Interviews like this are what get me excited about this project. Getting the opportunity to learn about the artist and how their story and timeline developed to bring us to this point. Dean has a great story and path that easily could have gone in several different directions and not ended up with one of the most popular breweries in the country, creating some of the most well known label art in the scene. Things don't happen over night and hard work is key. I'm confident you'll learn a little something new about Dean and how he came to be where he is today.


16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:       I know you have been really put out some great work with Tree House so I just kind of wanted to learn about your background as an artist and just kind of little bit more about you.  If you go to it has a very mysterious bio -- so I’m exciting to kind of get some more information.

Dean:               Yeah, I have been slacking in the website department like pretty much every other illustrator does for sure.  It’s an easy thing to go on your website and work on it but it’s just even harder to just sit down and do it so that’s why I got a super lax bio there but, yeah, I’m 30 years old, I went to UMASS Dartmouth for illustration and originally graphic design but switched to illustration and graduated with my bachelors from there in 2008, graduated and was kind of just out in the world -- it’s an awkward time for anybody but even more so for me -- as an artist, I had no idea what to do, had absolutely no idea, you know, I didn’t know -- I just thought you had to, you know, make art work and be in a gallery and that it. I had no idea that you could be a freelancer and get your hands on some cool projects like I’m involved in now, but fast forward to now especially with social media -- when I graduated, there was no Instagram. 

I mean Twitter and Facebook, those were around but it wasn’t really media based,  it was just still status updates and people sharing websites.  There was no imagery-based social media, you know, like the Instagram is a huge advantage and I use it as a tool to promote myself, to sell products, to network, it’s been such a awesome thing to have in my set of tools as an illustrator, you know, I mean -- some people use it just for fun, I mean I use it for fun too but I really use it as a tool.  So got out of college I had no idea what I was doing, you know, fast-forward little bit, sold cars, I sold pianos.  I just did a lot of sales.

I thought I wanted to be a tattoo artist at one point so I worked at tattoo shop for nearly a year as the manager/counter guy, just wanted to learn the ins and outs, you know, that didn’t work out and then I was a glass painter for I don’t know like a year and a half.  I hand-painted hundreds and hundreds of wine glasses and beer glasses and shot glasses for a large east coast-based gift shop, anything from Christmas stuff on the glasses, flowers to goofy stuff like lobsters and it’s funny to think back now but, you know, it’s all part of the artistic journey -- at that time I was like just whatever I can get my hands on but, you know, I really did all play into what I’m doing now.  So, I moved on from there, went back to retail which was not fun for little over a year.  And at that time -- that’s when I made my connection with Tree House, you know, I would get some work from them here and there, got a few more commissions from private commissions here and there. 

Thanks to social media promotions, specifically Instagram and then it kind of went hand in hand.  Once I got more work from Tree House out in the world, people started following that on Instagram and, you know, then I started getting more commission work so, Tree House definitely gave me a boost, help me break through the membrane of, you know, the hundreds of artists who are doing what I do, but, you know, it was just right place, right time and here I am now so that’s kind of a long winded response but, you know, I did skip over a lot of stuff but it’s kind of how I got to where I’m at now.

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        No, I think it’s a good story and even I think yeah, the bumps and the bruises that get you where you are I think help -- I mean if you check your Instagram you kind of even just see the evolution, like you’re saying from a business, you know, how you treated it, your early artwork you can kind of see where you were and would say if you like at the last few months it’s really -- it’s really been kind of a well-oiled machine and I think that’s been -- I think that’s really great and I think one of the cool things about social media too is somebody who is probably an artist that was in your spot is like well, how do I become like you know, do what Dean did and they can go through and see like it wasn’t something just like popped up overnight and kind of -- Appreciate the hassle.

                   Early Black and White Work - Jan '13

                   Early Black and White Work - Jan '13

Dean:   Yeah, it’s been about five years since I was selling cars and I was really good at it.  Originally I liked it, I was making good money and then a year went by and then just out of nowhere I was just sitting there one day and it was like really dead, I had no customers coming out a lot or anything and I was just like "What the hell I’m doing here?"  I was like, I thought, I was an artist, you know, still people would, if someone asked me, hey are you an artist, I would say yes, but I wasn’t making any art.  I wasn’t drawing.  I was like this is like my childhood dream is like slipping away you know, and I just quit.  I quit selling cars.  I went back to a job I had before that which was at a local music shop and so I went back to selling pianos and selling guitar strings and that sort of thing, but I did that part time and the other you know, like 15-20 hours a week I would devote to drawings.  So I mean uploading stuff to Instagram like I do now, but kind of still just floundering, you know, I would just wake up in the morning, go up to my studio and just like draw like -- okay, I’ll draw this, I’ll draw that, you know, even like, you know, fast forward like when I left the tattoo shop I was solely doing portraits, black and white and colored water color portraits of people and animals and stuff -- like that’s what I was doing for commissions.

