The internet is a great place to get famous. Everyone from people singing about cucumbers to make-up tutorial gurus can make a name for themselves. There is substantial negativity surrounding this because it seems to be a grotesque exaggeration of Andy Warhol’s ‘fifteen minutes of fame’ theory. Many of us feel that there is undeserved attention given to some of the more enthusiastic users of the World Wide Web, and that this is having a detrimental effect on our lives and politics. But once in a while a gem shines through and reminds us why it is important that there is a platform out there that gives the perhaps less, ‘conventional’, individuals their voice. Simpsons artist is one of these gems.
All we really know about this internet phenomenon is that his first name is Chris, he’s 36 years old (according to his Facebook), he lives in Scotland, he loves The Simpsons, and he draws. Since his entrance on the scene in 2011, he has been a featured artist for prestigious online publications including The Guardian, Bloomberg Businessweek and Bizarre Magazine. There’s obviously something about his style that resonates. In one of the few interviews this mysterious artist has given, he stated that he began drawing crude imitations of his favourite yellow family at the age of five, and he has continued drawing – no less crudely – into his adult years. And people love it.
“[T]he main reason that i do what i do is because I just want to make people smile.
from your friend Chris (Simpsons artist) xox”
(extract from an interview with the author)
What Chris seems to have managed to do is tap into the sometimes ludicrous facets of human nature which he translates into an accessible, naive, child-like manner. Combining childhood characters with politics, sex, celebrity culture and the plain absurd, Simpsons artist carves his sometimes darkly humorous view of the world into pixelated paint. He pairs his rudimentary style with simple headings typed in Times New Roman to tie the images and their meaning together. In a recent work of his, entitled, Why I Love My Cat, Chris pokes fun at the vast array of cat videos and cat-love that has taken over the internet, using four characters and their pets, each with a heading giving their reason why they love their furry friend. The reasons are simple and surreal, and end on a particularly bizarre character who states: ‘I love my cat because she ate my son and now she is my son’.
This cat image, published online on September 12th of this year, has received over 80,000 likes and just under 35,000 shares. The exposure that Chris gets brings him both positive and negative attention. Due to the sometimes controversial nature of his subjects, Simpsons artist has received damning criticism. ‘Get bent, saggy’ was Chris’ catchline of choice for a figure that has been one of the most hated in modern Western civilisation: Osama Bin Laden. Chris published the cartoon via his Facebook page to mixed reviews, and to some decidedly aggressive responses. But all publicity is good publicity it seems, and the online artist has managed to make a small fortune from this cartoon. He stated in a 2014 interview that it was when he managed to sell 100 ‘Get Bent, saggy’ T-shirts in 2 hours that he realised he could make a living from his work.
Another Simpsons artist boundary-pushing and highly popular piece is his Winnie the Pooh and Piglet take on American independence, which he published accordingly on July 4th. The image, which perfectly epitomises the artist’s style, portrays the classic children’s characters involved in an exchange about honey. The imagined scene is one where Pooh is taking Piglet’s golden syrup whilst Piglet pleads him not to for the sake of his unborn child. The simplicity of the image and the message transcends Winnie the Pooh and his pink friend into American and Western culture, and politics at large. Chris is able to effortlessly address and criticise deeply ingrained customs through his creation of controversy in the space between the work and the audience: in the realm of interpretation. Without being outwardly aggressive, Simpsons artist’s messages are more effective as works of reckoning than those of some of the most established political cartoonists out there.
So, whilst the Internet has proven to be a potentially dangerous tool, the reasons for its position as threatening are also why it remains a wonderful platform for people like Chris. The filters and criteria that have been historically applied to art and creative output no longer apply in this realm, and it is now essentially up to the audience en mass to decide what resonates with them and what they want to see more of. Chris, Simpsons artist, has managed to get a firm hold on the rope of that chime and continues to produce works that are shared and liked countless times. He has also recently published a book entitled The Story of Life. Keep an eye on this artist: he will undoubtedly continue to surprise and amuse, and may, in fact, be one of the few rational interpreters of our ludicrous times.
Image taken from Chris (Simpsons artist) Facebook page.