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.
Opinion on erotic art, whether "classy" or plain smut? I know that's a broad question, I'm just curious. I'm an aspiring artist and I strive to create wonderful illustrations and paintings, but then I also want to draw unrealistic hentai-esque pics. I see artists who blend the two to create gorgeous erotic paintings, but don't receive the same level of respect because of it. Should they be separate or can there be middle a ground? Will drawing porn affect a person's chances for a career in art?
What you’re asking seems so much like it’s an art question, right? Like it should be. It should be an actual art conversation when you’re using all these artsy words – but the truth is that we’re still at a point so far from discussing with any kind of legitimacy the abstract depiction of sex in a painting and its “classiness”, when the world-view of the act of sex itself is still so … wack. Sex is still widely seen as being simultaneously the worst and greatest thing in the world – lives revolve around it, public worth is lost because of it, double standards are laced through every action, and even the most accepted versions of “sex” are incredibly surface-level and binary. We live in a time that still gasps in offense if the majority of the world’s nipples aren’t covered and shames that same majority for enjoying something enjoyable – I know this may sound defeatist, and maybe that’s because I’ve never had a compulsion to add to this genre of art, but in my eyes we are simply just so far from even considering the merits of a painstakingly painted orgy as mainstream art. The acceptance of it will come as a result of bigger battles. There are rare exceptions that have found a market through abstracted styles (usually in fine art), but despite my massive disagreement with the systemic idolization and condemnation of sex that leads to this stigma, I think that the genre of erotic art will (largely) be relegated to “smut” for a long time to come.
What I don’t think: is that mainstream acceptance should determine what you want to make. Use a pseudonym if you’re legitimately worried about your career, but there’s always going to be someone on a higher horse in the art world, don’t let that stop you from creating what you want to.
Or in short: If you wanna draw people fucking, fucking draw people fucking.
How do you feel about experimentation vs staying true to your voice as an artist?
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.
Hey Sam, I'm trying to find my style in illustration. How did you find yours?
Today I was waiting to cross the street at a corner in Brooklyn. Now, in New York, animals are pretty cozy being near humans and you really need to aggressively invade their space for them to flee in the same way a non-city-dwelling self-preserving animal would. So when I was standing at this street corner and this tiny bird was unflinching, walking near my feet, and then started awkwardly hopping directly in front of a car making a turn, I panicked and jolted after it to herd it away from being crushed. While this definitely angered the driver, I did succeed in getting the little thing onto the sidewalk — however, I quickly noticed that its wing had clearly been extremely banged up.
I don’t particularly like animals, I’ve never owned a pet, and am not a terribly compassionate person, but I do have the bare-minimum feeling of “I don’t like seeing things die” so for the next 10 minutes I chased and scooped this little fucking bird around trying to keep it on the sidewalk because it kept hobbling back into the middle of the street. At one point my scoop-throw resulted in it getting solid hang time and seemingly soaring off, only for it to quickly arc back towards me in a boomerang fashion and hop back into traffic. I looked like an absolute idiot, I’m sure that I got all kinds of weird bird diseases in the process, but I was so frustrated by this bird’s poor decision making that for those 10 minutes, I kept with it. It hopped to its near death, I scurried after it and scooped it back onto the sidewalk. Hopped again, scurried, scooped, saved, then back again. It was like helping every friend anyone has ever had who makes terrible choices and then continues to make them. Eventually though, my patience wore thin and I wasn’t about to take it home, nurse it back to health with a tiny yet adorable wing bandage, and become emotionally invested in its well-being only for it to one day fly away. So I walked away. Most people did just that from the get go, others stood and watched, some would make awkward little half-steps to try to help too, and after I left, maybe someone far better took on the potential heartbreak and made a micro-wing-splint out of toothpicks and tissue paper, then lovingly named it Pidgeotto … but I was presented with a situation and I handled it in the way that felt natural to me. It was exactly what I would do. There were a million other things to do instead that could’ve been more helpful, more interesting, more evil, more apathetic, and everything in between — but this particular set of actions was mine — the most natural thing I could do.
