Art Spotlight: Dylan Chadwick

Under the nom de plume "Drug Dogs," Dylan Chadwick is an illustrator, graphic designer, and animator with a very unique style. A fan of hardcore and '80s NWA wrestling, Dylan has used everything from graffiti-styled lettering to pixel animation to comic book-influenced illustrations in his work. You might have seen some of his designs for such bands as Protestor, Backtrack, and Give.

Meet Dylan in the latest Art Spotlight piece.

Where were you born and raised, and were your parents into the arts? 

I was born in Salt Lake City, UT, but spent my elementary school years in Wales. In 1997, my family moved to Kentucky, and that's where I went to middle and high school. I've since moved around a lot and consider myself a kind of non-commital nomad at this point.

My parents are funny and creative people who from an early age encouraged my fascination with drawing. I'd draw animals and flowers and sweet things with markers and oil pastels. I loved to sing and write and draw. I was that weirdo kid just always working on a "project," kinda not all that interested in playing with the neighborhood kids, more interested in holing up by myself for hours at a time and seeing what I could create. Down the line I started drawing more evil stuff which bummed them out.

Where did your early interest in illustration come from? Did you watch a lot of cartoons/read comic books?

I really can't ever remember a time where I wasn't obsessed with drawing. My mom tells me that I'd take coloring books, and draw my characters over the blank inside cover pages, and then over the printed pages. I watched lots of cartoons and read many comics, though I never liked the superhero stuff. I was very much an "escapist" kid who always felt uneasy in the real world and art was a way to articulate the love and fear and wildness inside my head. Moreover, I could do whatever I wanted in art. I'm not sure that six-year-old me understood this, but I grew to appreciate art as a platform of expression where I could address complicated, even taboo, internal feelings without necessarily having to find a conclusion. 

Who were some of your early influences?

I really could talk about this for hours. I feel like every few years I am shaking the Etch-a-Sketch and finding new ones. As a kid though, I loved magazines, specifically Nintendo Power. In the early days when video game graphics were primitive, they relied on talented artists to tell the story and enhance the world of the game in supplementary material. So there'd be these gorgeous illustrations for the first Zelda game, and you'd be like "Oh. That's what that bad guy looks like." The packaging on Ninja Turtles or WWF Hasbro figures had that quality too. I love the "world building" there. 

The other early influence was a middle school friend who was way into H.R. Giger, Todd MacFarlane, and Pushead, and he could draw. He was like 12 and just drew so confidently, really really "dark" and sexy stuff and got in trouble all the time. I just thought his drawings were incredible. Not "incredible for a middle schooler." Just incredible. At this point, art was just something I did in my journal. I never really thought anything I made was "good." He made me want to "get good" at drawing. (I still think I suck at drawing). 

At what point did you begin to truly begin to find your stylistic voice?  

I think art became "actionable" when I became interested in subculture: namely skateboarding and hardcore/punk. Thrasher's "Zine Thing" section was my debut into pen-palling and fanzine culture along with incredible artists like Mark McKee and Todd Bratrud who's subversive graphics decorated many of my T-shirts and skateboards. I loved their work and began making zines with drawings and personal musings inside. The feeling of arranging "my words" on a page and seeing my stuff get printed addictive. This was in early high school. Then I discovered hardcore, partly through skateboarding, and the idea of drawing something and then screening it onto a shirt, a skateboard, a sticker or a record cover didn't seem so obtuse to me. I was seeing it done by the bands my friends were booking. I got really into zine-ing that way. Little by little, people would see my zine and ask me to do a demo tape cover or a flyer there. I loved it too. I was always into the romance of the early hardcore scene, stories about Dischord or whatever where "everyone had a job" in the scene. I felt like I was an active participant in this global music thing that meant a lot to me. 

I can't talk about art without talking about religion though. I grew up in a religious home and even spent two years on a mission in Los Angeles. I won't say the denomination, but I'll give you a hint: white shirts/bicycles. This detail usually surprises people who know me now, and I won't spoil too much here because I've got a comic coming out which details the experience. This was 10 years ago and I'm not religious anymore. I don't think I ever really was, but I wanted to be, and I was at a time in my life where I was searching for meaning and substance. Anyway, imagine a sexually frustrated 20-22 year old, sunburnt and walking the streets, speaking bad Spanish. Obsessed with punk and hardcore, and trying to reconcile that with the idea that god may or may not be real and that even if he is, he definitely isn't punk.

