death and art tributes

Art can actually be a beautiful way to pay tribute to death, there’s no wrong way to grieve, and there’s validity in being sad over people you’ve never even met.

But to any artists out there, I encourage you to simply ask yourself honestly if within hours of discovering someone dying, and you’re already putting pen/brush to paper/canvas — why you are, and if you should. Are you doing that because you profoundly want to honor this person you have never commemorated before, or are you capitalizing on someone’s death for self-promotion? If the answer is the former, then a “window of relevance” won’t matter — put weight behind that decision, take care, take your time, and truly make it great.

"Neil deGrasse Tyson" - Illustration by samspratt

Finally got around to wrapping up this portrait of everyone’s favorite astrophysicist. With his huge impact on new generations of aspiring scientists, I knew I wanted the background to be children’s space drawings. With my 6 year-old niece’s planetary masterpieces as inspiration, I did my best imitation with my left hand. (prints available here)

What do you think about gays/feminines in the art industry? I mean, there's no doubt that in art school, there is a majority of women and more likelihood of gays. However, in the real world, it's harder to find female illustrators and artists and I rarely discover gay illustrators/artists.

Asked by Anonymous

Art does seem like it’d be the thing that is filled with massively diverse representation, right? After all, it seems only logical that the artwork itself would be all that matters and art could exist as a monolithic post-racial, feminist, equality-loving utopia devoid of the failings of the real world. But I also went to art school and based on the people around me at the time, it didn’t seem unreasonable to actually assume that being a straightwhiteman, I’d actually be part of a small demographic within this supposed utopian art industry. Over 4 years into the real world and living in an amazingly diverse city like New York, I can very safely say that my assumption was utter and complete bullshit. Illustration and fine art overflows with straightwhitemen and while there are certainly many exceptions to that, you have to be actively closing your eyes to not notice a gross imbalance. Not an imbalance of talent, creativity, or relevance, but of simple representation.

I mean, it’s a long shot, but it’s almost as if the art world isn’t a special snowflake utopia and actually has the same systemic and historical prejudices that presently still blatantly and subtly plague politics, film, business, tech, the military, sports, and … just about every other aspect of culture.

Hi, hey, hello. Tiny PSA — generally speaking, all of you are really great, the messages in my inbox are super nice and I’m Wayne’s World levels of unworthy. But for whatever reason, there’s been a recent uptick in people saying nice things to me (sweet) but do so by also tearing apart other artists specifically by name or even entire genres of art (not sweet). Like instead of people saying “Yo, Sam, I really like your new calculator watch” they’re saying “Yo, Sam, I really like your new calculator watch, unlike Stacey Applebaum whose watch does NOT have any mathematical functionality. What a fuckhead.”

In an attempt to do something nice, you’ve done something pretty bullshitty. If that rare magical feeling that causes you to celebrate someone — may it be for their genetics, their art, their music, their body, their words, their mind, their actions, or any other thing that was enough for you to put that small shred of goodness out into the air — please don’t sully it by shaming others in the process. And that’s really like the bare minimum, ideally you can find something to celebrate about Stacey to tell her too. Thanks, that’s all.

How do you feel about experimentation vs staying true to your voice as an artist?

Asked by Anonymous

I mean, people evolve. Our personalities, our tastes, and our interests shift constantly as we’re introduced to new ideas, experiences, and perspectives. I don’t see why our art — whatever that may be — shouldn’t do the same with us.

"Staying true to your voice as an artist" just sounds like stagnation under the guise of tradition — it’s the artsy equivalent of those curmudgeon-y, old, racist, guys who bullshitedly romanticize the 1950s and yell at youths for their internet telephones, hippity-hop, black presidents, and clothing which doesn’t cover knees. If you get too comfortable with the way things have always been done — with you or your art — you’ll miss (what in my opinion is) one of the absolute best parts of being human: growth.

Now, that may seem like heavy talk, but I’m not sure that we can detach those big human concepts from art — they’ve always kinda gone together. It’s not like art history is just a chronological series of totally arbitrary fashion trends and stylistic fads — art has, and likely always will, change in tandem with, and in reaction to, the way people view the world.