TL: Your work is marching along with this lineage of cartoons. Take me back, is that where the appeal began? And was there a moment when you began to take art more seriously?
SW: I was actually really clueless before I got to college. The only career I knew about was being an animator for Disney. My parents were really supportive, but they were both nurses. They didn’t know either. So the idea was get into a school with a drawing problem. I was looking for a margin between artsy-fartsy and technical-professional.
John Hendricks and Dan Zettwoch, professional illustrators and teachers I had in St Louis, were really great about teaching us the basics and making sure we were down to earth - here’s how to invoice, here’s how to work for a client – these are the tools and this is what I can do for a living.
I can sell illustrations, license my characters, and as long as I bust my hump I can control what I want to do. Before that it was like, uhhh maybe I’ll cluelessly find some way to work for Disney, I don’t know?
TL: The art scene in Oklahoma City is becoming increasingly visible – but let's get real, there's still plenty of room for growth there. I always ask artists this – what are some of the advantages of being an Oklahoma City-based artist? And what are some of the disadvantages, or some of the things you’d like to see change
I can afford a mortgage here, a decent middle class lifestyle as an artist in OKC. A car, some basic amenities, and a willingness to hustle goes a long way. That may not be everyone’s experience but it’s been my experience.
The community is also really primed to prove itself – they feel like the underdog, and because of that they work harder and want to prove it - we’re just ask good as those places like Brooklyn and San Francisco but we have our own unique quirky twists on it. That also makes the community more welcoming.
Just like this right now! Being invited to hang and interview, that feels very midwest, there’s a stronger sense of community. It’s not a complex or weird spiritual thing, it's just a city that purposefully in the 90s made an effort to bring in more diverse creatives. And now we have artists from all over carving out these little places to call their own.
Disadvantages – there is the Oklahoma stigma…I’m really involved with local civic organizations. On the ground, everyone is very neighborly. The positives of small-town America. But you have to put up with some of the stuff going on in the state house. It’s irritating to me that some are alienated – my friends who left the midwest, all these who went to New York and California who didn’t feel welcome or like they couldn’t make a living here...I can’t sugar coat the fact that the leadership in the state has this weird relationship with creatives, where they want to bring in the artists, but they don’t want the artists to say certain things, where you have to be on eggshells sometimes. And you have to wake up in the morning and hear what frustrating things the state legislature is doing that day, 4-day school weeks and all of that – all you really want to do is draw pictures, but you have to go out and be involved whether you like it or not, because maybe to a certain extent, the state is not going to do it.
I do think it’s changing for the better.