None of the weird stuff I do now, you know, I was still kind of trying to figure out what the hell I was doing, you know, and then I went to glass painting gig and so like the style I developed too, not only, you know, the sort of getting my name out there, but the hardest part was developing my style, you know, I’m still kind of refining it but, you know, that kind of colorful style that I think people kind of associate with me now that that’s was even harder to cultivate over the past 5-6 years.

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        Yeah, and I think that -- yeah, I’m not am not an art major or that versed in it and I just know what I like and I think that it’s definitely a definitive style.  How would you describe it, you know, your aesthetic -- how would you -- I know it’s kind of like it’s kind of hard to put that in words but how would you describe?

Dean:               I’m not sure, it’s kind of weird I mean I think what a lot of people say is like when people inquire about commissioning me, they say hey, you know, can you --- I really like that that wavy style, like wavy line thing that you do.  I’m like it’s kind of funny because that is simple version of what it is, there’s like I use a lot of wavy colorful lines stacked up value and stuff cutting through skies and houses and whatever.  You know, so, but as far as like, I don’t know, you know, you say like if someone does really good portraits and it’s realistic and, you know, you say photorealistic or if it’s really abstract you know, you say it’s abstract painting, but I guess I would say it is a bit abstract, there is small -- slight foundation of perspective and stuff, you know, I don’t go like, you know, Picasso and stretch that stuff out you know, into different dimensions.

         The Five Year Plan started here

         The Five Year Plan started here

Dean:               It’s still rooted in the ABCs of art but I kind of -- just put my own spin on it and that really is the hardest part.  I mean with the amount of, you know, I’m not even close to achieving what I want to, you know, but I have achieved my goal of what I call my five year plan, you know, when I quit cars I said I’m going to give myself five years to do this.  At that time was like well, I want to a tattoo so I said in five years I’m going to be tattooing and then it morphed into I want to be a freelancer illustrator.  I want to work for myself, I don’t want a day job, I don’t want anything, I want to work for myself.  I want to get up in the morning, go up to my studio and be my own boss and do that everyday and then that’s what I’m doing.  And I did it in my five-year window so, I’m proud about that and, you know, like I said it’s most proud of the style I've developed because, back in school that’s what they try to drill into your head is develop a style, develop a style and it truly is easier said than done because it’s just so hard to find a niche style than someone else isn’t doing, you know, I mean it’s really -- it’s kind of a trippy  thing to think about, you know, with all the people that are creating amazing artwork to create in a way that has you stand out, especially in the sea that is Instagram and social media, you know, it’s a tough thing to do.

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        I would say keep doing what you’re doing, I definitely think it’s unique, I mean that’s one of the reasons I was drawn to it.  I love black and white, which I think you do really great job with, which if, you know, here in the story, that was kind of root to me in very you know, tattoo style drawings that black and white, but still very defined lines and kind of depth, and I think it’s really, you know, the thicker lines and the really strong without having to have, you know, all these colors and then you kind of take that too another place with, you know, lot of it’s nature base which I really dig and you know, then having these strong you know, kind of vivid color palettes together and the way you style.  Now what do you use to create that and thank you again, Dean did a custom piece for me -- for my wife for Christmas and we love it.

Dean:               Which one was that?

                             Dutch Windmill

                             Dutch Windmill

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        The windmill, the Dutch Windmill.

Dean:               Oh yeah, that’s right, that was rad.  That one came up good, that was a challenge too.  Anything architectural. It’s the way I compare is like doing buildings and stuff is like doing a portrait because you can’t really budge anything, you know, if one you know, I don’t know what they call one of the parts or like the paddles, you know, the what do you call on the windmills like looking kind of wonky like it would throw the whole thing off, you know, so I treat architecture and buildings and mechanical stuff -- you can’t fudge anything, you know, you have to do it just the way it looks in real life otherwise, you know, something is off there.  You know so but yeah that was cool, I was stoked to do that one for you.

