Artist Interview: Dale Novak

Dale Novak has been inspiring us now for a while. With his hunger to make art AND sell it IN PERSON at shows across the country, he has made major waves in the underground. Most of his work is intricate & fantastical, the kind of punk illustration that is sure to entice.

Along with a variety of prints, Dale also translates his work into embroidered patches, stickers and lapel pins, making it accessible to the masses. Dale is one of the most sincere people you'll meet. It's easy to gravitate towards his work at a show, and when he strikes up a conversation with you, you'll love his style even more.

Check out his art at Hearse Con 2020 at Stampede in Aurora on June 13th, 12pm - 6pm. And if you do, wish Dale (a Gemini) a very happy birthday!

All images by Dale Novak

Dirt: So, you're named after Dale Earnhardt? Any other similarities to the legend?

Dale Novak: Yes, that is true. I wish there were more similarities, but I had to settle with a slower vehicle and a less intimidating mustache.

Dirt: LOL :) Chaos or order?

Dale Novak: I'm sure the perfect world should have a little bit of both Chaos and Order. When there is chaos, it gives artists an opportunity to try and interpret what is going on through whatever creative output that they see fit. But there should always be some order in all this, or there wouldn't be a market for artists to shine.

Dirt: Describe your style in some words...

Dale Novak: I would describe my artwork as having the feeling of being in a retro-future, post-apocalyptic environment. But in this dark environment, everyone and everything will still be allowed to have dessert. My art can be can range from being really gritty, to being very colorful and bubbly. I just try to have fun it, no matter where the illustrations take me.

Dirt: What does it look like when you’re working on an illustration? Do you typically have coffee? Music? Other noise? In other words, what’s the ideal environment for you to create in?

Dale Novak: When I am working on piece, I honestly love working on drawing board laying on the floor or a low surface. There is always a plethora of different size pens and erasers scattered around me, with a light-box within arms reach. Music is playing in the background, drowning out all distractions. This would be an ideal work environment for me.

Dirt: Do you plan to try and sell work during this time of quarantine?

Dale Novak: During this year's Covid-19 pandemic, I am using this time to rebuild my portfolio and create some new illustrations that I will release after this pandemic is over.

Dirt: Growing up, a lot of your friends were artists as well. How did this influence your own work?

Dale Novak: When I was younger, my friends and I all loved to draw. I was convinced that at least one of my friends would end up famous, especially when they were all much more creative than me. Time and time again, I would try to step away from illustrating, only to be stuck watching my friends fill up note books with drawings. This would cause me to always end up backpedaling on giving up illustrating, and rejoining my friends with a pencil and piece of paper. I probably wouldn't have ended up trying to make a career out of illustrating if it wasn't for my friends.

Dirt: Having groups of creatives for friends is always a huge benefit. You're also a music lover and are consistently collaborating, and creating work for bands. Some of the bands you've connected with through your work with Barf Magazine. What are some of your favorite collaborations you’ve done?

Dale Novak: Creating content for Barf Magazine gave me a platform for others to see my illustrations. Because the magazine was heavily based around music, a lot of commissions that followed came from musicians who happened to pick up an issue and enjoy my drawings.

I found myself Illustrating design work from some of my favorite musicians, including designing the logo for

the Milwaukee Psych Fest 5.

Dirt: How does music specifically inspire your work?

Dale Novak: Music is one of the things that I can never get sick of. It is everywhere around us and will always be there. Music shapes our emotions and carries us to where we need to get to in life. Even though I can't play an instrument to save my life, it has so much influence in the artwork I create and the life I live.

Dirt: Music really is the MVP. Something else we like to get into with independent artists is the topic of success, because, coming from the underground, our definition of success often looks very different than a corporate trajectory for example- What makes you feel successful as an artist in your work?

Dale Novak: To me, being successful is to be able to inspire others to want to pick up a pen and create something from their imagination.

Dirt: Paying it forward, so to speak. I love that. You also do your own shows and pop-up at events to sell your art in person. Is this how you prefer to sell work, and why?

Dale Novak: Selling illustrations in person during art shows and pop-up events is my preferred method of selling work. Each drawing I that I create has a story or theme surrounding it. Being able to explain a story behind the artwork to anyone who purchases a piece, only makes them cherish it more.

Dirt: Do you find it easy to market & share your work?

Dale Novak: Marketing my art can fluctuate up and down throughout the year, depending on the season. During the warmer months promoting seems much easier than when it gets colder later in the year. Sharing work on different social media platforms also helps bring in viewers for my art.

Dirt: What effect does instagram have on your work, if any? 

Dale Novak: For me, Instagram has had a lot of pluses and minus on my work. Instagram has been a great tool in helping my designs reach others that I might never meet. It is also a great platform when I have needed to promote an upcoming event. However, I feel posting art on Instagram can sometimes take away the excitement from piece itself. Being able to see a drawing in person is much more rewarding than having it just being displayed on screen that has an endless scroll.

Dirt: Yeah, I absolutely agree. What’s your favorite thing to make? Posters? Patches? Lapel Pins? And what is your process for making it? 

Dale Novak: I love making all sorts of different knickknacks out of my artwork, but seeing my work as an embroidered back patch is probably the most fun for me. I have worked in the custom embroidery field for 5 years and it has had plenty of positive effects for me.

In order or create an embroidered patch, first you start with vectoring and simplifying a design. From there, you use an embroidery software to digitize your design into something that can actually be stitched on a embroidery machine. Then, the only thing left to do is choose your colors and run the design on a machine. Back patches can take anywhere from an hour up to five hours to stitch on a machine. I really enjoy embroidering my illustrations because it gives me an opportunity to see certain designs in color that I might not get while using pen and ink.

Dirt: How long does a piece like “Life is but a psychedelic cluster fuck” take you to complete from start to finish?

Dale Novak: For that piece, I didn't count my hours but it took quite a bit of time to finish the drawing. I started the piece by just drawing the bottom ground texture and the text "Psychedelic Cluster Fuck." From there, I actually got stuck on where I wanted to go from there with the piece.

During that same time as I was drawing that piece, I had a few other projects that I was working on time. I had to pause working on that illustration, and focus on the other projects. By the time I was able to free up some time, I actually had forgotten about the drawing itself. The drawing sat unfinished in a folder for about five months until I rediscovered it.

With a fresh mindset after such a long break from the piece, I wanted to continue you forward with it. I decided I wanted to finish the piece so it could be in the one year anniversary issue of Barf Magazine. I started out by adding in "Life is but a" above the text that was already on the paper, to make it a complete sentence.

Because the ground that I drew earlier on the piece looked like it was not from this world, I decided to fill in the background with outer space texture. When I finished inking in the piece, I decided to scan it in and color the rest through Photoshop.

That piece is unique to me because what I thought the drawing was going to look like when I started it, ended up being very different by the time I finished it. Sometimes it is great to take a break from a piece if you get stuck, so that you can return to it with a different outlook and a fresh mindset.

Dirt: Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Dale!