couple of months ago, some right-wing knucklehead tried to start a #boycottveeptopus campaign against me because I painted a picture of Donald Trump.
A little background: now that the Veeptopus book Kickstarter has been more or less fulfilled, I’ve been looking around for ways to expand and deepen my work.(Veeptopus: Vice Presidents with Octopuses on Their Heads is now available on Amazon. If you haven’t got yourself a copy you really should.) Even though there is probably money to be made drawing octopuses on the heads of authors, rock stars, Canadian Prime Ministers and other folks, it didn’t interest me. I don’t want to be the octopus guy. So I’ve been going into my studio and trying things out.
I’ve drawn portraits of every single U.S. Senator for a website project I hope to get off the ground in the fall. I’ve been doing some work with print making, which I’ve found both grueling and fascinating. And I’ve even dabbled in oil painting.
“Oil painting is serious,” said my dour, thin-lipped teacher when I took my one and only oil painting class in college. And thanks to that class where a spent a semester painting dismal bowls of fruit, I’ve always been daunted by the medium. In spite of that, I picked up a brush a couple of months ago and attempted to paint a more realistic version of the Trumptopus drawing that I did back in 2015.
Considering I had no real idea of what I was doing, I was pretty pleased with the results. So I posted the image on my Instagram and Facebook pages. People seemed to dig it too. Late one night, I posted it onto a Facebook group innocuously named something like “Watercolor, Acrylic and Oil Painting.”
It honestly didn’t cross my mind that people might find this painting offensive but holy shit they did. See, what I realized when I got back on the web the following morning is that Facebook group should have been called “Angry Trump Supporters who Sometimes Paint Watercolor, Acrylic, and Oil.” There were roughly 900 comments on my painting, many were so vitriolic that it was kind of funny. The administrator of the group took down the picture before I could make a thorough record but “Asshole” was thrown around a lot. “California” was used as an epithet. And one guy who liked to paint pictures of his truck said I had no talent.Some other guy even photoshopped me against a Soviet flag which still doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me. And one irate snowflake tried to launch that twitter campaign to boycott me. It didn’t really take off. And good thing too because, without the support of Trumperistas, I might just go out of business.
At the time, I laughed off the kerfuffle, promising myself to be more careful on where I post my work. But since horribleness in Charlottesville this past weekend, I’ve felt more and more unnerved by my run in with the rabid right. I painted a mildly satirical picture of a sitting U.S. president that would not have received more than an eye roll in the past from people on the other side of the political aisle. Now, I get a barrage of personal insults and an attempted internet boycott. It’s chilling what’s happening to civil discourse in this country. But I am more committed than ever to speak out.
After all, oil painting – and art, in general – is serious.