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        Yeah, it was great and just looking at, what are you using, is it -- I mean I have seen some of your live stuff and we can talk about that in a minute but you know, what are you using to do that even just kind of having the moon sits on top of it.

Dean:               Yeah, it’s a combination of things but majority of it is they’re markers, it’s Prismacolor markers is the brand, Prismacolor.

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        Okay, if you’re listening Prismacolor, you have to sponsor Dean.

Dean:               Yeah, oh my god I wish because they’re not -- because they’re not cheap.

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        Yeah, I was going to say.  Yeah, that’s a new five-year plan, next five-year plan. Like I said before, you were talking about the business and using social media as a tool for that.  I think when I saw that you were doing the live drawings, I think that's really smart and I think it’s really interesting, is it stressful -- is it a lot more stressful?

Dean:               Yeah, I mean I guess I really enjoy it.  I think like I started doing it like now – like I do it every Wednesday at 9 now but I kind of was like oh cool, I'll give this a shot. I just happened to be working on a commission.  I was like, oh I’ll just go live like I’m working anyway, see if anyone tunes in and people are watching and I was like oh shit, people actually want to watch me like color this in for an hour. So, it is now that I have turned it into like a weekly thing, it is little bit more stressful.  It’s not just like oh I just happen to be on a Tuesday at 6, it’s like people are starting to expect it, they look forward to it.

Yeah, oh see you on Wednesday man, lets see what you're going todraw.  I’m like, you know, like last -- I didn’t do it last Wednesday because I was like up to my eyeballs in work, but I did it on Thursday a day late and I had like steady like 25 to 30 people watching for the entire for like hour long drawing.  I was like damn like that’s -- it’s not a bad ratio, you know, I don’t have a meager amount of followers on Instagram, but I certainly don’t have massive, you know, talking about 20,000-30,000 followers but to have, you know, under 4,000 followers and I have, 25 to 30 people tuning in, taking time out of their day to watch me draw it’s pretty cool, you know, it’s a really cool feature and so that is little more stressful, knowing that people are there specifically to watch me work and it’s not that I’m going to mess up.  I’m just like I don’t know just know that there’s 25-30 people like tuned in like watching what I’m doing, like it’s just weird and it’s live so it’s like it is a little bit stressful.

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        Yeah, I’m stressed just thinking about it like if somebody was like watching, I can edit stuff later -- somebody is sitting and watching me.

Dean:               Yeah, you know, what I mean like that’s the neat thing even if it’s like your job like it’s like when you’re like if you’ve ever like trained a new person at your job you know, like it’s something you have done a million times but when it is someone new you’re like wow, I really have to like tell them everything and they're watching me.  So, it’s cool.  I’m definitely going to press on.  I think I've done it four or five weeks now and I have sold every drawing I have done. Put it up for sale the next day on my website and I don’t know if you have tuned in but at the end of the drawing in the live feed I put up like a discount code so the next day I put it up on, you know, on Instagram the drawing for sale but if you were hanging out with me in the live feed, you can punch in the discount code and get it for less than someone else that wasn’t watching would get it for.

    Interactive Art Experience. Check IG for schedule

    Interactive Art Experience. Check IG for schedule

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        Yeah, I mean I think it’s really smart and I think that people like "Oh why would you want to go live?" or do that it’s sort of like, you know, it’s always a conversation like have you Facebook live and it’s like I would never do that but then I always think, you know, when I think about it now I definitely go back to the idea of you doing that and oh, it’s such a way to -- it’s pretty innovative, you know, just to I think it’s really smart.

Dean:               Yeah, I just with each advancement that comes out on social media I mean it’s just weird, you know, social media it’s all vanity, you know, I just want to use it as a tool.  You know, I’ll post like some personal stuff for my Instagram here and there, but I really try to keep it to my art. I just want people to be able to go on to my Instagram and just keep thumbing, just up-up-up until they get tired and just it’s art, all quality art.  And I don’t post everything I draw there either, I have a stack of drawings that are in peoples’ own like commissions I never posted, not that I dislike them, it’s just like some stuff, I just dump it on my computer and it gets pushed back and life goes on.  But I just really try to keep using it as a tool, you know, no matter what they throw at me, you know, they say okay you can do live feeds and I was like all right, how am I going to use this.

