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Personalities

Sam Brown of Exploding Dog

Sam Brown of Exploding Dog makes drawings from your titles. A simple formula for an author/reader exchange, and Sam has made some very funny, heartwearming drawings that touch us with their simplicity. ROSECRANS BALDWIN talks to the Dog.

Sam of Exploding Dog makes drawings from your titles. A simple formula for an author/reader exchange, and Sam has made some very funny, heartwearming drawings that touch us with their simplicity.

TMN: For people who haven’t seen your site, could you explain how it works?

Sam: The idea is that someone emails me a title and I turn it into a picture. A very simple form of interaction. I think that it does not work as well as it could because I now get so many ‘titles’ I could never draw them all. But I guess I would probably be drawing the same amount of pictures so if people don’t mind me not drawing their titles, it works.

TMN: So if you don’t draw all the titles, how do you choose which ones you prefer?

Sam: Pretty much at random. I flip through the emails I get and when a title catches my eye I choose it to draw. There is no secret method.

TMN: Do you ever make up your own titles?

Sam: I have. There are two that I can remember. I had drawn the pictures to the titles but could not find the title when I was putting the picture up. But I have a pretty good system and a firm grip on the search function in my email so it does not happen often.

TMN: What is your working process like? Do you find you need certain types of inspiration? The right mood? The right time?

Sam: I usually draw while reading emails or websites, eating, talking or listening to music. Sometimes all at once. Doing other things at the same time allows me to work slower and pay more attention. I don’t try to think that much about what I am drawing.

TMN: How about the beginning…when did you start making drawings like these?

Sam: I started drawing the stick figures about 5 years ago. I was in school and needed to do something to get my mind off of school work and everything else that was going on. I drew a couple hundred poster size drawings that were text and image. I was not too happy then, so most of my drawings were more angry than they are now, but still quite similar.

TMN: The subjects of the drawings stay pretty consistent: monsters, stick figures, robots, talking fish (though very few monkeys) and your style makes them fun to read about, nearly harmless. Except until the reader sees the message that inspired the drawing, and suddenly there’s a more mature attitude, sometimes ironic, dealing with significant emotional issues; is that the kind of tone you’re going for?

Sam: I don’t think I am aiming for a mature tone, it just happens. Monsters, super heros and talking animals only seem childish when viewed from one dimension. Throughout my day most people I deal with are robots, talking fish and monsters.

TMN: Any projects coming up that you can let us know about?

Sam: I have a few things I am thinking about. I would like to make a book or something else that relates to Exploding Dog. I want to make something solid. Right now 90 percent of the drawings I have done in the last few years exist on my hard drive and that makes me somewhat uncomfortable.

TMN: A book would be something incredible. What do you do besides work on Exploding Dog?

Sam: Well, since i got laid off, not much. I read. I have been taking pictures, and video of things I find interesting. I should be looking for a new job, but working seems so depressing.

TMN: Still smoking?

Sam: No smoking, since the last time I saw you. (ed. This means he’s probably quit.)

TMN: Where do you look for your inspiration (besides the titles that invariably mention monkeys)?

Sam: I am inspired by music. I don’t think I could ever be a good musician so it always amazes me.

TMN: What bands are you into? Or, what other kinds of art do you find interesting, day to day?

Sam: I don’t know about music, been listening to Brainiac, who I just got into recently. Also started listening to Brian Eno’s early solo stuff, Syd Barrett’s ‘Madcap Laughs’ album, and to The Fall. The song ‘Bu Bu Bu Ba’ (from the Mike and Rich album ‘Expert Knob Twiddlers’) has been stuck in my head for about 6 months now. I don’t like hearing it any more, but it is stuck in my head.

As for day to day stuff. I have been watching ‘The 20th Century with Mike Wallace’ on the history channel when I am eating breakfast late (it is on at 10am). Mike Wallace is great on that show, his opinion often subtly shows through and every once in a while he will make a comment that makes you question what he thinks.

Since I have been thinking about an Exploding Dog book, I have been reading books that are text and image, but not comics or childrens books. Such as Edward Gorey’s stuff and ‘Alice in Wonderland.’ While doing this I found that Tim Burton made a book ‘The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy and Other Stories.’ It is a wonderful book.

TMN: How about websites?

Sam: I admire modern living not necessarily for the drawings. I like how personal it is.

Devotedbee: I think Chad’s drawings are great and eggpants is hilarious.

Some other sites I think are great: When I Am King, Robot Frank, and Pocketpig.

TMN: OK, a couple random questions…why don’t you like monkeys?

Sam: I don’t think monkeys are funny, but someone is always using a monkey as a gag. Who knows. I think animals are great. I really like the idea of talking cats, or any talking animal. I think the human race could use some objective criticism and talking animals could provide this.

TMN: How about The Beatles? Aren’t they the greatest band in history?

Sam: The Beatles are so great because you can never go anywhere without hearing them. If you spend more than a few hours out in public places that play music, you will hear The Beatles. I think the worst is the musicians who play and sing Beatles songs on the subway platform. I didn’t mind The Beatles a few years ago, I even owned ‘Abbey Road.’ One day I had been driving from New York to Hartford and my tape player broke half way through the drive so I started listening to the radio. Near the end of the drive, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ came on the radio. I changed the station. It was the second time I had heard that song in the last hour. This is when I realized that The Beatles were playing on all five radio stations I could receive. So now when I hear The Beatles I get a claustrophobic feeling as if the world is so small that it is necessary for millions of people to hear these few songs hundreds of times through out their life.

TMN: Thank you very much. We like your T-shirts very much.

Sam: No problem. Thanks.

Rosecrans Baldwin co-founded The Morning News. He is the author of Paris, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down and You Lost Me There. His next novel is forthcoming from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. His Kindle e-book for The Morning News Editions, about visiting different American towns called Paris, was selected as a notable essay for Best American Essays 2013. More information can be found at his website. More by Rosecrans Baldwin