Blog / 2014 / Artist Dean Russo in My Inbox

December 30, 2014

Three times in the last few months, I’ve had Dean Russo’s art sent to me as work that is similar mine.

Gwenn Seemel’s art and Dean Russo’s art
Gwenn Seemel’s Richard from 2006 and Dean Russo’s Paul McCartney from 2014
(You can commission a portrait like Richard’s.)

The first time, I recognized the general resemblance and thanked the friend who’d sent it to me without thinking too much more about it.

Gwenn Seemel’s art and Dean Russo’s art
Gwenn Seemel’s Uniform from 2012 and Dean Russo’s Zebra from 2013
(For prints of Uniform, check out my Redbubble shop.)

The second time, I was surprised to have my work compared again to Russo’s, but, even then, I didn’t stop to take a careful look.

Gwenn Seemel’s art and Dean Russo’s art
Gwenn Seemel’s Not Necessarily a Lone Wolf from 2012 and Dean Russo’s Wolf from 2013
(For prints of Not Necessarily a Lone Wolf, check out my Redbubble shop.)

The third time Russo’s art showed up in my inbox, I decided that I’d better pay attention.

Gwenn Seemel’s art and Dean Russo’s art
Gwenn Seemel’s Daisy Dance from 2013 and Dean Russo’s Abyssinian from 2012
(You can commission a portrait like The Daisy Dance.)

I still don’t think I would have seen Russo’s work as all that much like mine if it hadn’t been pointed out to me repeatedly. Nevertheless, on closer inspection, I am getting a lot out of comparing our art. Then again I think that juxtaposing art that has something in common is always a fruitful exercise—like with René Magritte and Louise Bourgeois, with my art and the work of an artist who I believe is copying me, and with my work and that of a collaborator.

In this video interview, Russo cites graffiti writers as an inspiration, and, while I wouldn’t claim street art as a conscious influence on my style, I am drawn to it as well. The strong colors and the emphatic lines hum for me.

From what I understand of Russo’s process (from this video interview), he begins his works with a black-and-white posterized image of the subject which he has made from a photo. From there, he layers a variety of media onto the image to create unique works, and sometimes he layers on top of the same posterized image more than once to make works that are similar but not exactly the same.

What strikes me about his process is that back in 2007 I had a potential client who assumed I worked this way. He liked my style and he had a vision of hanging four portraits of himself over his mantlepiece, all based on the same photo but with different colors, a plan that he described as a “Seemelizing of Warhol.” I explained to the art lover how I actually made my portraits and we didn’t end up working together, but the reason why I tell this story now is that it seals the deal: there obviously are similarities between my art and Russo’s!

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