By: Stephanie Shehan This month, we had the amazing opportunity to feature a cover created by Sean Dietrich. Those familiar with cannabis culture may recognize Sean’s art from a collaboration he did with rolling paper company OCB. I had the chance to chat with Sean about his art, his family and why he does what […]
By: Stephanie Shehan
This month, we had the amazing opportunity to feature a cover created by Sean Dietrich. Those familiar with cannabis culture may recognize Sean’s art from a collaboration he did with rolling paper company OCB. I had the chance to chat with Sean about his art, his family and why he does what he does.
STEPHANIE SHEHAN: Thank you for creating this amazing cover for us. To start, please tell us about yourself – who is Sean Dietrich?
SEAN DIETRICH: So in a nutshell, I’m a 44 year old artist, father of 2, let’s say ‘energetic’ kids, husband to a gorgeous wife who has an incredibly creative mine as well, and I’ve been soaked in art from the day I was born. I have a home and studio on an island in the Pacific Northwest where I hideout to create when I’m not on tour. I love old movies, industrial music, and books from Hunter Thompson, Kafka, Hemingway, and Thomas Pynchon. I think Trent Reznor is just as much of an important musical genius as Frank Sinatra was. I grew up in the ’90s, a typical Gen-X’er with a healthy dose of Ren n’ Stimpy, Grunge music, and going to raves. I love sippin’ Jameson and going down some weird YouTube rabbit holes at 3 am, as well as absorbing as much knowledge as possible in my downtime. I think creatives are the true reason that civilization moves forward, and I’ll fight for any artist trying to make their living as such until the day I die. As long as what I’m doing through my art, or what I pass on to my children, or how I interact with the world is productive, I’m a happy guy. It doesn’t always work out that way, but hey, I’m putting my all into creating the best art I can and using it as a teaching tool as well as a visual stimulus. I enjoy traveling to music festivals, here and in Australia, where I meet some of the most interesting people on the planet, and I enjoy the fact that I can do so in person and not on a screen.
STEPHANIE: What’s your background? And, what led you to art?
SEAN: I grew up just outside Baltimore and went to high school in Northern Virginia before taking off and hitting the road to see what the world had to offer. Up until I was 18, I lived in a suburban middle-class neighborhood. My father had a nice, stable job and my mom was always home for me, so I didn’t do any partying or skipping school, or general mayhem during my school years – I was pretty boring. I hung with the comic book, Dungeons & Dragons set but loved to play sports and be active. It was a pretty smooth life. I didn’t have some messed up life or lost parents or shitty neighborhood experience that molded my choices of what subject matter I paint. After high school, I decided to hit the road, which eventually landed me in New Orleans—a city and a time and a place that defined who I was to become. I was 20 years old running around the Big Easy, working as a cook, and just being a functional degenerate in the most romantic perception of the concept. It was there though, that I learned about Jazz and great food and met people who were much older and wiser than me, that were happy to share their knowledge. I’ve always enjoyed the company of my elders and to have an entire city full of people with colorful stories to tell and experiences from me to learn from, was incredible! It was a stark contrast to the suburban life I lived for almost two decades—I had found the soul of this country. Three years later I had enough of the intensity of New Orleans and decided to look west to California. My grandma swore I’d end up there anyway, just because I was an artist I assume, and so my buddy Silas and I jumped on a Greyhound and headed to San Diego. I could go on for hours about the culture shock of a kid running around New Orleans and then showing up in San Diego watching people with artificial white teeth gleefully jogging in the brightest damn sunlight you’d ever seen at 6 am, but let’s just say there was some adjustment to Cali life. Over the next 15 years, I honed my skills as an artist and got deep into building the art culture in San Diego, which there was very little of past paintings of boats and oceans and whales. My buddies and I cultivated the underground live painting events coupled with some amazing promoters who were running different music nights out of places like Landlord Jim’s and The Honey Bee Hive. I got introduced to San Diego Comic-Con and found out just how lucky I was to live in the city that hosted that event. I landed a gig with Sony creating a backstory for ‘Sweet Tooth’ as part of the ‘Twisted Metal’ game series, and did some art for movies, released a graphic novel, and 3 one-shot comics. I also met my wife Rachel, who became the catalyst for most of the great things that have happened in my career simply due to her pushing me and being a good sport, let’s say when I took some risks in my career. After some time in San Diego, we decided to get out of Southern California because it’s just not a great place to raise a family and a business. I need fresh air, trees, and land—a place that wasn’t just a cesspool of humanity and offered me a quiet place to create. I still have amazing friends down in SoCal, and I do have a blast when I go there, so it’s not all doom and gloom, but for where I was in my life and career, it was time to go. Now, we are established in Washington and my new studio has been built, so now I crank out art and produce products for the cannabis industry that push the envelope creatively.
