I so enjoyed the concept fellow OSO columnist Matt Trulio ran with last week when he “Checked In” with Hering Propellers that I decided to do some checking in of my own this week. Although the extremely talented Dean Loucks, owner of The Art of Design (TAOD) in Elkhart, Ind., isn’t going to make your boat run faster like a prop from Hering might, Loucks can surely make your boat stand out. And the creative mastermind behind many of the most memorable performance boat paint jobs in the business has been up to quite a bit lately—both in and out of the marine industry.
Between opening his own art gallery less than a year ago to painting the PUMA Ocean Racing team sailboat, Loucks has been extremely busy, a good sign considering the downturn the powerboat market has taken the past several years.
“The timing was right to dedicate my efforts toward coming up with the style I wanted to use as an artist,” said Loucks, adding that for many years he tried to develop a style but was too busy painting boats, motorcycles, helicopters, motor homes and more to focus on much else. “I believe that things happen for a reason. So when the boat work slowed down some, it was actually perfect timing. I spent a lot more time on the art side.”
Loucks’ powerful style lends itself to many canvases from fine art to custom furniture to unique items such as bombs, coasters, pianos and pedal cars, which is why he opened Dean’s Place Art Gallery in Granger, Ind. Of course, the performance-boat world often crosses over into his paintings, as the boats are visually stunning—obviously—and many owners have commissioned pieces of their TAOD-painted boats.
While he’s truly enjoying the success of his gallery and continues to unveil new techniques—Dean’s Place Art Gallery is hosting an opening party for Loucks’ new copper series on Friday, Oct. 19 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.— Loucks takes pride in painting large canvases such as the remarkable Man of Steel/Zuperman, an Outerlimits Offshore Powerboats 50-foot catamaran with matching semi-truck and trailer that took about 5,000 hours to paint in 2009.
From Perfect Storm, a 36-foot Nor-Tech Hi-Performance Boats catamaran to Mamba, an Outerlimits 51 GTX, the list of iconic powerboats Loucks has painted is lengthy, but none of those boats have been photographed anywhere close to the number of times as the PUMA sailboat, which he was commissioned to paint for the Volvo Ocean Race.
Loucks said the PUMA boat was the most challenging project he’s ever completed thanks to its sheer size and the incredible detail required to replicate the computer-designed sea life artwork. The many days looking straight up with his arms up in the air painting propellers on the bottom of the boat didn’t make it any easier. But once completed, Loucks couldn’t have been more proud, especially since the boat is considered to be the most photographed vessel on the planet.
Loucks and company are currently wrapping up a new offshore catamaran from Skater Powerboats while at the same time finishing a pair of motor homes, a segment TAOD has jumped back into thanks to a partnership with Liberty Coach to paint its high-end Prevost motor coaches. In fact, a few of his paint jobs will be featured in upcoming shows on the Discovery Channel and the Travel Channel.
Even though he’s been able to dedicate time to other projects, Loucks does his best to stay connected to the powerboat clientele. In fact, he’s attended half a dozen events this year from Lake Havasu, Ariz., to Lake Cumberland, Ky., to Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri. He’s particularly concerned with reaching the influx of boaters getting into the sport for the first time.
“There is a group of people who are new to the boating scene who don’t know who we are, so that means we have to get out there on the pavement,” said Loucks, who recently won six American Art Association awards for his fine art in categories ranging from impressionism and still life to realism and animal. He’s won awards from the association in each of the last four years.
Loucks is definitely proud of TAOD’s reputation in the boat business and beyond, but he said the best is yet to come. “We can’t introduce all of our good ideas because the world just isn’t ready for them yet,” Loucks added with a wink.
Former Powerboat editor Jason Johnson was an integral part of the magazine staff from 2005 through 2011, utilizing journalistic integrity and experience in and around performance boats to report on all aspects of the go-fast lifestyle. The award-winning writer resides in Southern California and is the executive editor and co-publisher of speedonthewater.com, and writes for Sportboat and Powerboating in Paradise magazines.