Tripwire Talks To Illustrator Dillon Samuelson

Tripwire Talks To Illustrator Dillon Samuelson

Darkness Falls

Scott Braden and Meggan Groves Robinson talk to up-and-coming illustrator and fine artist Dillon Samuelson about his work…

Darkness falls and lightning crashes, but painter and illustrator Dillon Samuelson’s star is on the rise.

Currently living and working in York, Pennsylvania, USA (hometown of the pop grunge band, LIVE, for all you ‘90s aficionados), Samuelson graduated from the Fine Art program at York College of Pennsylvania in 2014, and the following year was awarded the third annual Appell Arts Fellowship at Marketview Arts. He has also completed residencies with the Vermont Studio Center and Springboard for the Arts, and his work has been shown in exhibitions across the States. His art is in private collections throughout the US, Europe, and Australia, and his award-winning illustrations have appeared in books, comics, short stories and more. 

He’s the real deal, folks.

With that said, we are the first to ask: At which point in your life did you know you wanted to be an artist – and at what age?

“I’ve enjoyed creating things since childhood,” said Samuelson, “whether it’s drawing, painting, designing LEGO models, or the occasional (and mostly embarrassing) stab at poetry. The primary ‘decision’ happened at 18 or so, when I decided to study fine art in college. My work has taken a few different directions since then, but always with the goal of having some kind of career in the arts.

Samuelson was awarded the Appell Arts Fellowship at Marketview Arts in York, PA. What is this prestigious honor?

“York College of Pennsylvania has an amazing opportunity for its recent graduates, made possible through the generosity of Mr. Louis Appell, Jr. and the Anne & Philip Glatfelter III Family Foundation. The fellowship involves a year-long residency in a downtown York studio and gallery, working with the college art students, Marketview staff, the college gallery, and the local community. You can find out more on the YCP website:”

Appell Arts Fellow | York College of PA The Appell Arts Fellowship is designed to allow a York College graduate to continue their progress toward arts-based careers after graduation, giving them the time and resources to extend their portfolio of work while also contributing to community-based uses of their art.

There is a dark beauty to Samuelson’s work. We asked the artist where that darkness comes from.

“From the devil?” the illustrator proposed, laughing. “I don’t know, exactly. It’s hard to pinpoint a specific answer. I suppose a general interest in folklore, fairy tales and other such stories is a heavy influence, although even when I focused primarily in portraiture painting, much of my work was dark and moody. Maybe the cliché of finding beauty in darkness and thus better appreciating the light, or something.” 

At the same time, in a lot of his work, the sea calls to him. What is it about Davey Jones Locker that appeals to the illustrator?

“One of my earliest interests was pirates,” Samuelson revealed, “though again I’m not quite sure why it started. But, between NC Wyeth’s Treasure Island illustrations, which I loved looking at before I could even read; the first LEGO set I asked my parents for as a kid (The Lagoon Lockup!); or other books and stories; that era of seafaring and the lore it inspired has always fascinated me.”

Samuelson’s work is going to be featured prominently in both the original and extended versions of Scott Braden & Mike Malbrough’s KENT MENACE #0. How was he approached to participate in the project and has he enjoyed it so far? 

“I think it was through Barbara DeCesare,” Samuelson remembered. “Somehow my name was given to the writer, Scott Braden, who sent me a message asking if I’d like to create an illustration for the issue. That has since expanded into three illustrations, and hopefully more down the road! And yes, I’ve enjoyed it so far: Pirates, Lovecraftian horror, weird glowing things?! How could I not?”

What about Samuelson’s creative process. How does he do what he does?

“My process is kind of haphazard and rarely consistent,” admitted the illustrator. “Often there is some kind of pre-work done: thumbnail sketches, research, creating or finding references . . . curating inspiration for the mood and visual effect I want to create. Other times I just wing it and hope for the best. Usually it’s a combination of those things with varying levels of frustration depending on the order I do them in.”

With all that, what other artists have inspired his work?

“Woof,” Samuelson said. “There are too many to list. Definitely the Brandywine school and its contemporaries (Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, Harvey Dunn, etc.) are one of my earliest and strongest inspirations, and by extension the authors who those illustrators were working with. I’m currently following 400+ people on Instagram, and all of them have probably given me some kind of inspiration.”

Are you planning any other comic book work in the near future?

“Nah,” he said. “I have some other book- and music-related illustrations coming up, and hopefully some gallery shows if there’s a safe way to do so, but nothing else comic-specific just yet.”

Whatever the future holds for the award-winning artist Dillon Samuelson, you can check out his darkly genius contribution to Scott Braden & Mike Malbrough’s KENT MENACE #0, scheduled for a Kickstarter campaign in Autumn 2020 and an eagerly anticipated 2021 release.

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