Today we’d like to introduce you to Dave DeCastris.
Dave, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Developing “Andy Whorehall” into something that works equally for representing my work, as well as that of many other artists, doesn’t possess one true starting point. It occurred because of many starting and end point experiences that led to it being a feral catalyst for my work. It has served my ideas, voices, interests in all medias—both commercial and fine—passionately well since establishing it as an official brand and working moniker. It wasn’t an easy road to get to, nor succinct enough to brag about in a positive light. I’ll give it a shot, but grab a pillow and a bucket of fried chicken.
There was never a true start to being a lifelong, working artist aside from being born with a natural born gift to create. My parents and a few teachers—Shirley Fedeli, Rebecca (Pinzarrone) Pelley, and Lynn Stockton—are to thank for nurturing that road. My creative career calling was extremely clear from the get-go. Despite poorer grades, an amateur body of creative work rewarded a Fine Arts merit scholarship to Bradley University. It was there that another two teachers, Oscar Gillespie and Valerie Carlson, exposed and influenced new ways to think, create, and be productive. I got lucky in some regards compared to many others with natural born creative talents— I’m doing exactly at age 44 what I did at age 3, and with the same sense of childlike wonder.
The differences now are extreme. My work is more proficient, calculated and superficial, but by all intents still pure. Adulthood is full of hypocrisies to survive, working artists will tell you so. The truest version of ourselves is childhood, and my work attempts to represent such without becoming pigeon-holed by labels, artistic fads, trends and movements.
My execution and subject matter teeters the lines between elementary wonder, teenage rebellion, midwestern ethics and character, domestic doldrums and lastly, capturing and translating society’s ignorant pursuit to establish, nurture and maintain the lowest levels of our human consciousness. The dark, proud place where ignorance prevails. The human experience is an incredible thing to observe, to steal from, to create and document.
Most people don’t know how to, or choose not to— there is a risk of taking in too much of that dark energy and becoming it. I know looking back on these various starting points to get to “Andy Whorehall” that I didn’t use my voice, talent, time and good energy to trust what it could become until the very end of my 20s.
The start of my other career after college in business, advertising and marketing, took about 8 years to merge with raw, natural artistic gifts. The longest 8 years of my life, I’ll add. I can’t say they were misspent, or that they provided a lack of inspiration either. The complete opposite. I learned everything about how and how not to treat people in business during these informative years. Sadly, a majority of these experiences are rooted in how not to treat people.
Strange, stuffy environments filled with many unethical, superficial beings, all quite talentless. Each and every person, including me, accomplishing such mediocre tasks to take pride in. I needed an outlet every night for me to recycle that dark energy into something else. My abilities to self-medicate through writing and sketching while devouring every waking sound of music within every genre got me through many years of trying to understand how unprofessional and greedy the professional world truly was underneath its pants. Eat or be eaten became a metaphor to live by.
Backtracking for the sake of getting to what and why Andy Whorehall exists. I still hadn’t come into my own with finding an artistic voice to represent my work during my years at Bradley. Still had to work dead-end jobs here and there to get by while others didn’t. That played a game on my lack of sleep and creative focus. It was nothing new to me as I’d been working since the age of 14 with a work permit to make small ends meet.
A private university environment was night and day from the church office, janitor, factory and paint store jobs I was lucky to have to bring in survival cash. You know, to save for a speedboat like a good American. Those years were fast and fleeting— and extremely influential. Given the chance, I’d still go back to remain at Bradley, to slow down and soak more of it in. I was surrounded by massive, national level talent and miss that influence often.
The reality that I needed a career path to finance my creative skills hit hard halfway through college. Hence, the B.S. instead of a B.F.A. I switched my focus to Commercial Art and Design—which was a no-no in those days. To leave fine arts to become hirable, to focus on commercial art was looked down upon. It was a major mistake looking back, to be like everyone else I would soon discover in the “professional” world. All I would soon discover would be ponies, carp, cattle and sheep.
The so-called, professional, white collar world of business (and whatever people defines a good job versus a bad one, salaries vs. hourlies), was a kettle full of fish. Carp. I didn’t know yet that that business world is for fish. All kinds of tiny carp swimming around aimlessly answering to a big fish, trying to swim faster and longer while hoping that there was more garbage in the water to eat. Everyone working to be a big fish. Let’s call it, “Carpy Can Do Nothing Talk Loud Fish”.
