INTERVIEW : Chad Savage : Dark Artists Guild


Name: Chad Savage

Age: 41

Residence/Location/Describe locale: Mishawaka, IN – 90 miles east of Chicago

Studio Name/Location: Sinister Visions inc., Mishawaka, IN




Do you have an occupation other than Artist? Full-time graphic and web designer for the horror, Halloween and haunted house industries

Are you married, single, children, pets etc? Whatever you want to tell us: Married, 2 daughters, 2 dogs, 1 skeleton, numerous skulls

Would you make a list off the top of your head about things you are passionate about: Art, visual design, fonts, horror, haunted houses and Halloween.

Would you consider yourself spiritual and does it influence your work? Can you explain? I was raised for 20 years as a Southern Baptist; as soon as I got out on my own, I abandoned all the dogma, but kept the fundamental morality that my parents taught me. So it’s weird for me. I’m not spiritual in the sense that I think about being spiritual, but I probably live a more moral and just life than most self-aggrandizing religious types. I don’t judge*. I always try to put myself in The Other’s shoes. I treat everybody I deal with with dignity and respect unless/until they give me a reason not to.

*The one thing I can’t handle is stupid. People who refuse to use their brains, who are willfully ignorant, who would rather destroy something than understand it – I can’t stand’em.

What is your earliest memory of creating art? Nothing specific; I’ve been drawing since I was old enough to hold a pencil. Or Crayon, as the case may have been.

Did you attend art college? Yes. I received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of North Texas in 1991, in Illustration and Graphic Design.

Where do you see digital art heading in the future? I don’t view digital art as different than traditional painting, photography, sculpture or any other media… It’s a means to an end. A tool. People threw a hissy fit a hundred years ago when photography hit the scene, claiming it would be the death of traditional art. They did the same thing 10 years ago when digital art came on the scene. It’s just silly. Artists will find the media that works best for them, and will impress us all with their virtuosity. New forms of media don’t negate previous forms. People are still carving marble, for crying out loud.

PART 3 – Art

What is your philosophy about the art world in general? For the most part, the Art World is a bunch of hooey – a bunch of people trying to impress other people. More specifically, the people who make art trying to impress the people who buy art. Once you accept that, philosophy translates to sales pitch, and it’s all downhill from there. I don’t have time for any of it. I paint what I want to paint, because I want to paint it. If somebody digs it, awesome.

What is your definition of dark art? Dark art is a form of expression that uses a more dangerous visual vocabulary than “regular” art. Dark art explores the beauty of the scarier aspects of life. Dark art transgresses. Dark art celebrates the taboo.

What are your limits in your expression of the dark side? To the best of my knowledge, I don’t have any.

When did you first become interested in art? I’ve always been interested in art.

Did you go to classes, attend workshops? I majored in Illustration in college, so yes.

What artists do you admire? H. R. Giger, J. K. Potter, Joel-Peter Witkin, Clive Barker, Chet Zar, Brom, Alan M. Clark, Bernie Wrightson and a hundred others

Which one has had the most influence on you? Clive Barker, probably

From your experience, what is the best advise you can give fellow artists? Don’t expect to make a living from your artwork. It’s like any other talent-based business – only a very few are lucky enough to make a living from it.

What common mistakes do you see artists making these days? Not doing their homework and thinking they’re doing something original. Thinking the world owes them something. Thinking because they WANT to be great, they’ll be great (I call that American Idol Syndrome). Thinking other people will value their work as much as they do. Not realizing that there’s a 99% chance that there’s an artist out there that’s better than they are, and willing to work cheaper.

Did I mention I’m kind of cynical?

Part 4: YOUR ART

What medium of art do you create in? When I paint, watercolor. When I draw, ink. When it’s digital, Photoshop.

How and when did Sinister Visions develop? I’ve been using the name since 1992, but it became a serious business in 2001 when I found myself with a newborn baby and a wife undergoing cancer treatment; I had to find a way to make money without leaving the house. I had an internet connection. I had Dreamweaver. I had Photoshop. I love Halloween, horror and haunted houses. I found/carved out a niche for myself, out of necessity.

How do you market and what has worked for you in your marketing efforts? Originally I offered design work in exchange for ad space. Haunted Attraction Magazine took me up on that, as did a few other industry periodicals/websites. Sinister Visions sponsors many horror/haunt industry events by providing services in exchange for a sponsorship credit, which gets the logo in front of hundreds of potential clients. Social media sites have been critical in the growth of Sinister Visions as a company.

What are the most fascinating and fun projects you have worked on? As cheesy as this sounds, I find everything I work on fascinating/fun.

When did you first discover your dark side? How? When? What dark artistic passions or obsessions do you have or see in your work? This question presupposes that I was Joe Normal and that something happened to “turn” me. That’s not the case. I was ALWAYS the kid that liked Halloween better than Christmas. Always. The dark side has been my natural state of being for as long as I can remember. I am an Addams. A Munster. I like it spooky.

What motivates/inspires you to create? Do you ever get stuck? How do you become unstuck? Again, this question supposes that being creativity is something that doesn’t come naturally, or is something I have to work at. Again, not the case. I don’t get stuck, I just get tired, in which case, I sleep a while, then jump right back into it. Seriously – my job is to create marketing materials and imagery for spooky businesses and attractions 365 days a year. This is heaven. I’ll never run out of ideas for this.

What medium of art do use most often for your creations? What materials and tools do you use most often? Photoshop, hands down.

What is your greatest strength/weakness in creating art? I have no idea how to answer that. Might as well ask me “What is your greatest strength/weakness in ordering a taco?” – I don’t know – I just do it!

What is your personal favorite creation? Why? I’m not a Have Favorites kind of guy; this drives my wife crazy. She doesn’t believe it, but it’s true.

Are there any other branches of art you are or have ever been interested or involved in? I ran a website for 5 years called, which was an attempt to get dark artists to come together and mutually promote and educate each other and up-and-coming younger artists. It failed due to a spectacular lack of participation. I’ve also run art shows for several horror conventions and events, and regularly take part in/help organize exhibits in Chicago.

Have you worked on commissioned pieces of art? What is your most memorable and why? Commissioned art is part of my daily life, in one form or another, although it’s geared towards more practical/marketing purposes than I think you’re talking about. I don’t do portraits or art-for-the-sake-of-art commissions; everything I create is illustrative, brought about for a client for the purpose of marketing an event or product. I’m OK with that.

Otherwise, I’m just painting to entertain myself. I’m OK with that, too.

What are your dreams/plans/goals for the future? To not be eaten by a shark or a zombie. Not getting mauled by a bear would be nice, too.

From your experience, what is the best advise you can give fellow artists? To the business community, “artist” translates poorly, into words like “sucker”, “chump” or “expendable resource”. Find that hard-to-qualify equation that is the genuine value of your work vs. the price the market will bear. Don’t get ripped off. Don’t sell yourself short. But don’t oversell yourself either. Get the money up front – DO NOT deliver artwork until it’s been FULLY PAID FOR. EVER. Avail yourself of the ridiculous resource that is the internet – blogs, tutorials, community sites, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Artists today have a wealth of information at their fingertips that, frankly, artists my age didn’t have. Most important: PAY YOUR DUES. Nobody starts out on top – you take your lumps and work your way up. Respect those who’ve come before you. Respect those at the top of the field. Accept that you have a lot to learn. You’ll ALWAYS have a lot to learn. You stop learning, you’ve stopped living.

I could keep going like this for paragraphs, but I won’t.


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