The Story of a Natural Born Genius
World-renowned artist, Dean Loucks took an unusual route to get to where he is today. That long road explains how he developed his unique style he's coined "the art of removal". And it definitely describes the reverse technique that has led to some of his most astounding pieces of work.
In the Beginning
From Etch-a-Sketch to Canvas
The rise of rock 'n roll heralded Dean Loucks' arrival into this world: September 21, 1964 to be exact. His life was pretty ordinary like just about every other Midwestern kid – school, church, and home. His family noticed his artistic abilities early on. They will tell you that he learned to draw before he could spell. Dean was drawing cars on his Etch-A-Sketch when he was just six years old.
During church one day, an older gentleman named Ed Miller, saw him doodling and must have been impressed because he bought Dean his first oil and watercolor set. From then on, Ed was always asking him to paint something. It didn't matter what – landscapes, trains, planes, seascapes, anything, and Loucks was more than happy to do it.
In high school, Dean discovered airbrush which he used to paint t-shirts and murals. He did the bodywork on his first car and even helped paint it. During high school, Dean pursued his two passions: art and skateboarding where he was semi-pro, sponsored by Gordon & Smith skateboards. He attended a vocational school for commercial art, winning first place in a state contest and an honorable mention in a national.
He wasn't afraid to experiment with various media – automotive paint, watercolor, oils, acrylics, colored pencils, charcoal, and chalk. He would turn anything he could get his hands on into a work of art. It's what propelled Dean to develop what he eventually called his "signature style".
Kick Flip and Grind to California
After graduation, Loucks had been freelancing and then worked for six years at Design Studios in management when he got the itch to move to California where he could pursue skateboarding and art full-time.
He found a niche in Southern California. In two years his distinctive, airbrushed, one-of-a-kind t-shirts were selling for around $100. The highest selling for $250, and a jean jacket for $600—a great profit for doing something he loved.
Dean was still getting illustration work from his old car show clients. He met with all the big firms: Hanna-Barbera, Universal Studios, Disney, Marvel Comics and Wallace Green Studios, where he did freelance airbrushing and layout work—pretty impressive for someone who didn't have a college degree.
After a couple years of sunshine, Dean headed back to Indiana with a brand new concept and an abundance of ideas that would take airbrushing and murals to a new level.
Pushing the Limits
Loucks' new ideas were taking shape in his basement where he was putting in 40 to 50 hours a week while working his "real" full-time job". After four years, he decided it was time to quit his day job and follow his passion.
Wanting to be the best, Loucks knew he needed help, but rather than spending money on people, he invested in computers and equipment. Most of his jobs were radio station graphics on trade show displays and vehicles, t-shirt designs, and airbrushed murals. He also had a few custom paint jobs for motorhome and boat builders.
Dean pushed the limits of technology using computers to create elaborate designs with vinyl templates for fine lines, shapes and patterns on motorcoaches and boats. It was something no one else in the custom paint industry had even thought of doing. Now everyone paints this way.
In the late 90's, Dean was painting 47-foot pleasure and race boats with two employees. His long-time friend, Mark Hughes, also came on board as a full-time painter and business partner. They named their new company "The Art of Design", TAOD for short. It was time to get focused!
Loucks and Hughes purchased a 15,000 sq. ft. building in Elkhart, Indiana then hired 17 people. They were creating phenomenal work and with each project outdoing their previous work. Loucks said he felt as if he had to come up with the chemistry to “steal time” by creating something so visually stimulating that people had to stop, look and ask questions. Their work went beyond “a paint job,” it was truly a work of art. Time was money, but in the end, their creations were custom and like no other.
The Car that Was to Come
In 2007, Dean bought a Dodge Viper wanting to change its appearance through color, self-designed parts, and interior, suspension and engine mods. It was good practice for the custom Formula 1 car that was yet to come — Eddie Cheever Jr's' backup Indy Car in 2000.
Cheevers' car arrived at TAOD in fairly poor condition with what looked like its original race paint. After putting over 1,000 hours into customizing the car, it was finally what Dean had envisioned — edgy, classy, sporty, and racy. It can only go 120 mph now since they replaced the motor with a smaller one, but it is still guaranteed to turn heads wherever it goes!
Painting a Story
Breaking new ground isn't just an occasional pleasure. It's TAOD's reason for existence. So when a tool doesn't perform quite the way they want it to or it has nothing left to give, they look for the next best thing. If they have to, they will make it themselves, sometimes with a little help from our friends. It's what led them to the creation of the Dean Loucks Signature Series line of custom paints of 769 colors.
Spring 2009 witnessed the launch of the Dean Loucks Fine Art Collection. The unique techniques Loucks developed over the years propelled him to a style of fine art painting that is distinct to Loucks, "the art of removal". Reducer is poured on, then it gets blown around. It sounds simple, but it's actually a lot more involved than that.
