Shades of Humanity: The Art of Derek Hess

Shades of Humanity: The Art of Derek Hess

- By Ramon Gonzales

Knotfest checks in with one of rock music's most accomplished visual contributors.

Revered artist Derek Hess started his career in Cleveland, Ohio. More specifically, his art first reached wider audiences during his tenure at the Euclid Tavern - it was there that Hess was booking bands and would inevitably put his illustrative talents to use, creating concert posters.

In the years since his humble beginnings, Hess has gone on to create lauded works for the likes of Pantera, Pink Floyd, Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, the Ramones, and Soundgarden to name a few. His work is permanently featured in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the Grammy Museum, and at the global art landmark of the Louvre in Paris, France.

In addition to his artistic contributions, Hess has been vocal about his past struggles with addiction and mental health. His book, Derek Hess: 31 Days In May, packages a brilliant translation of creativity and how art can provide respite for depression and isolation.

Equally poignant and prolific, Hess continues to craft works that balance the light and dark in way that provides a clear visual of humanity. His work is important, lasting, and cherished for good reason.

He was kind enough to give Knotfest some of his time.

Do you recall the moment you knew you wanted to become a career artist? HESS - Probably the 10th grade in high school. I was good at art so i played to my strength. I was pretty high in high school as well, so my academics suffered, but i could still do art.

What kinds of sacrifice have you had to make to get to where you are? HESS - Being self employed means there is no end. No retirement like friends of mine that I went to high school with. They are retired from a Ford plant with a pension, and so on.

Do you have a particular work that continues to influence/motivate you artistically? HESS - Probably “Heavy Heart” as of right now. The piece was about grieving for the loss of my dog Jose. I just had another loss of a pet dog, Rommel, and that piece resonates with me right now.

Was there ever a moment you thought about walking away from art as a career? - HESS - It comes up when i have artistic blocks.

What kind of legacy do you hope to leave? HESS - I just hope the art can withstand the test of time, that the emotion I was going for can still be related to in the future.

What are the artists that matter the most to you musically? HESS - I always go for the 70’s hard rock and metal. Thin Lizzy, UFO, Black Sabbath, and so on. They remind me of my formative years, it’s what i came up with.

Considering the current social climate, how important is art right now? HESS - I generally stay away from current events artwork. It dates the piece immediately, and like the legacy question i’d like my work to be more than a particular place and time. That being said, the insanity coming out of the White House right now needs to be called out, and if art is the way to go about doing that than so be it.

To stay current on all things Derek Hess visit his website - HERE

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