start to analyze and predict the different scenarios of how the viewer might receive it. I like practicality and purpose; I want something to give someone a reaction, I want it to do something other than just physically exist. By creating art under those semi-strict personal guidelines, I am in fact creating for my own leisure in a very backward sort of way.

KS: What inspired your design for the cover of this issue?

ZD: Alice in Wonderland. Jimi Hendrix. ’90s cartoons. Shel Silverstein. And Maurice Sendak.

KS: What did the process for making this cover look like?

ZD: I started off with the brief and combined it with my ideas / interpretation for the initial concept, then made some rough placement sketches for everything. Outlining the shapes of which buildings would be doing what. From there, I created a mood board and pulled some reference photos to work from. After that,, I re-sketched the outlines in Photoshop using a Wacom tablet, trying to keep everything imperfect and hand-drawn looking. From there it was just a matter of coloring everything in and using a few layering effects.

KS: How would you describe your style?

ZD: I’m honestly not even sure if I have a style. I’ve always wished that I did. I think that with design at least, I tend to just emulate what I like and take out what I don’t like. I have a pretty clear concept or idea that drives most of my work, all within the minimalism realm — or less is more approach — but at the same time I apply that very loosely. “Good artists copy; great artists steal” — I like to take that into consideration with everything I do and almost work backward sometimes. I start with something I like, even if it’s just a solid concept or a mood board, and then work backward and start taking things out or changing the original idea until I cover my tracks enough to have an original piece that nobody could really completely trace back to anything except for me.

KS: Any tips and things to be aware of to aspiring artists who want to get into your field(s)?

ZD: Stay true to you, never compromise your integrity for a paycheck. If you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen. Perfect your craft and let your work speak. Most importantly, surround yourself with good people and only good things will come. You will make it far on your own, but you will make it much further with the right people in your corner.

If you like the cover as much as we do, you can find Zack Deus at his shop, The SOSICO, located at 751 Main Street in West Warwick. He offers graphic/web design, bookings for photography and print services, and is open Monday through Saturday. You can also contact him through is website: zackdeus.com.

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