Frequently Asked Questions: Chad Savage
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN DRAWING? DID YOU RECEIVE ANY INSTRUCTION?
I’ve literally been drawing since I was old enough to put pencil (OK, crayon) to paper. At least, that’s what my parents told me. My mother claimed I was drawing before I could walk. There was never any doubt growing up about what I would do for a living, and I was lucky in that my father’s side of the family had a definite artist/designer streak.
I received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Illustration and Advertising Art (with a Minor in Theatrical Make-up) in 1991 from the University of North Texas. I was one of only a handfull of students to receive that degree, due to the fact that they started the illustration program after I started there, and ended it a year before I graduated (I never did quite find out why). Since there were about 10 students whose curriculum was completely geared towards the Illustration degree (and would have to attend another year to get the necessary credits to graduate with a different major), the school decided to let us finish out our program. I owe a particular debt to Larry Simpson, whose words of wisdom and advise are still ringing true today, all these years later.
HOW MANY PEOPLE WORK AT SINISTER VISIONS?
Sinister Visions has only one full-time employee: Me. Chad Savage. When a project warrants, I’ll occasionally collaborate with other designers and/or programmers to get the job done, but usually, it’s just me.
I’M NOT SURE I BELIEVE YOU – HOW CAN ONE GUY DO ALL THIS STUFF?
Believe me, it ain’t easy. For every project or endeavor I embark on, I’ve got 2 or 3 more in my head that I just don’t have time to make happen. If they ever invent a 36-hour day, I’ll be first in line.
By the same token, though, many of the people I most admire function in much the same way that I do – Clive Barker, for instance, has written books, plays, screenplays, directed movies, sculpted, paints, and lord knows what else. I’m not comparing myself to him – just making the point that some people like to try their hand at a LOT of different artforms. I’m one of those. I believe the word is dilettante:
I guess you could call me a professional dilettante.
WHY IS YOUR ART SO DARK? WHY ARE YOU INTO ALL THIS SCARY STUFF?
After years of trying to puzzle this out, I have to admit: I Just Am. It’s what I’m comfortable with and what I enjoy, same reason as Clive Barker or Tim Burton – some of us just prefer a darker aesthetic. Those who know me personally know that I have a highly-developed sense of humor, and get a great deal of enjoyment out of life – my art, while it is very personal, does not always reflect my personality.
WHAT SOFTWARE DO YOU USE TO MAKE ALL THIS STUFF?
Adobe Illustrator & Photoshop, Macromedia Flash & Dreamweaver, and a bazillion free helper applications. I love having a PC. Be aware that buying a copy of Dreamweaver doesn’t make you a web designer, buying Photoshop doesn’t make you an artist, and buying a hammer doesn’t make you a carpenter.
WHOSE WORK DO YOU ADMIRE?
There are some creative forces out there whom I hold in very high regard, whose work never fails to inspire me. Among them are H.R. Giger, Clive Barker, Poppy Z. Brite (sigh), Kathe Koja, J.K. Potter, Joel-Peter Witkin, Brom, Michael Parkes, M. Night Shyamalan, David Fincher, and about 50 bands . . . you can find links to my multitudinous muses on my Links pages.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
I’ve been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil, and I received my degree (Bachelor of Fine Arts) in illustration and graphic design from the University of North Texas in 1991.
In 1987 I read a book by Norine Dresser called American Vampires and – bless her – in the back, she included the names and addresses of a variety of vampire-related fan and fact organizations. I wrote to many of them and discovered that some were seeking submissions of artwork. Thus, my introduction to the wonderful world of ‘zines.
For those who don’t know, a ‘zine is an independently produced ‘magazine’ – it might be just a few xeroxed pages, or it can be a very professionally-produced product. Whatever the case, most ‘zines are created by and for a very specific thing, be it vampires, Star Trek, cats or underwater basket-weaving.
I began submitting work to the ‘zines to which I’d written, and as time went on, I discovered more and more, branched out into horror in general, and continue to build a career out of it to this day. In 1995, the readers of Deathrealm magazine (R.I.P.) were kind enough to vote me the best artist of the year and in 1999, the International Horror Guild nominated me for the same honor (I lost to Charles Burns).
In 2002 I went 100% freelance and haven’t looked back. I’ve worked closely with the wonderful folks at Your Plan B Company to start Spooky Incorporated and GothCard.com, continue to be the Design Maestro for Gothic.Net, have designed sites for Poppy Z. Brite and the International Horror Guild, done illustrations for a variety of horror magazines and books, and hope to continue doing this kind of thing as long as humanly possible!
DO YOU MAKE A LIVING AT THIS?
Yes. This is what I do full-time.
ARE YOU MARRIED? DO YOU HAVE KIDS?
IF I WANT TO GET MY OWN ARTWORK PUBLISHED, HOW CAN I GET STARTED?
First things first: If you think you’re going to jump right into this and get paid, you are just absolutely, terribly, amusingly wrong!! Get used to the idea of giving your work away (or at least, rights to publication of it) for a couple of years. Unless you are just fabulously talented, you have to establish yourself as a semi-recognizable name before you can play in the big leagues.
To do that, you must submit. Simple as that. Anybody that’ll take your work, give it to them – let every ‘zine you can find (that you like!) use your work, for free if necessary (which it invariably is). After a while, if you have any talent, people will start to recognize your name, and you’ll start to build a list of publication credits that you can use to submit to more prestigious magazines.
Now, some general rules. Get submission guidelines FIRST – nothing pisses off an editor faster than a submission that is glaringly wrong.
Second, include a cover letter. An envelope full of xeroxes with nothing else is, generally speaking, singularly unimpressive. Treat it like a job interview – typos and bad grammar aren’t going to help you, and forgetting to include any kind of verbal communication at all is just a big waste of everybody’s time.
Third, if submitting via mail, SEND A SELF-ADDRESSED STAMPED ENVELOPE (S.A.S.E.)!! If you want to hear from the people you’re submitting to, and if you want to be taken seriously, you will ALWAYS include a SASE. If you’re submitting via email, make sure you’re return contact info is correct. And if you’re submitting your online gallery or web site, spend the extra time to make sure it works. Broken links are as bad or worse than typos on a resume.
As for places to get started, there are a few options – first, there’s no better source for ‘zines than other ‘zines – most will have ads and listings for related ‘zines in them. Second, there are a variety of small-press journals that keep you current on what’s out ther. And third, well, you’re using it – Search The Web, Baby!
- A dabbler in an art or a field of knowledge.
- A lover of the fine arts; a connoisseur.