Monday, May 05, 2003

Good Experience Live X

Sam Brown: Computers and Comic Art

Sam Brown is the creator of Explodingdog, a Web site that is interactive only if you are lucky enough to have Brown draw a picture based on a title that you suggest. An active video gamer, Brown specializes in stick figures. Here is a rough transcript of his talk at Good Experience Live:

My name is Sam Brown. I do the Web site Explodingdog. Basically, it's just a collection of 1,200-1,500 drawings I've done over the last three years. They all work the same way. They're drawn based on phrases emailed to me by fans of the site.

I've been doing this for about three years. They're a journal or a book about my life. I have pictures of old girlfriends. I have pictures of old jobs. I've also drawn pictures of nightmares I've had about crazy-looking Roman emperors trying to steal my car keys. All of these were drawn on a drawing tablet on the computer.

My father was always really into computers. I was always into drawing and art and never got into computers until I took a class in which you plotted points to make shapes and draw pictures. When I was in fourth grade, I had to do a science project. It was the first time I had to present something I'd made on the computer to people on the computer. I made a Hypercard presentation about bridges. Everyone else came in with your usual science-fair projects. I came in with a computer. I didn't win. The kid next to me who'd glued rocks to a piece of cardboard won. But I didn't just win, I got yelled at. Everyone else had worked so hard, and all I did was bring in my father's computer. I had tried to explain how you could click around and go through the presentation, but I don't think any of my teachers had even seen a computer.

Then my dad tried getting me into the Internet in 1994 or 1995. I was a senior in high school, and if it didn't have anything to do with girls or beer, I wasn't interested. That was pretty much my attitude until 1999 when I was a senior in college. I was fed up with art school. Everything was so precious, and it was such junk. In response to these projects, I made a series of talking dogs. If you plugged their tail in, they'd say things like, "Hello, I'm a talking car." I even made a metal dog that peed oil. At the same time I made a series of 10 dog animations. They were all about half an hour long each. And they made absolutely no sense whatsoever. One of them was Exploding Dog.

I graduated from college and got this office job where all I did was sit in front of the computer. That was when I learned how cool the Internet was. And since I was no longer in school, I had no outlet form my artwork. So I made an awful Web site. At the same time I had a friend who had a performance at an art gallery. I said that I'd like to do a performance at an art gallery. I don't remember what I was going to do because I never did it. The night before the presentation I decided that if I was going to fail I'd fail big. So I made up hundreds of posters saying Come see the artwork of Sam Brown One night only. My name's not even Sam Brown. It's Adam. I made up that name for the performance and now I'm stuck with it. I went to a convenience store, bought some pads of paper, and sat at the gallery all night drawing pictures for people.

After that I put up three pictures I'd drawn with a mouse in five minutes and said send me a title, and I'll draw more pictures. I've done that for the last three years. I like to think of this as more than a title and a picture. But I like to think about it as a title, the picture, and the space between them so they make more of a story. Does that make sense? The story happens in your head.

That led me to making books, which is what I've been doing for the last year and a half. I've been trying to do stories more. I wanted to do more than a dumb comic strip or dumb comics. I'm really sold on the Internet now. Explodingdog kinda makes sense if you see one picture or two pictures, but you really need to see 28 pictures for it to make sense. There are characters, and there's a kind of Explodingdog world.

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