Q&A with City Pulse cover artist Dennis Preston


Dennis Preston is known for his work throughout Lansing — from doodling on coffee shop napkins to painting murals. He was first introduced to art at a very young age. From then on, he became consumed by art, with the help of teachers, cartoons and his older brother, Bill.

After graduating from Eastern High School, Preston, 67, kicked around the idea of moving to Australia and said if he hadn’t got into art, he envisioned doing “monster makeup and special effects for movies.”

The market housed an array of niche oddities, including a record store called Sounds & Diversions, where Preston painted murals and designed posters for local concerts and bands.

In 2013, The City Pulse wrote an article on Preston about a series of napkin-doodles he made at area Biggbys. The artist has also done several covers for The Pulse over the years.

The following Q&A with Dennis Preston has been edited for clarity.

When did you first discover your love of art?

I’ve been drawing since first grade. One day a classmate brought a book to school that showed how to draw Woody Woodpecker. It showed how to build him out of shapes and then add details. From then on, I started drawing cartoon characters that I saw on TV. My older brother, Bill, also had an influence on me. He could draw really well. He drew Ed “Big Daddy” Roth-type monsters.

Where do you get the inspiration for most of your art?

Listening to music, I guess. I like to draw to music that I enjoy. When I used to doodle on napkins at the area Biggbys, I would sometimes be influenced by what somebody said or how a person looked. Most of the time when I’m doodling, I just let loose and let the drawing grow into something. Sometimes that can get pretty weird.

What is your main medium for the art you create?

My main medium is either a black fine tip, ballpoint pen or a black Tombow brush pen. I hardly paint anymore. When I do, they are things that are requested in certain styles and subject matter. A long time ago, I used to paint to relax a little and to be creative, but it got to be that I was doing too much art. Even the painting began to feel like work too. So, I got more into making music and still do presently. It’s another outlet for me to be creative and have fun.

Who is your favorite artist?

There are quite a few, but early on, these were the ones during high school and right after: Dali, Magritte, Mucha, Rick Griffin, “Big Daddy” Roth. Dali and Magritte for Surrealism. Especially Dali, a lot of his work had amazing shading and exaggeration. Rick Griffin made amazing pen and ink work. His cross hatching was top quality and his shading skills really gave dimension to his characters and scenes. “Big Daddy” Roth, I was more into his monsters than the cars he drew. He has a very unique style.

What was your inspiration for “Sunburst”?

We’ve been getting a lot of rain lately and not enough sunny days. There’s flooding, farmers’ crops getting messed up and basically it wasn’t feeling like summer. So that’s why I have the sun ripping through the cloud. It’s time for the sun to be out.


Call for submissions:

This summer, City Pulse, as it has done for the last three years, will feature work from local artists on the cover for the next eight issues. Anyone who lives in Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties may submit to the “Summer of Art” contest. Individuals will be notified if their work has been selected. Additionally, the cover artist must donate their original artwork to the Arts Council’s Young Creatives Program. Artists will be compensated 30% of the auction price.

Pieces submitted must be scalable to 9.5 inches by 6.5 inches. Artwork will be accepted on a rolling basis up to Aug. 15. Original artwork can be submitted to lansingarts.slideroom.com. For more information, please call (517) 372-4636.


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