Saturday, 31 August 2013

The Fitton Inquisition w/ Dusty Peterson

When this interview series began to take shape, apart from a witty name (cheers Aaron!) what I really wanted was for it to cover the wider community involved in the music we adore. It's not just bands, its label people, engineers, and very importantly its artists and illustrators too.
I loves me some Six Feet Under these days, and one thing that has made their last two albums REALLY pop is the truly badass artwork that they sport on the front. Working in a record store made me notice album covers even more than I had before, and those ones practically leapt off the shelf at you. I needed to find out who dreamt up these dark images, and I discovered that the man responsible for those pieces was Dusty Peterson, a truly gifted individual with an insane eye for detail in his work. And I am beyond pleased that he has accepted an invitation to the Inquisition! I truly hope you all enjoy.

FI) Hey Dusty, thank you so much for answering some questions for us. I suppose we should start at the start - where are you from and when did you realise you wanted to be an Illustrator?

DP) I grew up in the Midwest, but now reside around the Seattle area.
I’ve had a huge interest in art my entire life but I knew that I wanted to make it a living when I started looking at art books around age 13. I flipped through all of them daily and was mesmerized at all of these science fiction, horror, and fantasy artists that spent all of their time getting paid to make art. I knew at that point that I wanted to work towards making it my life.
FI) Who are some of your biggest influences within your field?

DP) I have a lot, but the biggest ones who have actually influenced my style would be Michael Whelan, Wayne D. Barlowe, and H.R. Giger. I also like a lot of artists that I didn’t pull a lot from artistically, but they kept me interested in drawing like Jim Lee, Barry Windsor-Smith and Jim Starlin.
FI) You specialise in Horror / Dark Fantasy style work. Have you always been into that kind of thing? Do you ever toy with other styles?
DP) I have always been into it, yeah. I have these old stories that I wrote when I was 7 years old that involved aliens coming to earth and hacking out peoples’ eyeballs with machetes (because it was the 80’s and everything was cooler with machetes). Then there was another one about a kid who gets miniaturized and falls into a bowl of oatmeal where his flesh boils off and he’s devoured by creatures known as “Soggies”. I dunno, man. I’ve always been a little off with that kinda stuff. I always had to have meetings with teachers that thought I was going to be a serial killer or something, but I just had a never-ending supply of ideas that needed to get out. That’s all it was.

As for other styles, I love making bizarre cartoons and comics. If your readers are interested, they can check out to see my little dumping ground for absurdity. It’s all very random, weird stuff. I use that style to sort of cleanse my palette between more serious works.
Dawn Under Eclipse - Universus

FI) You're quite obviously a big metal fan. Was album artwork always an aspiration for you? What were some of your favourite covers growing up, and do you have a favourite from your own portfolio of work at all?
DP) It wasn’t directly an inspiration early on, but once I got Michael Whelan’s art book and saw his work for Sepultura and Obituary that quickly changed. I always noticed Ed Repka’s work for Megadeth back then, though.

As for my own favourite, “Universus” for the band “Dawn Under Eclipse” is my personal favourite.
FI) You're possibly best known for your work on the last two Six Feet Under albums, that's what brought me to the dance at least. How did that come about?

DP) After I had finished up on my work for Bloodbath, I figured I’d start trying to find some more clients. So I just went on sites like BNRmetal or Metal Archives and look for bands that I liked or was familiar with and started sending them my portfolio. I would say I sent off 50-75 emails, got 5 replies, and Barnes was one of the ones that actually wrote back. I remember thinking, “wow…out of all of these, I never expected the guy that I’m actually a massive fan of to write back”. From there, he said that he just wanted a simple, cheap T-shirt and so I did the angel skeleton that he ended up using for Graveyard Classics 3. He liked it so much that he said it needed to be on a cover and not just a shirt, and the rest is history. We’ve been working together on albums and various merchandise ever since.

I feel very lucky to be a part of it all.

FI) So when a label or artist commissions you to start a fresh piece of work, what is the process for you? Do they come to you with pre-conceived ideas at all?

