My Soapbox: Artist and musician Dylan Speeg

Dylan Speeg is all over the city. Whether serenading music lovers, painting and drawing the city's beautiful people, or tending bar at one of Cincinnati's many drinkeries, Speeg is not only active—he's really talented. His illustration style has been compared with Henri De Toulouse-Lautrec, while his music is a glamorous mixture of Delta Blues and Django Reinhardt. 

How would you describe your work ethic? 
I work compulsively. If I don't have a client, I do a job for a client I wish I had so it's in my portfolio. I always think you should let what you love kill you. If you are energized by something, follow it to the ends of the earth; if something robs your energy, you gotta throw it off.

Do you remember your first painting?
Not really. When I see my early stuff it's hard not to be a harsh critic of myself. I always think, "What a hack!"

How long does a typical portrait take?
Drawings take about an hour. Paintings about eight hours.

With which artists do you hope to be compared? 
Alfonse Mucha, R. Crumb, Frank Miller, Raymond Pettibone and Robert Williams.

What's the best place in the city to feature your art?
Restaurants and bars get the most traffic. Galleries are fine, too, but I got to sell stuff and they always take a cut, and they haven't seemed to do a better job of connecting me with buyers than I do on my own so far.

You are also a successful musician and bartender—what does your résumé look like?
My résumé looks like a one-man tribute to the Village People. It makes no sense at all. I hired somebody to help me make it cohesive. I was also a foreman for a landscaping company as well, so I have a lot of expertise about plants, drainage and speaking simple Spanish. I was also promotions/marketing manager for CityBeat newspaper for three years. 

Do you want to share any advice for a young artist in Cincinnati?
  1. Always draw. I draw on Post-it notes when I am bartending if it's slow.
  2. Look for work where others might not be. I started out doing portraits of different pastors and priests at churches for free and then would have them display them. I would then donate 20 percent to the church if they would have their members have me do portraits for them. I had adjusted my prices accordingly. 
  3. Always check out what your competition is doing. Stay in practice and learn to work super fast. It's not how good you are but how good can you be fast.
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