Photo by Casie Wendel

Art Class with Dewey Saunders


Anderson .Paak hit Dewey Saunders up via Twitter for a drawing years ago.

The DM came by way of an illustration that Dewey had done for Dumbfoundead—a battle rapper out of Koreatown in Los Angeles—and led to him making tons of work with .Paak, including the cover design of Venice and later, the iconic Malibu. Now, Dewey’s a celebrated artist with more than a few iconic album art covers under his belt. As well as his continued collaborations with .Paak, Dewey’s also gone on to create artwork for Future, Lil Nas X, Wylie Cable, Small Professor, Konke, and brands like Urban Outfitters and Vans.

If you’re not familiar with his work yet, don’t worry—we’ll go ahead and describe it for you. His work is like a really nice day in art class after you smoked a joint. It’s psychedelic hip hop. It’s accessible, detailed, colourful, retro, and new-age all at the same time. It alone is an argument for the legalization of psychedelics and increased budget for the arts everywhere. We caught up with Dewey to chat about work and life before his live collage workshop on Vans Channel 66 this Thursday, a conversation that should also serve as a warning of the FOMO you’re going to feel if you don’t tune in.

How did you get started with collages?

I actually started collaging to cover up drawings in my sketchbook I didn’t like, and the immediacy of the medium appealed to me right away. Mixed media experimentation, printmaking and analogue paper collage became my main focus around 2011, and I focused on collage as one of my main mediums since then. As a graphic designer, it really helps my process of image-making—just the mindset of photomontage and juxtaposition.

Were you any good at first? 

To be honest, my first few years of art school were a little rough. I just didn’t know how to use the computer as a tool to create the images in my head, but once I started illustrating and using photography and analogue techniques to scan in and then design with, the process became way easier. Learning how to draw was a big step for me and it allowed me to express myself with illustration in a way beyond graphic design which eventually led to my collage practice.

What are some tips and tricks you learned along the way?

My main tip would be to experiment constantly and listen to your inner voice when making work. Devote lots of time to your practice and research art history, read books and soak in as much inspiration as possible.

How did your involvement in making cover art for Anderson .Paak happen?

I was doing a ton of illustrations of rappers around 2013 to 2014 and he hit me up on Twitter for a drawing. That eventually snowballed into a weekly poster and then led to designing his Venice artwork. We kept working with each other throughout the years, leading to Malibu in 2016. Designing the cover for Malibu was a huge milestone and over time, has proved to be an increasingly significant piece of cultural history and a bonafide alternative R&B classic. People are still talking about the album and the cover art which is incredible five years later, but it’s not surprising to me especially when you’re talking about classics.

What are you up to these days? 

Lately, I have been designing for various brands, records labels and agencies. I’m currently operating my own clothing company called Comfort Club and designing album art for a few special musicians. Beyond doing artwork, I’m constantly on adventures in nature and staying active… staying true to a Southern California lifestyle. I’ve been skateboarding a bit more and just enjoying the beautiful weather, and also reading a ton. Right now I’m reading this Keith Richards autobiography. The book is amazing. I’m only about a quarter of the way through, but I discovered these five songs from reading about his life.

1. “Not Fade Away” by Buddy Holly
2. “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” by The Shirelles
3. “Be My Baby” by The Ronettes
4. “Little Rain” by Jimmy Reed
5. “Memphis, Tennessee” by Chuck Berry

 

What have you been listening to lately?

I’m listening to a lot of reggae, the new Joyce Wrice album, Cleo Sol, NxWorries… anything with a groove.

Dewey will be hosting a collage workshop and DJ set live on Channel 66 on Thursday, April 1st at 10 am PST. Don’t miss it.

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