Six Feet Under - Unborn
DP) It really depends. Some bands have a VERY specific idea in mind complete with bullet points for exact details that they want to see. Some simply say “We like what you do, so take free reign! We trust you!”. After getting a taste of the latter option, I tend to decline bands that are more specific with what they want. Some might think that’s a good way to not get any work, but the way I see it I am already pretty busy between the day job (video game artist) and family time that I can afford to be choosey. This is why lately I have been doing a lot more surreal work because that’s the kind of artwork I like to see on heavy metal album covers and that’s the kind of artwork that I naturally gravitate towards when someone says “have at it!”.

As far as the specific process, it could almost be an entire article itself. In general, though, it starts with a sketch (either in pencil or watercolor) and then I send them my idea. Once they sign off on it, I move forward with the rest of the piece.

FI) Are you able to tell us at all what you might be working on at present, or is that all top secret stuff?
DP) I don’t have a lot of projects going on at the moment because my wife is pregnant and I have been stepping back a little bit to make time for her. But I am currently working on a piece for a band called HOTH. They are local to Seattle area and they are black metal so that sounded like a fun project to me. I’ve never actually worked on a black metal cover, surprisingly. Once we get past the newborn stage, I’m sure I’ll be a little more active again.
FI) Some of our readers may have dreams of stepping into your profession. Do you have any advice or recommendations for them?
DP) Getting paid as an artist is kind of like asking a girl out. You have to have immense confidence in your abilities when trying to find work. If you are always worried that you aren’t good enough, you will never “get the girl” so to speak. So when you are ready, don’t ever second guess yourself and say “Nah, they are too big for me…I won’t bother writing them and sending them my portfolio”. That’s bullshit. You should send your portfolio to the smallest band and the biggest band equally. So what if they don’t write you back? You need to learn and embrace rejection early so that your own ego doesn’t get in the way of getting better as an artist and finding more work. As I said, I send TONS of emails out and hardly anyone ever replies. It’s a constant struggle, but you just keep pushing forward.

As for ego, it’s natural to have a little bit of ego as an artist. I think it’s actually essential for that confidence I was talking about earlier, but it’s a fine line. Always be humble. Don’t be a prick to people. You’d be surprised at just how far being nice to other people goes. 

Finally, and this is a big one…get critique. You can’t get better as an artist if you think you have peaked out. I see SO MANY ARTISTS that think they are the best on the planet and when someone says “I think it’d be better if…”, they flip out. It’s a gut reaction that every artist has faced, including me. You just want to say “You know what, man? What do you know about art anyway?”, but you need to push all of that aside and take what they have to say as a possibility that your work isn’t perfect. It might not be good critique, but it is always feedback that you should consider and try to remember the next time you create.

FI) Do you still have anything left that you want to achieve in your chosen art form? Maybe a group you would like to do a cover for, or another artist that you would love to collaborate with?

DP) Oh yeah, this list is never-ending. I’d love to do a cover for Gwar just because they are so over-the-top. I think I could do a crazy cover for them. It’d also be nice to work for a classic metal band like Judas Priest. Just to be a part of a legacy of a band like that would be such a massive accomplishment.

I’d like to collaborate with a LOT of people, but the problem is that most of the people I respect are so busy so it’ll likely never happen. That’s the downside of being a good artist. At some point your free time just vaporizes because everyone wants you for their project. So far, I haven’t hit that point. I still find time to do personal art just for myself. I guess I should consider that a luxury.

Six Feet Under - Undead

FI) Thanks again for taking the time to talk to us man. I always save the last space for shout outs; is there anything that you would like to tell our readers? Any links to share or work to promote?

DP) Just my website at and possibly my facebook page at  Between the two of those, that is where I spend most of my time.  Thanks to everyone who read this! Horns up!

Interview by : Matt Fitton

As ever, show your support to the band by checking them out at the various links.  Thanks to Dusty for being cool and taking part in the interview. 

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