He’s back to his art after beating cancer

By Benjamin Wideman | For The Compass | April 1, 2015

Konop says faith helped him battle rare form of cancer, return to his passion of drawing

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]TWO RIVERS — Dean Konop has created hundreds of caricatures over the years. From Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre to “Star Trek” actor Leonard Nimoy to area families attending summer festivals, Konop has covered the gamut.

But it’s not often he’s asked to present Jesus Christ in the form of caricatures.

Your Catholic Neighbor: Dean Konop (Benjamin Wideman | For The Compass)
Your Catholic Neighbor: Dean Konop (Benjamin Wideman | For The Compass)

“Jesus was definitely different and challenging,” said Konop. “But I tried to capture what my feeling was and sort of bring those situations to life in the caricatures.”

Konop is one of 10 members of St. Peter the Fisherman Parish who utilized their artistic talents to create Stations of the Cross this Lenten season. Those stations — ranging from wood carvings to paintings to drawings — are on display outside the church’s entrance through Easter.

Konop was so inspired he created not one but three caricatures — for the fifth, seventh and eighth Stations of the Cross. Each is roughly 8 inches by 10 inches.

“I was actually quite depressed after I did the first one (the eighth station), because it’s so serious,” Konop said. “I’m used to drawing someone from the Packers and having it be playful and fun. With these, you have to take a different approach to how you make it look. So I did two of them in color, and then the other one (the seventh station) I did in black and white, reminiscent of a graphic novel.”

Deacon Paul Gleichner, pastoral associate at St. Peter the Fisherman, said Konop’s caricatures are tastefully done and have garnered numerous compliments from parishioners. Gleichner conceived the Stations of the Cross project and encouraged Konop to participate.

Konop has been a member of St. Peter the Fisherman since it formed in 2002. His original parish, St. Luke, was one of the four parishes that were consolidated at that time. St. Luke also happens to be Konop’s favorite saint, in part because he’s the patron saint of artists.

The Catholic faith has been important throughout Konop’s life, especially in 2005, when he was diagnosed with a very rare type of cancer that resulted in a quarter-sized tumor growing in his sinus.

“When I was told I had cancer, I was in shock and saddened,” Konop said. “The doctors said that within six weeks I could die. We had a family get-together and discussed what kind of things we could do.”

His options were to go to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota or a clinic in New York. He chose to stay in Manitowoc and had radiation and chemotherapy treatments at Holy Family Memorial for about a year.

“If I had decided on surgery, they would have opened up the back of my head, flipped open the skin on my face and dug out the tumor and hoped that I wouldn’t lose my senses (sight, sound, smell, touch and taste). I didn’t like that option, so the radiation and chemotherapy were my plan B,” he said. “When I was diagnosed, only three or four people had this type of cancer in the United States, and I think at that time I was the only one still alive. This year marks 20 years since then and I’m still here. Everything turned out OK.”

Konop said he tried to continue drawing throughout his treatments, but the chemotherapy and radiation affected the nerves in his fingers.

“I couldn’t get the right touch on the pencil because it always seemed like my fingers were sleeping,” he said. “Whenever I tried to draw it was very disheartening because I knew what I wanted to do but I couldn’t do it.”

Konop said he feared he would no longer be able to draw.

“I was very afraid art wouldn’t be there. But my family and I prayed and said many ‘Our Fathers,’” he recalled. “Eventually, the art came back and I feel like I became a better artist after that. Faith was very important in that whole process.”

Konop said he has been drawing ever since he can remember. So being able to pick up where he left off after treatments meant the world to him.

“When I was young, my mom would sit me in a high chair and put crayons and paper in front of me and I’d smoosh the crayon into the paper,” he said. “Then when I was around 4 years old, people noticed that when I was drawing I’d make a big head and a tiny body so they thought something was wrong with my perception.”

A visit to a medical specialist found nothing wrong.

“By the time I was in kindergarten, my teacher said I couldn’t draw that way,” Konop said. “And then in fourth grade I saw caricatures on TV during a milk break at school, and that opened up a whole new world for me. From then on, I was on the fast track to learning caricatures.”

Konop graduated from Roncalli High School in Manitowoc in 1992 and Silver Lake College in Manitowoc in 1997 (he majored in studio art). He has shared his love of art with younger generations, serving as an art teacher at St. Mary in Clarks Mills, All Saints in Denmark and St. Peter the Fisherman. Now, he works at Schroeder’s Department Store in downtown Two Rivers.

The summers are especially busy for Konop, who attends area festivals offering his services as a caricature artist. He began doing it professionally in 1997.

The time needed to complete a caricature varies greatly depending on several factors. But, on average, Konop can complete a color picture in about three hours. He uses paint or oil-based colored pencils, or a combination of both.

“I try to get as close to a resemblance as possible so you know right away who it is in the caricature,” Konop said. “I want people to like what I created.”

Konop isn’t just a caricature artist. He also paints well-known works of art on small wooden fish and sells them through Art-o-mat. The company sells artists’ small creations in refurbished old cigarette vending machines. Konop has made about 1,600 different fish, which have sold nationwide.

“As long as I’m doing some kind of art, I’m pretty happy,” Konop said.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_message color=”alert-info” style=”rounded”]Your Catholic Neighbor

Name: Dean Konop

Parish: St. Peter the Fisherman, Two Rivers

Age: 41

Favorite saint: Luke[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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