I tell you this dumb little story as a response to your very explicitly artsy question, because a) deal with it and 2) style just isn’t formed through a plan. It’s not a set of rules and guidelines that you follow and check off as you create a painting. If I need to lay down a brushstroke, I’m not thinking how I should do that, the length, the pressure, the speed, the color, the variation, the texture — I’m just laying a line down in the way that feels most natural to me in that moment. I can gather a thousand images that other people have made and say “I like these colors or this lighting or this line work or this composition or this whatever” and I do, but at the end of the day, I can only like those styles passively because when pen meets paper (so to speak), my personality and affinity for doing things in my own way will always beat out what’s right, wrong, better, worse, trendier, sexier, uglier, or different. We CAN follow guidelines to make our work look like other work or to do what seems like the most obvious choice when confronted with an injured bird with very poor self-preservation skills, but I found my style through dumb little situations like these where I wasn’t following a bible of moral or artistic codes, just by doing exactly what I would do. Not my fantasy version of myself who can paint exactly like Caravaggio and heroically slow-motion dived to save an innocent bird from an Escalade driven by Hitler while Natalie Dormer watched, but the one who paints like I do and bumbles around swearing at a bird to not get itself killed for 10 minutes and then giving up because there was a clear language barrier between us and I wasn’t prepared for a long-term commitment with pidgeotto.
I started college this year and in this second semestre i got really interesting classes and the professores are awesome! and i noticed that something always happens, is that I want to impress them like i always deliver papers on time and since it's film school, i make films for myself but at the same time i hope to impress and do you think this is bad?
Obviously, it’s probably healthiest to feel fulfilled as a self-sufficient solar-powered island of a human being who doesn’t need anyone, but come on — I don’t know how to do that. At various points in my life I’ve worked hard to impress parents, professors, girlfriends, friends, coworkers, and even you, the grey-faced Internet, and while it’s never been the sole fuel for me, the validation felt from those things — whether it’s flawed, unhealthy, or any other form of psychobabble — has helped me and motivated me to work harder.
Considering the endless list of reasons we can and do come up with to remain stagnant, lazy, and NOT work — if a literal or figurative gold star sticker, red pen smiley face, or digital heart click helps, I say take it.
Is digital illustration taking over the traditional art making world?
All of your pencils and paints are obsolete. Now go throw them out and buy a good quality computer, photoshop, a wacom tablet, and Digital Artist A, B, or C’s “complete ultra super megaevolution photoshop brush pack - complete with over 80 real media brushes that simulate the actual real life IRL drawing painting things.”
Traditional art will always have a place in the world. I love to encourage people to explore digital because it’s amazing — but it’s not the be-all end-all solution that will phase out the physical presence and texture of an oil-painting or the simplicity of a pencil and piece of paper. It’s a hugely powerful and revisionary medium that has become standard among the more commercial areas of art where time, efficiency, and rapidly correcting client feedback on the fly are integral. However, even as the technology rapidly improves — traditional art will remain relevant (and in certain areas, dominant) because it has a weight, a smell, a history, and a tangible quality to it that even the most awesomely placed pixels won’t be able to have (until we have 3D smell-o-vision time machine printers — then you can be worried).
You're an extremely talented artist that could represent anything. Why do you choose to depict celebrities and iconic figures? I believe your artwork could have so much more merit and can contribute much more to society then just entertainment. You even have your symbol as the golden spiral, which I find rather smug for an artist who creates "fan art". I don't intend to offend, it just greatly bothers me to see such a talented artist create advertisement and I would like to know why.
"Smug" is arbitrarily thinking that one entire genre of art is less than another.
"Smug" is anonymous back-handed compliments that insult an entire group of artists while trying to police what I choose to make.
"Smug" is thinking that you bestow merit to art and decide its value or contribution to society — or that it needs to do that to begin with.
"Smug" is believing that advertisements are something that automatically lessens art when some of the best painters and works throughout art history, from Leonardo to Caravaggio to Rockwell and Leyendecker have worked in advertising for clients (churches included).
