More About the Artist
Spend some time with artist Dean Loucks and you’ll walk away thoroughly convinced nothing is impossible. Whether he’s transforming a standard, factory finish into a glossy, one-of-a-kind masterpiece, or he’s developing a technique that changes the way an entire industry paints, Dean pushes himself and his team toward an exacting artistic vision that is nearly boundless. “When a project leaves TAOD,” he says, “it takes a piece of our lives with it. Our art has depth because it comes from inside each person who contributes to the project. We know the project is done when we can’t find a way to make it better. Then, and only then, can we let it go.” In an industry that often values quantity over quality, this uncompromising approach is unusual. But to Dean, it’s simply an extension of who he’s always been.
Small Town to World Renown
Born in the sleepy Midwestern town of Goshen, Indiana (pop. 13,700) on September 21, 1964, Dean began drawing almost before he could write. His family remembers him as a precocious child, his drawings detailed while his peers scrawled stick figures and square houses. Dean, however, simply remembers a driving desire to push the envelope on artistic expression. “Even then,” he says, “I wanted to make art unlike anything else out there. I wanted to create something different than anyone had ever seen.”
When Dean was about 9, he was drawing in church when his skill caught the eye of an older gentleman, Ed Miller. Mr. Miller was so impressed by what he saw that he gave Dean his first oil and watercolor set and encouraged him to try his hand at painting. And, paint he did! Cars, trains, seascapes – Dean painted anything and everything, slowly but surely mastering this new technique.
By the time he was a teenager, Dean had discovered the tool that would forever change the way he approached his art – the airbrush. He used it to paint t-shirts and murals, and even began experimenting with custom automotive finishes. Knowing this was his future, Dean spent his high school years at a vocational school for commercial art, where his talent and unusual style not only gained him state and national contest attention, but caught the eyes of local van conversion and advertising agencies, who hired the young artist for freelance illustration, even before graduation.
As a young adult, Dean worked in the corporate world of art, steadily moving up the ladder into management, but something was missing. He missed the days spent creating art with his hands – of starting with something blank and nondescript, and coaxing out the magic that would make it impossible to look away from.
Change is in the Air(brush)
At the ripe age of 24, Dean packed up his belongings and made the culture shifting move from sleepy Indiana, to bustling California. Right away, he found work as a freelance artist, using his airbrush to create murals, one-of-a-kind finishes on cars and trucks, and to transform t-shirts and jackets into custom apparel that sold for hundreds of dollars, even in the late-80’s market. Unsurprisingly, his work caught the attention of the big fish, and soon Dean was using his airbrush for the likes of Hanna-Barbera, Universal, Disney, Marvel and Wallace Green Studios.
But, as with every story worth telling, it was an unexpected and seemingly insignificant detail that sparked a change. While working on a mural in Orange County, California, Dean drove the short distance to Venice Beach and visited a gallery displaying 10-foot tall paintings of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash. “Cash’s hat looked photorealistic!” Dean recalls. Intrigued by the size and scale of the near-perfect reproduction, Dean continued to ponder that hat as he finished the Orange County mural. “Murals are hard work,” he explains, “and proportions are difficult to transfer and work out.” Common practice was to hand impose a grid over the surface of the mural sketch, then transfer the design, freehand, block-by-block onto the larger scale of the mural surface. The approach was inefficient and often, imprecise – words that don’t fit within Dean’s vocabulary.
He knew there had to be a better way, and he knew he could find it. Dean considered the large scale and realistic detail of the hat in the Johnny Cash painting, thought about how it could be reproduced with reliability and excellence. Then suddenly, he knew! “I realized I could do a sketch, and with a computer, resize it at will,” Dean says. “I could do a design once, then use it over and over, large or small.”
He didn’t know it then, but Dean had just changed the custom painting industry.
“I quickly earned the reputation of being very good and very fast,” he says. As word spread about his innovative approach and the quality of his work, Dean began taking larger and larger commissions, sometimes traveling to meet the needs of his corporate clients. Around 1997, he began to work more on large offshore race and pleasure boats. After a few years of painting these 47-foot moving canvases by himself, or with the help of his two assistants, Dean knew it was time to expand.
He brought in Mark Hughes - a long-time friend and fellow artist - as a business partner, and TAOD (The Art of Design) was born.
Dean was fanatical about quality – perfecting each new idea and technique at his own expense before offering it to his ever expanding clientele. He designed custom graphics for radio stations, completely transformed Prevost motorcoaches and boats, airbrushed large-scale murals and even used his new technology to cut custom stencils for other paint shops.
When demand for his work again outpaced his time and resources, Dean purchased a 15,000 square foot warehouse in Elkhart, Indiana and added 17 talented artists to the TAOD team.
Today, TAOD is recognized around the world for its uncompromising quality and striking design. Dean jokes that he and his team have the ability to “steal time” by creating something so visually stimulating, people have to stop and stare, and many of his customers would argue this is actually true. Dean remembers, “I painted a bus for a customer in Canada. He called us, laughing, saying, ‘Nobody will leave us alone! Everyone stops and wants to know who did this paint!’”
Buses, Cars, Boats, Jets, Helicopters… there is nothing the team at TAOD can’t transform into moving art. With Dean and his airbrush, nothing is impossible.
Want to know more about TAOD? Click here.
Want to know more about Dean’s art? Click here.
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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