STEPHANIE: What type of artist are you?
SEAN: I don’t know that I would have a certain type of art or artistry associated with me. I’ve def fit more into pop culture art being in comics and all, but I also do live art at clubs and festivals, more ‘corporate’ style art where a client has a very specific idea in mind, art for movies, and games, and am always looking for different projects to work on no matter the industry. I’ve found my style, and I’m starting to see other peoples’ art compared to mine as opposed to mine being compared to say, Tim Burton or Ralph Steadman, so that’s a fun bonus. As far as an artist on a personal level, not stylistically, I’m an artist that is out to change how the art world treats artists. I’m learning all I can about the business side of things and will work to educate other artists on how to navigate through that shit storm. Most artists are sensitive little bunnies that usually get chewed up by the galleries and buyers, and the others are just those who have put all of their time into creating amazing art, but none into learning how to protect themselves in the business sense. I’d like to change that and create a company whose sole purpose is to take artists in and say, ‘What do you want to do?” and then take care of the business side for them—but
do it from a perspective that I AM a creator myself, so I don’t need to screw them out of most of their cash to make my dreams work. Mine is just fine.
STEPHANIE: Readers may recognize your art from your work with OCB – how did that come about?
SEAN: Yes, I worked with OCB to bring this 100-year-old company into the modern age through my art for about 6 years. I was initially contacted by Cody Payne, who was pretty much running OCB in the U.S. single-handedly, about creating some artwork that would harken back to the old JOB rolling paper posters of the late 19th century. They wanted to get back into the poster culture that was so much of their brand for years. I thought it was a great concept, and jumped on board. Little did I know how much this relationship would affect my course through this industry. The rolling trays came about as just a marketing piece. I was a guest artist at the OCB ASD booth where they opened some boxes and out popped the Stag Head Girl on a rolling tray which blew me away. I had no idea that they were producing them, and they had no idea what impact it would have on the industry from an artistic standpoint. Up until that point, rolling tray art was pretty bad, just cliché images and rip off art. I didn’t even know how big these trays were going to get until I started showing up at the CHAMPS Trade Shows, where OCB would give trays away to people at the booth, and I would sign them. The first time we did it there was a line of people waiting and people running from the other side of the convention hall to make sure they didn’t miss out. It was flattering. Word spread and to this day, those trays redefined what art on accessories in this industry could be, and it’s fun to watch all of these massive distributors and other accessory companies follow suit with their lines of art-based products. Not saying I was the first because art and psychedelic imagery has been a mainstay in this industry for years, but I think I was the first to give a shit about how to move forward into the new industry landscape. After 6 years it was time to move on and start my line of products. The industry has embraced elevated art and I’ve found my place in all of this to make sure it keeps going in that direction.
STEPHANIE: You have a new book out, tell us about that.