The advertising and marketing kettle was filled with drunk, ignorant, aimlessly proud fish. I was one of those little fishshits at that time and knew it. I was never ok with the path I chose, and often embarrassed, pretending to be a dumb ass American working for a speedboat and country club membership that I never had— and never wanted. I didn’t know yet that I was a hybrid horse shark in a kettle barn that the little ponies on the outside would feed from.
Oscar Gillespie, original O.G., tried his damnedest to keep me in Fine Arts program when he learned of my dumb-fuck degree switch to commercial art and design. I didn’t sense how dumb of a decision that was until I approached the second year of what would become 8 years in advertising and marketing after college. I lost my Fine Arts scholarship entering junior year because I broke away from the department and my scholarship agreement.
To make life long regrets worse, I turned down a post-grad scholarship offer from Notre Dame. A revered academia institution that Oscar made happen to keep my focus in fine arts after my sophomore year. I could have been a professor of art somewhere teaching tiny carp how to be sharks instead of possibly ending up stuck in a kettle full of filthy carp. Pretty dumb. I wasn’t thinking about the long haul then. My happiness, nurturing and developing natural creative skills, were the last things on my mind. I was thinking about fitting into whatever society believed was the road to being successful in America.
I’ve few regrets in life that I can count on two fingers, and that’s one.
Post-Bradley years were not for waste. The quality of people I was now surrounded by had this strange, natural ability to let me down at every turn. I learned how to be quiet, the doer, the helper, the overnight deadline deliverer with no need for anyone else’s help. There’s an “M” and an “E” in TEAM, but there’s no “Hey, how about you helping me get by on my lack of effort for once?” I realized after awhile that I was a budget solution, a one man department of skills that eliminated roles. Not cool but like I said before, paraphrasing whoever said it first: Eat or be eaten.
The professional world was far from professional, lacking ethics and innovation. My experience was completely different than some of my college advertising and marketing peers that I checked in with. I couldn’t keep from thinking, “How is it that the bosses from jobs I was working from age 14 to 22 had more class and ethics than these business bozos and sales sluts?” I still ponder that fact.
I became embarrassed for myself pretty quick. The path I chose was slowly disconnecting me from the best version of me. These hypocrisies of making a living and not doing what I had been doing since leaving the womb were in constant conflict.
I worked a few jobs in advertising and marketing, doing what I was taught I needed to do: Get big global brand experience under my belt and build something in my portfolio from there. Worked at the Ace Hardware Corporation in Oak Brook for a few years as the youngest member on their in-house ad team. Got bored with corporate rules and one-dimensional brand standards, moved on to two smaller firms for another few years, ended up back home in Rockford, Illinois. A place I vowed to never return to as a young man.
The first 8 years of my so-called professional career after college in the slums of advertising and marketing was nothing like I hoped it could be. It was gray, colorless. The pay was terrible, benefits non-existent, caffeinated egos running around amok, working class heroes living only for lunch and late afternoon benders to be stuck in traffic, to go home, maybe eat, maybe drink, maybe not, ignore phone calls, disconnect phone service altogether to save on a monthly budget, buy music, lots of it and sleep, repeat.
The majority of people in the industry at that age were talentless, immoral hacks. I was a silent observer with no voice at this point, and no proper outlet for my creative energy. Everyone around me, these so-called professionals, teetered in unethical, negative actions while preaching positivity, kindness, working hard and profitability. It’s all marketing book lies, and I was discovering that. It was shocking to me as I had never encountered so much ineptitude and ego in my blue collar work environments growing up. This was something else that I was discovering for the first time to be entirely American, and entirely disgusting.
The last straw before a newer, truer career start—Andy Whorehall—would occur around the year 2000. I had hopped from a smaller marketing firm that failed to set up benefits promised to me when hired to a mid-sized firm that pursued me when discovering through a print rep that I was running the entire show at that particular shit show.
(Some may think this is strange business behavior, but in the Rockford, Illinois and Chicagoland region, this is a normal. It’s a poor business standard. Promise the world to your hires, and then give them a glass of water and toilet paper for their benefits and bowel movements. Lastly: Wait for your workers to quit in a blaze of glory before yelling, “Ugh, there is no room for attitude on our team!”, and telling the media you can’t find quality workers to hire for the jobs you can’t fill. USA!)