Dean Creates Musical Art
"Musical art" had been on Dean's mind for a while, but it wasn't until a chance meeting in 2010 on a flight to California that brought his concept through to fruition. Usually Dean sleeps during flights, but instead, he struck up a conversation with the guy next to him. It must have been fate because his neighbor, Peter Becker, was the president of Nobel Art Pianos in Easton, Pennsylvania.
Becker arranged delivery of the Sauter piano to Loucks' studio in Elkhart, Indiana and a complex process of taking the piano apart, painting it and putting it back together again ensued--with the added pressure of having the piano completed for the ArtExpo in New York, and in perfect condition to be played for entertainment and promotional purposes.
Loucks Licensed Notre Dame Artist
In 2011, Dean had been brainstorming different ideas for his gallery in Elkhart. As a Notre Dame local and a crazy Fighting Irish fan he was inspired to reach out to the university. He met with Mike Lowe, the head of merchandizing for ND, at his gallery, then spent a day walking the campus taking over 1,200 pictures.
Now, Dean Loucks is the first and only artist licensed by the University of Notre Dame to create officially licensed fine art paintings. His first art series for Notre Dame is called "The Spirit of the University Series." There are only six original art pieces in celebration of his partnership with the university. A limited reproduction of these art pieces are also available, each one signed and numbered out of 100.
He also has a variety of other Notre Dame gift ideas: custom painted football helmets, t-shirts, KitchenAids, guitars, and pianos.
Dean Loucks and TOAD Paint PUMA
Dean Loucks is notorious for some of the best paint schemes found on a lot of hi-performance powerboats out on the water today; which is how PUMA learned of the renowned painter.
In 2012, Puma needed help with their Volvo Ocean Race boat the "Mar Mostro". Their original design was meant to be created in vinyl which was too heavy for the hull. After asking around they heard about Dean from several people. They contacted Dean, sent him a few test panels, and after seeing the results they knew that Dean was their man.
TAOD spent almost three months in Newport, Rhode Island hand painting the Mar Mostro. It was not their typical project because the boat was actually being built around them while they painted. When the boat maker was finished with a section, Dean would move there, paint it, then cover it up to protect it from the construction dust and debris. They started on the bottom, moved to the front, and worked his way back, and finally onto the deck.
Liberty Coach Teams up with TAOD
While the Puma race boat project was in full swing, Dean needed to step away for a few days to attend a show in Georgia where he was promoting his Fleetwood coach. During the show, he met up with Frank Konigseder Jr,. president of Liberty Coach.
Konigseder wanted to introduce something different for their new line of Prevost. He was so impressed with Dean's unique style that Liberty contracted him to create “out-of-the-box” designs for their new coaches and have been using him exclusively ever since.
Dean's Place Debuts
2012 was a big year for Dean Loucks. He hand-paint the most photographed in the world, he became the only artist to sign on with Liberty Coach, and then he opened his art gallery, Dean's Place, in Granger, Indiana. The small gallery is exclusive to Dean's creations—fine art, custom furniture and just cool stuff.
It was here, in 2013, that "The Contraption" was unveiled. Plymouth (Indiana) High School commissioned Dean to create a sculpture that would be symbolic of the journey high school students will experience as they transition to the “real world.”
There Is No Limit, Just Ask KitchenAid
If there is a limit to what Dean will paint, he hasn't found it yet! Not even in the kitchen. From toasters to KitchenAid mixers, in December 2012, his creations caught the eye of the marketing staff at KitchenAid which led to his designing and painting limited runs of custom Stand Mixers that retail for almost $1,900.
What’s next, you ask. Who knows? Inspiration isn’t predictable. But it’s incredibly fun.
American Art Awards
5th Place (Tie) in Fashion: Elegant Time
1st Place (Tie) in Futurism: Old Money
3rd Place in Humorous: Can I Come In?
3rd Place in Impressionism- Animal: Free As
4th Place (Tie) in Impressionism- Animal: Underwater Galaxy
5th Place in Impressionism- Still Life: First Pour
3rd Place in Realism- Still Life: Still Runs
2nd Place in Futurism: What a Duesey
4th Place in Expressionism- Human Figure: Staying A Little Late
5th Place in Realism- Animal: Spunky
5th Place in Expressionism- Other: Don't Worry About The Past
2nd Place in Expressionism- Human Figure & 3rd in Humorous: Big Winner
2nd Place in Floral- Not Realistic: You Know I Am
3rd Place in Impressionism- Landscape: Still Standing
4th Place in Abstract: Life Begins Life Ends
1st Place in Futurism: Cowfish
2nd Place in Floral- Not Realistic: Ant View
2nd Place in Realism- Still Life: Still Standing