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        Yeah, I think the whole distribution model even just for music and other avenues for businesses, you don’t have to be a part of a major distribution channel or have a major label for a musician, you know, it really and it does give you the intimate feeling, you know, to which I think is really great. 

Dean:               Yeah, and that’s a lot of being able to like, you know, some of them, oh that’s cool man and they like see their Instagram and like oh, you know, thanks, then I just like call them out and people ask me questions and I mean it’s just it’s free, like why the hell wouldn’t I go on there.  You know, I don’t know if anyone else is doing a weekly thing -- I mean not that I know of, but it’s usually like artists I follow who will just let me hop on here and there and like go live, but I’m really trying to stick to the weekly thing because I want -- I always try to figure out ways to not only stand apart from just a massive amount of artists on Instagram but I just try to think of ways that keep people interested in what I’m doing and feel connected to what I’m doing.  You know, like it’s not just I’m good at art and here’s what I’m working on like I really care about not only what people think about my artwork, but I care about showing my craft whether it’s live or just on my Instagram.  But you know, I really want to just connect with the people that take the time to like my stuff or share it or comment on it and commission me, so that really means a lot to me to stay connected to people.  I’m not going to say fans like I’m not like that but you know, people that – to put it bluntly the people who give a shit about what I’m doing, you know, and I just want to show people like return the favor it’s like what I care about what you are doing too and I care about what do you think and, you know, people say, hey check this artist out or, you know, check out my work and there’s no ego here.  I always take the time to share the love, you know, so.

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        Like I said, I think it’s great and I got turned onto you because of Juice Machine that was how I you know, people then I started kind of just like you said, I dove in.  I was, you know, going through stuff and really liked it and I’m always a big fan of the black and white aesthetic just kind of in general and I really like it, it’s got - I don't want to minimize it, but simple lines but then they’re chunky and I just I think that stuff is really what kind of drew me in.

                         Juice Machine - great beer and artwork.

                        Juice Machine - great beer and artwork.

Dean:               Oh man yeah, I wish a lot of people or, you know, the colorful stuff seems to get, you know, the most feedback and love because it just pops on Instagram, black and white is tough, you know, it’s just sort of whizzes by when people see it. I don’t care.  Yeah, I love black and white stuff.  I mean that’s the back bone of any drawing, you know, if you have weak black and white work then you really don’t have anything you know, so I appreciate you saying that.

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        Yeah, I think it is great because you only have two colors right.  I mean obviously you can do variations I mean to me shading is really powerful and it just -- and, you're not using a lot of tricks it’s kind of it’s just has to stand on its own. I think I mean that’s what drew me to you and with that how did you get -- if I look, it looks like I think probably Curiosity 18 might have been your first time working with Tree House, how did you connect with them?

Dean:               I e-mailed them, but that’s the very, very short version but I knew that there were like two things I wanted to get my hands on.  I wanted to do skateboards.  I wanted to do skate decks and I wanted to do beer labels because I have always loved skate culture.  I personally don’t skateboard but I just love skate deck graphics and I have always been a craft beer drinker and I've always admired the labels you know, I always loved going to a store, you know, having absolutely no idea what anything was other than IPAs, you know, the different kinds and just buying solely on the labels.  That always fascinated me, so I wanted to do labels.  I was in my buddy’s house in Munson and he was having a 4th of July party and he was like, you know, you got to  try the Tree House, you know, I was like oh yeah, I have been hearing a lot about it blah, blah, blah so he gave me a can of -- it was "Lights On" and at the time I don’t know if you have seen original "lights on" can?

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        Yeah, it’s kind of blue and greenish kind of one right like it had a camping vibe to it, yeah.