By 2004, I had invested far too many silent years using my time obeying and servicing a succession of megalomanic account execs, perverted-privileged firm owners, partners, cheating sales reps, drunk creepy clients, and most importantly, talentless hack, racist, homophobic Motley Crüe loving creative directors. I also can’t ignore the fact that there were exactly 6 decent people amongst the hundreds of carp I met between 1996-2004 who stood out as honest, good human beings and hard workers. They have names: Charlie, Brent, Joe, Diana, Brad and Willie. They never, not once, took advantage of anyone else’s kindness and work ethics. They never treated others with greed and malice for personal, financial gains.
I knew this last job in an ad firm environment was it for me. I needed change. My work environments and industry jobs weren’t getting better, they were all consistently unhealthy and unethical but consistent enough to know it wasn’t simply me feeding off of regrets and dark energies to create away from the jobs. Overnight deadlines and 48 hour work benders on ad campaigns for print, web and television became normal. I was the single guy who ate shit so the others could go home to their families at night to eat steaks and buckets of fried chicken. Sounds funny, sounds sarcastic, and let me tell you: When you see things as clearly as I was seeing at that point, reality is far from funny and sarcastic. It was real, depressing and lacking personal and professional influence.
An inner child was screaming inside, but I wasn’t listening yet. I was learning that the glory days of 1950s, 60s and 70s Advertising and Marketing was over. Businesses were changing with technology. Look at it on paper and the industry-at-large has little to zero labor ethics compared to the tobacco and porn industry. The adult entertainment porn industry gives out better life and health benefits with higher pay than a career in advertising and marketing in Rockford, Illinois. By 2004 I knew I could work for myself and treat people better than what I had been experiencing for 8 years.
A miracle layoff before the summer of 2004 was the true start of something new. A reboot, a reinvention, I was thrilled to be unemployed. I had no family of my own to take care of. All I had was a couch, car, and an amazing collection of music and books. Fuck the real estate, golfing and owning a speedboat shit. I was free.
I had saved for a rainy day because I had no habits but music and books, and most importantly, a pile of sketchbooks filled with writings, drawings, songs I had created on the fly and accumulated.
Material things weren’t a concern to me. I’d go weeks without grocery trips, so living on very little was easy. Sleeping on the floor or couch was easy. I wasn’t living like others were and I didn’t care to. I wanted one thing in life at that point and it was to control my clock, my time, my efforts for taking care of me instead of greedy, privileged mother fuckers that consistently profited from the creative skills of myself and others not smart enough to face the facts.
I finally found my voice, but it wasn’t with my birth name. I founded Andy Whorehall in the summer of 2004 without premeditation or plotting. It was a joke one night amongst a pair of musician friends I had just met. They asked me about what I was going to do next, and all I could say was, “Who knows. All I know right now is that I know how to be whore. Andy Whorehall.” We laughed, and that was it.
It broke through in an instance after being laid off— or, as I like to call it, politely fired. The douchebag of a Creative Director who did everything possible to make my time at the last firm job miserable didn’t show up to work that day to sit in on the lay offs with firm execs. There are few days that I can recall true happiness overtaking me, and this was one of them.
I didn’t have to hear this bro, this braugh, this guy, this dude, this proud American, GOP voting, closet homophobe and racist talk about Motley Crüe and how how awesome Bush Jr. was ever again. I didn’t have to listen to the Crüe ever again. Or listen to him talk about combining silly fonts together such as Bank Gothic and Futura. I didn’t need to see his socks with his Birkenstock sandals on on Fridays to be forced to partake in team building lunches at the nearest Chili’s Grill and Bar—FRIDAY FUNDAYS—as they were pathetically labeled.
Unemployment for me was a positively life-changing starting point to reboot my career path and work for myself. I didn’t realize how much work I had amassed during those 8 years after college. It was all in front of me. In books, on cassette tapes, demos on top of demos of songs I had recorded with illustrations and monologues to match buried in sketch books.