Missionaries aren't allowed to listen to music or date or read "real" magazines, so I used my fanzine community to hook me up with "care packages" containing newsletters and photos and cassettes and records. I was a running joke on the mission because I got so much mail. I think the other missionaries were jealous. I got the Rampage Limit of Destruction LP on rainbow color, and they were getting dear john letters from their girlfriends. I became an inside joke at the Revelation Records office because I would send them cash and ask for cassettes and old MRR's and tell them to make the package as inconspicuous as possible because the missionary leaders would screen the mail. Anyway, to stay sane, I would write letters (hundreds of them!) and draw. I developed this story about these airport dogs who were straight edge and would confiscate people's drugs. I called them "The Drug Dogs." I think during this time I developed the visual vocabulary that I still use to this day. When I came home, I had two zines worth of material ready to go, a name picked out, and that's when I started doing art for bands who weren't just people who were my friends. 

What is your typical tool setup?

It depends on what I'm making. I love the Carbon Desk Pen. That pen changed the way I draw! Eric Himle (incredible illustrator!) recommended that to me. I have a sketchbook and will usually work on a piece there in pencil or ballpoint pen. I call this the "no pressure" phase. Then once I've got the idea, I'll either trace a basic outline using vellum and ink and vellum or I'll just redraw it using non-photo blue pencil, and will ink it there. I should also say, I have been doing a lot of sprite and pixel art lately, and that's a whole different kettle of fish. I just use a tablet and a stylus, though on occasion I will use a Wacom tablet and illustrator. End of the day though, I always have a sketchbook and a pen with me. 

What are the toughest aspects of what you do from a business standpoint? Are you constantly networking and reaching out to bands for gigs?

The toughest part was asking for money at first! It took me a long time to get to the point where I felt comfortable saying "hey, this is going to take me a few hours...can I get some compensation?" It was hard, especially working with a lot of hardcore bands. I know that no one is getting money from a label, and in many cases will be self-releasing their record and losing money on tour. So, I try to be cognizant of that. I don't make a killing on art, but I can supplement my income with it, and I've been working on that for ages. Obviously, we all want to pay our bills doing what we love. I'm no different!

I do a little bit of networking, but also just really appreciate the internet for allowing niche-weirdos like me to create channels for their insane creative passions. I made a Tumblr account for these pixel animations I was doing based on death metal album covers, and it got more popular than almost anything else I've done! I love seeing the names of the people who follow it because it's people all over the world and who probably wouldn't be into my other art. Everyone rags on Tumblr for just being a clusterfuck, and I think it is, but I love the gif support and the hyper-specialization you can do. Like, if you want to make a blog where you just post animations of dogs wearing Halloween costumes, you can do it on your phone. That's beautiful!

Tell me about some of the newer artists/graphic designers we should all check out.

Chris Wilson. His work is amazing. He draws the way I wish I could. This dude Augie is great too. One of my absolute favorites. I can't articulate what I love about his work; it's just so simple. Almost like the hard-boiled distillation of a kickass graphic. He should be illustrating everyone's album covers. Aya Francisco. I love wearing shirts with her work on it, and people stop me and ask "What is that? Who made that?" I would watch an animated cartoon of hers.  

If you had to pick one of your pieces that best encapsulates why you love doing what you do, which one would it by and why?

I recently made this playable video game about Ric Flair. I just found some simple platformer code and made sprites and tiles and storyline and patched it in, and made all these animations and this trailer (below) to go along with it. I try to live under the premise of "don't make what you think people want, make what YOU want to exist." There's no reason for this shit to exist, but it does, and I'm proud of it. I couldn't do any of it without technology or social media or any of this millennial crap. 

A close second would be the VRTL PROS shirt I did this summer. I got to talk to tons of creative people and wrestling fans. I got to draw something that high school me would've drawn in a notebook, but got it printed on a shirt! I love being able to work with other people who's work I like, and they're my favorite podcast, so it was an awesome opportunity! 


See more of Dylan's work on his official site, and you can also find him on Instagram.

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