"Smug" is looking at my portfolio of hundreds of paintings over 3 years that cover dozens of genres, styles, subject matters, clients, and sits everywhere from the internet, to billboards, album covers, magazine covers, galleries, newspapers, movie posters, bus-sides, books, homes of friends, strangers, and celebrities, and still choosing to think that I am one thing — a thing that is just as valuable to me as everything I’m paid for professionally.
"Smug" is being a smug dicklet and throwing in “I don’t intend to offend” to cushion the smug dickletishness of it all.
"Smug" is not seeing a simplistic connection between realism in painting and the golden rule that is genre-irrelevant, but again insulting an entire group of artists while commenting on something you haven’t bothered to understand.
But most of all, “Smug” is thinking that I, or any artist, owes you anything. We can make whatever we want, however we want to. I will keep making advertisements, I will keep making album covers, I will keep making posters for games and movies, I will keep making all that I’m hired to do and choose to take on, but I will also keep making fan art because despite the merit or value that you’ve decided it has — I want to — and that’s all the reason I need.
Take your soggy waffle compliments and fuck the fuck off. Viva la fan art.
Thanks to all the SCAD people who stopped by to listen to my shtick.
You were all mega nice, recognized a couple of you, and the student work from those who stayed behind was just incredible. I’ll be at Forsyth park tomorrow at 2pm by the main stage thing and anyone is welcome to come on by.
I know a girl who went to art school in Georgia, only to drop out because "her teachers were too mean to her" when they would critique her work. Do you think that is sincerely the case, or is it more likely that she did not have the work ethic?
I think many aspects of the way people live and interact with one another are too harsh, too cruel, and unnecessarily nasty — but education (especially art education) is an area that if anything, should be harder. It should coddle less, be honest more, and build an environment that invites criticism as a building tool, not something that can be too “mean”. The purpose of an education is to learn and improve — but I found in my experience at art school — that most students, myself included at times — treated it as a place to express angst or most commonly: just not give a shit about anything. Giving up was a widespread mentality among people who weren’t willing to improve.
Don’t get me wrong, there are awful teachers with god-complexes who are just a brigade of dicks for the sake of it and do not care about building you up through breaking you down in a productive manner — but I still believe that this shouldn’t be cause for quitting school. Education shouldn’t coddle you, it should depict harsh reality in a space where the consequences aren’t as severe as losing a contract or getting fired. There are dick brigades in the real world, awful clients, awful bosses, irrational criticism, malicious criticism, people who will knock down your ideas, shit on your dreams, and education at its best should steel you for how to handle and work through that. I believe it’s better to ready you for the imperfect world and the imperfect people that fill it — than for how it ideally should be.
What, in your opinion, has been the biggest effect of the internet on art?How do you get noticed in the contemporary art scene when there are so many artists on the internet and social media? With so much plagiarism and emulations of artworks, how do you keep your artworks so original? How do you make sure you style is distinct so that people know it is yours?How different is it selling art online then in a gallery? What are the main differences?What inspires you and helps you come upwith ideas?
1-2.What, in your opinion, has been the biggest effect of the internet on art? How do you get noticed in the contemporary art scene when there are so many artists on the internet and social media?
The Internet has allowed more people to discover art, do so easier, and thus enabled more people to be and aspire to be artists — and I think that’s neato burrito. There’s no magic recipe for getting noticed because different people, different styles, and different subject matters resonate in different ways with vastly different groups of people. I once genuinely believed I had an answer to this question like a big ‘ol idiot, but that was hilariously naive as what worked for me was based on such a specific series of choices and moments. Vague answers blow but straight up lying is worse so to that I say: “I don’t know, I have a billion theories that I could talk about for days.” That said, one small aspect that I do believe helps strongly is being a real person with a name, a personality, a voice, and a face that people can like and dislike.
3-4.With so much plagiarism and emulations of artworks, how do you keep your artworks so original? How do you make sure you style is distinct so that people know it is yours?
