exploding dog has been one of my favourite websites for a very long time, ever since I discovered some six years ago through a recommendation from a friend. Sam (the artist) has become a little bit of a celebrity because of the website, and the site itself is testament to his prodigious output, having started in 2001 and grown in quality and volume to this day. The concept is a simple one, email him, and he will (may) draw whatever is in the subject line of your email. It is this combination that fascinates me, the conjoining of the email sender's creativity with the artist's. Sam has several themes he explores, with a number of repeating motifs, usually cleverly used in conjunction with the subject line. Some are touching and obvious extensions of the subject, others depart or twist the meaning beyond their original intent. Sometimes they can be quiet and thoughtful, or brash and ribald. Robots and fish and monsters abound. Bombs are another motif, falling from the sky in a chilling interpretation of "it is a wonderful world". Love and loss are common themes from the emails, and are met with both sensitivity and wicked impudence and cheek.
"I loved you at all the wrong times" has a wonderful sense of space, exhibiting a poignancy and an intimacy in the two small figures in the landscape, one with its head cocked slightly. It is subtleties like these that evoke more than would be expected.
"Stand shadowless like silence" has an ethereal quality, ghostly and sad. "I'm glad you're my friend" is wonderfully sweet and touching, the two protagonists sat on a large monolith surrounded by life. "I thought you loved more than any thing and I thought you would come back to me" echoes the scene, instead presenting a vision of forlorn isolation and grief. "I have love for you" is simplistic in execution and meaning, a straightforward interpretation of the message.
"All on my own" and "if I could be anything I would be a cloud" evoke a yearning and enjoyment of the moment. "I was too late" is heart-breaking; the jagged edge of the ground and the just seen cloud-tops hinting at the story beyond the image of the person crying. "this isn't what I was expecting" is forlorn and empty, simply lines and colour conveying emotion with simple intensity, echoed ever so darkly in "why was I left here".
Other drawings are exuberant and joyous, "I want to be an astronaut" and "my name is Sam" perfectly capture the feelings of make-believe and the ongoing dreams of childhood. "Another awesome day" perfectly exemplifies how I want to feel every day, bright and cheerful and positive. "I am building a world for you" is full of the mad energy sourced in a manic love, captured in the scribbled frenetic texture of the drawing. "Sometimes I do this" is simple and wistful.
Not all of it works, sometimes the drawings are off -kilter, or the juxtapositions ill-defined. But more often than not there is a humour, dark or gentle, and a real sensitivity to match the creativity. As in all art, there are layers and details to be discovered, if you have the energy and the need to. Sam's use of colour and space and lines are often exquisite, evoking and implying emotion in a style that is almost child-like in its crudity and sophistication. Whatever you may feel about Sam's work (and I urge you to explore it), the output, vision and ongoing relationship between artist and audience are to be respected, and enjoyed.
Finally, "this is so great I had to share it with you" expounds a near perfect end to any day.