Lights On redesign with a classic McKeever Cabin

Lights On redesign with a classic McKeever Cabin

Dean:               Yeah, sort of that they just whipped up real quick.  You know, you can tell it was like blue sky, green trees, yellow sun, they just like threw it in Illustrator, vectorized it in two seconds and, you know, it got the job done but I’m looking at it, I'm like dude, like I’m drinking the beer like just my face is melted off.  It’s like the best beer I ever had, you know, "Lights On" is still like one of my favorites and I’m looking at this label I'm like dude, this amazing beer does not match the label.  Like a label is sub par, the beer is out of this world.  So, I’m like I got to do something, I got to at least contact these guys you know, so I went home and I started writing the e-mail and I'm like I don’t have any work to show.  Like I didn’t have anything online, no website that was quality, so i pumped the brakes, you know, got some cool drawings together, threw them on a website and then went back to Tree Houses’ website, e-mailed them, you know, I was like hey I tried your beer, it’s amazing you know, I’d love to collaborate.  I think my style fits with the aesthetic of your brewery and at that time I was doing like no color stuff, just the black line work stuff like you were saying you enjoy looking at it like just a lot of line work and sent the e-mail up, didn’t hear back for a while and sent another one just a follow-up and I finally got an e-mail back and at the time I didn’t know that but it was actually Nate that I was talking to a Nate and he is the main man.  He is the head brewer at Tree House and I’m talking to this guy and like he is just like some kid that works there or something like I had no idea who I’m talking to like one of the best brewers in the country, which might have been a good thing because I wasn’t intimidated at all.  I was kind of like assumed it was like for whatever reason it was like just some kid.

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        Yeah, the intern that answers the e-mail box --

              Dean's 1st Can Label - Curiosity Eighteen

              Dean's 1st Can Label - Curiosity Eighteen

Dean:               Yeah, and it was weird to me like he wasn’t -- he was just talking like oh yeah, what’s up man like the e-mails were, you can tell like wrote them on his phones,   like everything was like lower case and like quickly e-mailed. He was like your work -- I checked out your work, it’s cool but we don’t need labels you know, we don’t need anything like that right now.  I was like oh shit, you know, but he was like but we need some T-shirts so I was like okay, I will take what I can get so I drew up three designs and sent them to him and he liked all three of them and paid me for all three of them and I was like flipping out you know.  Yeah, I was like holy -- I was really like and I remember at that time I gave him a deal like I cut him a deal on the price because he bought all three.  Again not knowing that it was like this empire of a brewery, you know what I mean.

So the T-shirts never happened, but I’m like oh waiting on these T-shirts and where are they you know, and then I get an e-mail one day from Nate and he was like hey check it out man, and he actually took one of the T-shirt designs that he bought from me and he used it as the Curiosity 18 label.  And he was like they come out today man like let’s see how this goes and it was like a test, you know, like if people were into it, like he would potentially want to move forward with me trying out more label work and I'm flipping out you know.  And so, the cans came out everyone was talking about it, lots of feedback like oh I love the line work and this and that and like it’s cool and like just all this awesome feedback and I’m just like blown away and he just ever since then he has always kept coming back for me for label work and I’m just glad I stayed positive because I was bummed that he wanted T-shirts and not labels but I was like, don’t be bummed like take whatever you can get, you’re talking to Tree House right now.

So, you know, and I approached the T-shirt designs like I would anything else, I worked really, really hard on them and I’m glad I did because he picked his favorite of the three and turned it to a, you know, Curiosity 18 can and this summer it will be two years since that happened and I got like approaching 30 labels or something like that with them so.

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        Yeah, I was going to say, I mean some of those labels you have a pretty, I mean iconic I mean especially for that brewery, you know, especially some of these special limited release ones, you know, in Perpetuity, Lights out, I think right that one’s yours, also Juice Machine

A single cup of coffee never looked so good

A single cup of coffee never looked so good

Dean:               Lights On is the one that I redesigned, it’s got a little cabin on it -- and like the Bright can, they do bright all the time and it’s just it’s insane because, you know, and I told the story a lot, you know, people were like how the hell did you get hooked up with Tree House I’m like that’s it -- I just e-mailed them -- right place, right time, you know, and I try not to think about the pile of e-mails that he probably gets from other artists like hey man, like you know, let me see if he needs some artwork like he probably turns away artists and keeps coming back to me and it’s just like I just keep doing great quality work, you know, I have to.  I mean I can’t lose this link with Tree House because it’s just like -  they're the shit.

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        Yeah.  You're the guy --  one of my favorite is the Single Shot, I mean again it’s a cup of coffee but it’s killer like it just if you’re like oh it’s a cup of coffee on the can, you know, it doesn’t do it justice, like I said if you got the Instagram you know, handle is Keever but yeah, that’s one of my favorites.  I think that’s--

Dean:               Thanks man, yeah.

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        But yeah, I was looking I was kind of blown away, I mean I knew you said the website is great, and Instagram is kind of like you can go through whole history of it, but it’s just really -- it’s really impressive to see, you don’t realize how many are yours and there’s really some great pieces and I think now they’re pretty synonymous with Tree House.  I mean other than I mean even what King Julius that was you also, I didn’t realize that and that’s a great one.

