If you ever entered the dark depths of Deviantart a few years back, you would have most likely stumbled upon the name Conzpiracy at some point in your journey. Like a modern day urban legend, his complex manipulations of the macabre made waves through the DA community.
Conzpiracy’s Photoshop tutorials were coveted by users in their DA journals. If you dug a little deeper, eventually it would lead you to SurrealPSD. A Photoshop, manipulation, tutorial website, where Conzpiracy laid out his tricks and techniques for all to learn. Having used this site as a go to for my own early works, I always wondered who the man behind the curtain was, the wizard of this dark , twisted facade.
Sadly SurrealPSD is no longer with us. But out of the shadows, and leaving the Conzpiracy moniker behind, comes Dean Samed, with his obligatory sunglasses, walking slowly into the light.
Dean Samed is a UK-based illustrator / cover artist, and a specialist in the horror genre. He has illustrated the works of Stephen King, Clive Barker, H.P. Lovecraft, Graham Masterton, as well as a wide range of genre authors, internationally. Dean started freelancing at the age of 14, and throughout his young adult years, worked with promoters and record labels in urban dance music. Later, the e-publishing boom allowed him to switch focus to his first love, macabre art. As a horror specialist, he is known for his complex creature designs and sharp compositing style. He holds a First Class degree in Digital Media, and is currently undertaking his Masters in Fine Art. Dean likes to explore horror, occult, sci-fi and cyberpunk themes in his personal and commercial work.”
The artist formerly known as Conzpiracy (sorry, couldn’t help myself haha) has hundreds of published covers under his belt, and an unrivaled work ethic (3 covers a week at one point). Dean has recently just arrived back in England after spending time at the Texas Frightmare event, where he exhibited his work and got drunk with Robert Englund (the original, and in my eyes, only Freddy Krueger).
Have you been sleeping on one of the UK’s most prolific, genre, book cover artists??!! Well lets open your eyes!
DIYP: As a book cover artist, give us a brief description of your workflow, from being contacted by a client, to the end product.
DS: At the start of a gig, the client and I go through a consultation process, where I’m given info on what’s required for the cover art. Sometimes it’s just a few lines of text or the ‘blurb’ for the book, at times I’m given visual references to work from – each gig is different.
From there I create a ‘moodboard’, to create a visual palette – so I can take inspiration from multiple images, in one frame (usually as a layer at the top of the stack). With that in place I seek out stock images, and in the case of character-focused covers, seek approval from the client before commencing any of the heavy lifting of the artwork, which can save LOTS of time!!
My style geared toward realism / complexity, so the majority of the workflow focused on compositing various elements, as opposed to heavy processing. Once a preview is ready to share with the client, we discuss the work and make changes if necessary.
DIYP: You are firmly set in the realms of horror genre. Is this what you planned in the beginning at the start of your journey, or was it something that evolved over time.
DS: My professional practice started in urban dance music, but my heart has always been firmly rooted in the horror genre. Whilst I was creating record sleeves / event flyers, I was still doing a lot of horror-flavoured personal work, which I shared online. It was this work that eventually allowed me to gain traction in publishing, where I work almost exclusively in the horror genre.
DIYP: Most of your work involves complex manipulation techniques. Are you self-taught or did you have a mentor figure who guided you through Photoshop.
DS: I started very young, nearly 20 years ago – prior to the widespread adoption of Photoshop!! For the first few years it was pure experimentation, with no websites for reference (or magazines). I started producing event flyers for clients at 14 years old, and I learned more from those experiences, than any course or degree could ever give me.
Even so, I went to university in my mid-20s, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
DIYP: I know you are a big advocate of using the pen tool for selections,- and the reason why I always use the pen tool on my own manipulations. Why do you believe the pen tool method to be the best and why should people use it.
DS: If a compositing task requires precision masking, then there is absolutely no substitute in raster software. The Pen Tool is KING!!
Everyone has their own way, for instance an artist may favour a more dreamy / ethereal look – so the precise nature of the Pen Tool may not be for them… but for everything else, I believe it’s the ultimate tool for precise selections.
DIYP: You use to run a very successful Photoshop tutorial website, SurrealPSD, which is no longer running. What happened to the site, and do you plan on bringing it back?
DS: SurrealPSD was a real labour of love for me, and I learned a great deal operating that site. The site was pulled down, due to bandwidth issues – and I lacked the energy to rebuild / reinstate. I won’t be bringing it back, unfortunately. I’ll always be proud of how well that site did and will use the lessons learned from that experience for my new business endeavours.
DIYP: As a book cover artist do you feel you are limited in your work to a specific composition set, or certain aesthetic –and do you feel that cover artists get the recognition they deserve in the creative industry.
DS: With every genre, there are certain conventions that you (at the very least) need to be aware of. Because written information needs to be included, any work you do isn’t pure illustration, you need to keep in mind that whatever you do visually, needs to unify with the typographic elements, to be clear and coherent – even at thumbnail.
It does take a lot of practice, developing the ability to tackle the design elements to a high standard. I still have a lot of work to do in that respect.
In regards to respect in the creative industry… I don’t really worry about the perceptions in the wider scene. My focus is on the market, always. If my clients are happy, I am happy.
DIYP: As a cover artist you use stock images on a regular basis. Which stock sites do you use use and in your opinion do most sites supply the kind of images you need for your style of work/genre.
DS: At present I use Fotolia for my stock image needs, and at times use some of the boutique / specialist sites for certain concepts.
There’s a huge deficit for certain types of images though, and that’s something I’m looking to remedy with my next business venture!!
DIYP: With the rise of websites like Fiverr, offering creative services like book covers, and retouching, for a budget of around $5. Does this effect your work life and the market in general.
DS: Fortunately, I deal with professionals, people and institutions who take their product seriously. As a specialist, I’m in a position where I can stay well away from the budget market – but I do understand how those platforms can help start budding careers.
DIYP: Do you see yourself always working within the book cover industry or expanding into other markets?
DS: As a lifelong illustrator, I’ll always be doing creative projects in some capacity, but in the near future I’m looking toward the Stock Photography industry.
With my experience in book cover design, I believe I can fill the gaps missed by the major microstock sites, particularly concepts for genre fiction such as monsters, warriors in realistic armour and sci-fi characters.
DIYP: What does the future hold for Dean Samed, in 10 years time where would you like to see yourself and and your work.
DS: In an ideal world? I’ll have sold my stock photography business, and living a life of leisure, travelling the world and creating kooky artwork!!