SEAN: I have an art book out called ‘Confidence Pig’ – a cheeky title that means someone who can’t get enough of their self-confidence. It’s one part art book and one part business book for aspiring artists. There are over 50 paintings inside, including behind the scenes progress photos and shots from out and about at festivals, etc. The writing leans towards helping aspiring artists navigate the basics of an art career including how to sell your art, how to price your art, touring, what it means to be an artist in this day and age, and a special section about ‘Walmartists’–a term I coined in Australia while trying to think up a term for those artists at the comic conventions who just copy other people’s characters and don’t produce any of their own creations. The section talks heavily about the importance of creativity and original creation. I am working on another book that I would like to release in the next year or so-called ‘The First 30 Years’ which chronicles my career from when I published my first comic book at 15 years old until when I turn 45 next year. I also have several art business books I’m working on and there’s always the occasional comic or graphic novel that pops in my head to say “Hey when are we up?”
STEPHANIE: Tell us about your line of merchandise.
SEAN: I’ve always procured and marketed my merch—mainly t-shirts at rock shows, but now moving into the cannabis accessory market. I left OCB in Nov 2019 after I had done the research and got the samples and art together to launch my product line. It was my time to strike out and do things my way —which usually works out better in the long run. I started with a small product line: grinders, dab mats, stickers, patches, bottle openers, and tapestries, limiting them to 5 designs for most of the products and 10 for each sticker series so as not to overwhelm the shops and distributors, and to not look desperate with a “Hey, look I have 10,000 different grinder designs,” which never looks good. I’m making sure to curate the best of what I have to offer and to pay attention to how it’s released so it gives me and the shops time to promote to the customer. So far they’ve been doing well, with AFG Distribution being one of our best supporters on the distro end of things. They’ve been amazing at helping to walk me through some of the finer points of releasing my products, and have been great at promoting them.
STEPHANIE: Who/what inspires you?
SEAN: My inspirations come from all over, no matter what inspires the painting it’ll be heavy with story. I began in comic books back when I was 15 years old, when I self-published my first book ‘Tribal Scream’, and have always loved the combination of art and story that comics allows. Now that I’m mainly a painter, the way I incorporate story is to make sure all of my pieces have a solid backstory. I don’t paint anymore just to become more technically proficient at it, meaning to paint just for the sake of painting and to get better. I now paint with the intent of producing a piece that has intelligence built-in, as well as a healthy dose of insanity, humor and of course visual pleasure. Much of what I paint if it’s a commission comes from looking way beyond what I think most artists would paint or the public would think of. I love to twist situations and concepts into something that looks nothing like what it may be trying to portray initially, but once you dive into the story and look at how I got there, it all makes sense. Art that doesn’t make itself known easily is my wheelhouse. The cannabis industry has been a playground for that sort of thing in that the industry is in such a rush to grab that cash, that most companies have horrible branding and concepts. They steal from the next guy thinking that if they change their pot leaf to gold instead of green on their logo it’ll look so much better! There’s very little thought into much of what you see in an industry whose culture is steeped in art and music and amazingly wild shit, so it goes to show who cares to take the time and remember the culture behind their wallets, no matter if they have an MBA and massive amounts of funding. This culture will band together and ignore you just as quickly as you arrived, so I make sure that when I’m creating art for this industry, it takes into account that the cliché image of the ‘stoner’ is not what you think. Some of the smartest and most productive people I know use cannabis—heck, I married one and am business partners with another. I like the fact that the industry is so easy to stand out right now—makes the business a breeze, and because it’s legalizing now, it opens up this wonderful culture to those who may have shunned it in the past, and that allows me to create for a much broader crowd. I’ll always paint what I want first and foremost, or there’s no point in creating, but I pay attention to the people around me, and I pay attention to what will help to keep this industry special and it’s a rich history to not get stomped on by oil magnates and liquor barons who want to make a quick buck off of cannabis.
STEPHANIE: How can readers view your work, order, and follow you on social media?
SEAN: SeanDietrichArt.com is where you can find all of my art, merch, and more, and @seandietrich is my Instagram where I post works in progress and other little bits of life in the studio, or maybe just some obnoxious but funny stuff.