There were trails and remnants of ideas scattered throughout notebooks for me to extract ideas from to go forward with, but I knew that I needed an outlet to earn. And I figured that was the easy part. I learned a few things at that point. One: Take care of time, respect it and work around the clock, and your time will take care of the work produced for yourself, and for anyone you contract to work for. Two: Be careful with kindness and generosity in business. If you are too kind and generous, be prepared to be abused by ponies and carp. Yes, eat or be eaten. Three: Be fair with rates, and help those you can unconditionally. Four: Cross me and I’ll make a cartoon out of you, call it art, and then sell it to buy myself a meal and a few records at the expense of your poor character and ethics. Five: Be a shark, a horse, anything— but don’t dare be a pony if you manage to escape being carp.
It was simple.
Being Andy Whorehall was simple.
I could finally use my work to tell people who deserved what they were getting to fuck off with art if they treated people unfairly. Those basic rules carried me for close to 10 years on my own and through a national recession on top of it all. All from within a ridiculously unethical, poor, corrupt, racist and nepotistic region called Rockford, Illinois.
Happy to say that my rules take care of anyone looking to make a life of their own in the arts while balancing commercial contract advertising and marketing work for businesses. However, I’m sad to state that my rules only take care of one person.
My way of working does not take care of a family, as many working artists can identify with. At some point, taking care of others becomes pertinent unless you truly love being alone, self-satisfied and jerking your ego off like most do in the executive world of advertising and marketing. I had no interests in launching my own firm, nor desired to. Gross.
I enjoyed having an outlet for my work to present ideas that were opposed to the woodgrain of everyday life through Andy Whorehall. It answered to no one and took care of me.
Getting fired by an ad firm that abused its workforce, clients, and was destined to go bankrupt during the recession—and it did—changed my life and career course. It was only one of many key starting points that I put into action to reboot my fine arts spirit circa 2004.
The idea of Andy Whorehall demanded more than funneling years of personal work through this vessel to have a voice, finally. It demanded something a bit more dangerous and full of shit. Something that resonated with pop culture and being alive during what I believe are the worst of times, and the best of times.
First, I made some physical changes with my newfound time. I quit hooping everyday, stopped exercising overall. I had been genetically stuck at about 145 lbs for a few years. Started eating everything in sight and established a nice 170 lbs by the end of my 20s. Being unemployed made it easy to eat like an American, but I did so out of pure spite to change my human experience. Blammo. Ladies finally loved me and all I did was become the lazy piece of shit guy that they dreamed all men can be. I became what I had observed most men to be that women fell for. It was all true— and I was documenting each and every moment to create something new from.
Sometimes the joke became art and the art became dangerous.
I fluctuated to 184 lbs by my mid-30s to play a joke on some friends. Don’t know if that was smart, but it was fun. Ate a few Klondike bars, bags of Doritos, and Cheetos with three Diet Cokes a day. That was nice, but the sweating was bothersome.
Got my beautiful shell back to 170 lbs without exercising, cut out the Klondike bars and Diet Cokes but not the Cheetos or Doritos. Hell no. The ladies loved me more and more. I was beginning to feel like so many Americans— loved for reasons that were superficial! Sure, it was incredibly disheartening to know that these wonderful women deserved much better in a man, or so I thought. The thing is, people get what people deserve and if you set your standards low, and make exceptions for such in others, that’s what you get. I strayed from relationships because working for myself demanded my time to protect— plus, I had no issues telling these beautiful women the honest truths about why relationships were not on my radar so that I could save the extra money for snacks, music and books.
I was extremely focused with this new start, and to a fault. Everywhere I went by myself, it was by myself that the signs presented themselves as indications that my inner child was on the path it had screamed to be on for far too long.
I received a fortune cookie once from KFC in 2008 after going through some hard times— lost all that beauty weight for a few months, ended up around 158 lbs. The cookie said: “Solitude is the way to happiness, financial stability, steaks, lobsters and feather pillows.”
Didn’t take too much stock in the paper mantra, ate a bucket of fried chicken and thought, “that was cool of karma to think of me, but I still like sleeping on the floor. and doing whatever the fuck I want to with my time”
So, to keep from committing to exercise, socializing with common folks and engaging in expensive relationships, I disconnected my phone for a few years. Best time of my life! No phone equals no problems.