Dean:               I did, yeah, I did like triple of the king.

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        Yeah, however you say that, yeah.

Dean:               Yeah.

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        Yeah, the name of the beer is a little ridiculous but the label is pretty sick.  Yeah, I think it’s really impressive and if you haven’t had a chance to check out the Instagram, you know, people will really see some.  You just can see the whole story, it’s really cool especially you know, I went through it today and it was you know, looking at 18 and realizing how many you’ve done like I said it’s really exciting to see that, especially the story.  That’s one of the best parts about doing this is you hear everybody’s story, how they met the brewery or how they started doing it.

Dean:               Yeah.

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        And it’s really great, I mean I think everybody it’s inspiring you know, I think it just shows especially your story how -- yeah, everybody goes to college or something, but I think most people unfortunately don’t go to college for what they’re, paying the bills with and--

Dean:               I know--

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        You hit a couple crossroads and you could still be selling cars right now especially, that’s the problem right you get to a point where the money is good and it’s like okay, you know, I can make my happiness outside of this, but then you know--

Dean:               I think about going all the way back to when I quit my job to get to where I’m sitting right now in my studio taking to you about how I came to be a label artist for Tree House Brewery, like I was the car sales guy, you know, out there with a tie and putting the smiley face on, shaking hands and laughing at jokes that weren’t funny and stuff I used to -- I think back that that was me like it really feels like a dream, like it didn’t happen it’s like I can’t believe that it was me, you do what you gotta do. 

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        Yeah, no but I think that you took a chance too right?  I mean you’re like that was like you were saying you treat it like a business and you thought and you were like well, why not give this guy a shot and, you know, really -- yeah, if you just had couple more at that party and didn’t think, you know, and just enjoyed yourself a little more than normal and you might not have got around to it and you might have just be like yeah, whatever and then somebody -- than your buddy would hand you a can next time you’re there and it would be someone’s artwork you are like what, I can do this, why didn’t --

Dean:               Well yeah, I think it’s really cool too that, you know, I live in East Longmeadow I’m 15 minutes from the brewery, you know, I’m a local guy and it’s, you know, I would say before that the massive amounts of artists that with two clicks on your phone, you know, you don’t have to work with local people.  I mean I've done other label work for other breweries, you know, in California and stuff like I mean I've never been to the brewery, never -- might not ever go to the brewery and my labels were on the bottles right now as we speak.  But it’s just so awesome that  I’m local and they’re 15 minutes from me and instead of tapping into the Instagram and finding someone else or, you know, he just e-mails me and, you know, right now the road, it’s just cool you know, just that they decided to keep it local and go with me and I don’t think it’s, you know, I guess it wouldn’t matter like if I was from, you know, Florida or something and I was doing the same work, you know, it’s whatever but I just think it’s kind of a -- just a cool bonus to the story that I live in a town over from the brewery.

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        Yeah, and what is the process for new artwork because I mean you do majority of the Curiosities now, you have done the Native 1-2-3-4.

How far in advance do you get -- is it kind of we have this new beer coming out. Like are you the guy we should be going to get the scoop on what’s the new special beer coming out?

 The 'Top Secret' label Dean was creating - C31

 The 'Top Secret' label Dean was creating - C31

Dean:               Yeah, I mean like I’m -- the one I’m working on right now as we speak is something like super under lock and key for Tree House, you know what I mean like, but I don’t tell anybody, you know, my fiancée she knows but she doesn’t tell anyone.  You know, but I mean it’s just like initially it was pretty it was kind of funny like when I first started doing the labels like I didn’t get it still about like how high in demand Tree House was, like I was working on I think it was like my second label which I think was a Curiosity label, that would have been 21 and like I e-mailed Nate, the head brewer there, some sketches and stuff and I like went up to the brewery and I was like talking to him and there were bunch of people around and like again I didn’t know like Tree House fans were like sharks.  So, they’re like frenzy up there, you know what I mean and I’m like oh well, "Did you get those sketches I sent over for that the Curiosity 21 coming out next week?" and like I said that out loud and he like shushed me, he was like quiet, quiet, quiet, I'm like well, what’s wrong and I didn’t get it and it was super secretive thing, like I had no idea and like I got in trouble one time, not in trouble but he just had to tell me like to chill out like I was like I did the label for Bear, their Brown Ale.

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        Right.