Well, not plagiarizing other people’s work is really the key here. While creating something wholly original from start to finish in a vacuum is always an option if you’re a witch or exist in a less interesting parallel universe, it’s not really a realistic standard nor a realistic thing that you would ever need to do — even some of the most imaginative/”original” scenes people have created are researched and remixed. More likely you have source materials — either through ideas or references, that you can choose how to handle. If you want to copy one source directly — maybe it’s a press shot, advertisement, or still created by other people — you’re obviously welcome to do that (it can even be good practice), but for whatever you make to be substantive and valuable on its own merits (mostly in regards to anyone who would hire you), or be original even though it’s not wholly so — it shouldn’t exist anywhere else in that specific form.
It should be made having referenced the source material, materials beyond that source, references created on your own, and tied together through a technical understanding and personal treatment. When I’m painting Freddie Mercury, I can’t have the majestic snowflake that is the lead singer of Queen stand in front of me, but also just copying existing photos of him would add nothing to me painting him — so I have a folder on my computer with literally hundreds of photos, both of him and not, videos of him performing or speaking, and embarrassing pictures of myself in gym shorts and leather jacket that I took after researching him and sketching out poses — all of which then contributed to me having a full enough understanding of him to paint an image of him that is very Freddie Mercury, but from the light to the pose, to the expression, the colors, the brushwork, to the composition — doesn’t exist anywhere else in any form. It’s not a masterful achievement, it’s simply effort put into making one new thing from many existing things, and years. This isn’t the only way to do things — not even close — but much like your personality is distinct in how much you understand certain areas of knowledge, your work becomes distinct through your understanding of it as well. Personality, in humans and in art, is really just your individual interpretation of knowledge. Style is often taught as a “thing” you add to your work to give it a “hook”, when more often it’s just the natural progression of us figuring out how to interpret what we know. Especially when dealing with realism, it’s a lot of work simply to make something new of old ideas, no matter how many — but it’s worth it because it can (not always, I’ve failed many times, but it can) stand on it own legs, rather than on the legs of someone else’s existing interpretation.
5-6.How different is it selling art online then in a gallery? What are the main differences?
Very. Seeing something in person as a tangible object makes people more likely to respect it and thus pay more for it. However seeing and being able to buy something online without leaving your home is both convenient, often more affordable for the consumer because it’s deemed less valuable than on a white wall (however, will then sell more of), but most importantly (and I think this is why the Internet and Art together are the bee’s knees) — art online is largely stripped of the arbitrarily pretentious vibes of the common gallery that alienate people not normally into art from buying or even just appreciating it in some form. I don’t particularly *love* galleries because they push away a large number of people who aren’t already inclined to appreciate art — they have definitely have value and purpose, but can definitely be off-putting.
7.What inspires you and helps you come up with ideas? This is literally the worst fucking art question there is — it is the soggy floor waffle of questions and everyone knows it. It’s garbage. Garbage garbage garbage. Garbage. Just awful. There is no question more vague yet with more obvious and similarly useless answers. It’s just the worst. The absolute worst. It’s not your fault either grey-face. Art education makes it seem like it’s a question that should be asked — that has meaningful responses — but it’s just the underside of a desk used by someone that constantly picks their nose. You know what you’re going to find and it’s not going to be remotely helpful. Neither was this.
So after wrangling 10s of thousands of notifications into my randomopolometer (a magical Calvin & Hobbes-esque cardboard box with poorly written sharpie lettering on it and totally not a simple computer script), results have been spat out and I’ve sent friend requests and/or messages to both the main winner ( Rob C ), 2 signed prints to runner ups ( Lucy Y and Bas S ), and over the next few days, eyebrow haikus will begin trickling into various inboxes.
Thanks so much to everyone who entered. Truly, the comments were … well: awesome, undeserved, but always grin-inducing. I’ll be working with the winner over the next couple weeks in between my current client project (which involves space and video games) and will post the resulting portrait as soon as it’s ready — fingers crossed that Rob wants dinosaurs.