Ate fast food 4 times a day, a few buckets of fried chicken a week, never took a walk unless I needed to get to-and-from my car, napped like a baby 2-3 hours a day and still, 170 lbs. Even today, still 170lbs. I eat 8 Whoppers a week in between a few 10 piece McNugget meals, 3 jumbo #6 Beef and Provolone’s from Jersey Mike’s with extra lettuce and juice (you know, to eat healthy here and there).
It’s same story, ladies and babies, dogs but not cats love, love, love lazy men. I eat whatever I want to and can’t seem to age, lose my hair or sprain an ankle.
I ordered a celebratory bucket of chicken recently to memorialize the near 15th anniversary of figuring out the key to a happy life through Andy Whorehall with all of this healthy diet and life stuff. At first KFC didn’t give me the fortune cookie with my bucket of fried chicken. Parked my car, went inside to ask about why my order was missing the fortune.
“We stopped giving out fortune cookies years ago.”
I was so sad. Handed over my bucket of crispy fried chicken and said, “Please, I can’t. Give this bucket to the next family or single father with hungry children. If it’s a single mom and she drives a Hummer, BMW or Mercedes—NO. No fried chicken for her and her kids. Please honor my requests.”
I got back onto my rent-a-bike and headed over to Chick-Fil A for a bucket of fried chicken. No buckets and no fortunes! I sped over to Panda Express for Orange Chicken. I asked for a bucket and they laughed at me— but they had fortune cookies, mmm. Score!
Rode back home with my meal and saved the cookie for last. The fortune was unbelievable: “Don’t hate the game. Hate the players on the bench ordering nachos without cheese and jalapeños to be delivered court-side.”
It wrecked my brain. I’ve been stumped for weeks!
The truth is that I’ve spent the past few years living and breathing off of work produced between the years of 1973 until 2004. Piles of writings, drawings and songs. Ideas documented, amateur, raw and filthy waiting to be cleaned up and recycled into anew. I’ve amassed so much work that I don’t have to come up with too much new work, but I still do. If I don’t, I’ll end up like everyone else: Miserable and unsatisfied, working only to acquire a speedboat.
Every few months I add something new to the pile: fast foods, political farces, domestic blues— but for the most part, I don’t put much faith in the life of a working artist anymore. Like advertising and marketing, it’s all a lie. Art is a lie. I’m ok with it all— it’s taken me decades to find the beauty, peace and influence in superficialities. That is the secret to enjoying the human experience and the limitations it beholds. It is an amazing place buried in our minds where the lowest level of human consciousness prevails. It can not be defeated by good intents. There is happiness in it, strangely, and I found it. Chicken McNuggets make me happier than a hundred dollar bill.
I am an artist and I am lying. If you noticed what I did there— it’s a lie! The fried chicken is funny to me. It’s referenced throughout and it makes me laugh more than money, and laughter is priceless. I hope the feeling is mutual.
I balance the demands of others best I can. I work another day job now that doesn’t interfere with my inner child. It’s not in advertising and marketing. and what’s most important at this point in life, the people are kind— I’m allowed to be me in a job that allows me to provide for a family of my own and create whatever the fuck I want to when I can find the time to be the best version of who I am at my best: Andy Whorehall— and that’s a good life for a working artist.
Has it been a smooth road?
Many obstacles and not worth sharing names. They know who they are, and they know exactly what they have done to take advantage of me and others. They may or may not know how influential they’ve been, and that’s for the best.
The other obstacle: Time.
I need more of it and can’t have it. The human experience is so fleeting, finite, feral and full of wonder. I need more time— to be continued.
So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Andy Whorehall story. Tell us more about the business.
I’m a one man ad firm and then some. Being kind, ethical, fair and generous to clients and peers while not competing with what the advertising and marketing industry has established as a norm is what I’m most proud of. I have no competition but myself which is what sets me apart from the other bozos.
How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
The advertising and marketing industry is a joke. A greedy, self-aggrandizing joke. I see nothing good to come of it. Within my other career, the arts, I see nothing important to come of it but ego-maniacal bodies of work that are easily accessible on the internet to comment on, rather than purchasing to hang on a wall so that myself and a few of us can continue forward towards the sixth dimension. A place where all of everything and nothing—art—can conquer and prosper.
- Cash is flammable.
- Money is evil.
- Website: http://davedecastris.com
- Phone: (815) 570-9866
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org