       One of the version of the Bears shared on IG

       One of the version of the Bears shared on IG

Dean:               And I was like posting all of my process sketches of all the different bear heads I was drawing on my Instagram and all these like beer bros like lurking on my Instagram like tagging all their beer homies, like "check it out he is drawing Bear like you think Bear is going to drop next week?" and like I just didn’t get it, like you know what I mean.  So it was like it’s kind of funny that like that was part of the learning curve too that that was like I knew that they were a big deal, but like I never got my hands on such a big client before, you know what I mean to keep it professional and keep everything under wraps, you know, so lot of learning curves stuff but they do give me -- he gives me, you know, an e-mail, hey I need this label or oh you know, it’s time for the next Curiosity, you know.  So we will throw some ideas back and forth, I will send them for like the native labels, he has a very specific style guide that he wanted me to follow with like tone, background and like the last one -- last one I did, I think it was one with like the beekeeper on the front.

That was their country honey beer is what they called it, so like he is specifically said like something based around you know, bees, beekeeper, honey that sort of thing and I will send them like loose sketches before I spend all day drawing it, but with other stuff with Curiosity stuff like sometimes it was like you know, just do something cool and send them my way you know, so it really depends but yeah, usually it’s like a week or two heads up and I just -- I get really stoked because I’m a huge fan of Tree House too, so I'm like it’s like kind of cool like I know what’s coming out you know, but it’s hard --

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        Yeah.  I mean I will tell you, I don’t go up enough but it’s not your 15 minutes, hope they let you in the back -- hope you don’t have to wait in line.

Dean:               No, that’s the weird thing like they are like very, very strict up there. About who gets what like handouts, freebies, like I never expect anything but I wait in line with everybody else.

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        I love that.  I mean that’s kind of -- it must be like with this top secret you’re working on that’s kind of exciting, at least, you know, what day to go up there to get it, you know, that type of thing which is cool.

Dean:               Yeah, but it’s really, you know, and like people like don’t – people have recognized me before but like it’s funny, just like kind of like I mean it sucks that I got to wait in line like I really wish I could just march in there and be like artist coming through, you know, but like sometimes I’ll be in line it’s like funny like people are like, you know, talking about it or oh, you know, see that label is rad or like it’s just cool to see people like walking out with cases of Tree House beer with my label slapped all over them.  It’s like the first time I experienced that it was just surreal feeling.

An All-Star lineup of Dean's Tree House cans. Curiosity 18, Curiosity 21, In Perpetuity, Curiosity 22, Bear, Single Shot & Curiosity 23

An All-Star lineup of Dean's Tree House cans. Curiosity 18, Curiosity 21, In Perpetuity, Curiosity 22, Bear, Single Shot & Curiosity 23

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:        Yeah, and when you first was doing that was it harder for you to create like on the smaller canvas type thing or from your kind of tattoo days, your early days -- what were you more comfortable with?  I mean how does that go from what do you send over to them versus what gets on the can?

Dean:               Well, I usually draw like 9 x 12 or smaller for the Tree House stuff and I have a pretty – I got a process obviously, you know, I basically put it simply I scan it in and then tweak a few things digitally on the computer and then scale it down to the actual print size of the label.

16OZ. CANVAS - AJK:       I really appreciate you making the time, being your own boss.  I’m a fan of your work, again just taking time to be part of this project, I’m really just excited to speak to folks like yourself who are doing it and it’s a really great story I think on many levels and it’s something that I think hopefully folks you are listening, maybe obviously some beer fans will be listening but some folks who are artists who are just trying to find themselves and I think it’s really positive, not easy story, but, you know, you worked your ass off and you took a couple of chances and you’re grinding and, you know, that’s what you can hope for.

Dean:               Yeah, thanks for saying that AJ, I really appreciate that.  It’s true though, you know, the term grinding is it’s just what you got to do, you know, and yeah, I mean if anyone, you know, people hit me up all the time for anything from simple like oh what pen we’re using to how you kind of get to where you’re at, anyone’s more than welcome to hit me up through e-mail and website or Instagram and, you know, I’m happy to talk, help people out, you know, trade tips, anything you know.  So, like I said no ego here, I want to -- I’m here to help and I’m also -- I try to learn more everyday, you know, so never done grinding and never done learning, you know, you just kind of have that attitude just keep going forward you know.

 Photo Credit - Allison Litera -

 Photo Credit - Allison Litera -

Facebook: Dean J McKeever
Dribble: DJMillustration