We’d like to thank SolarDog in particular for being our first interviewee. Not only was he happy to help out by starting off the project with an interview, but he’s been a big supporter in many different ways, going all the way back to the beginning of when it was just an idea, lending his art and giving lots of suggestions and feedback along the way.
In recent years, SolarDog has become a prominent artist in the furry fandom. With his bold use of color, strong line work and penchant for anthropomorphic portraiture, his iconic style is fresh and lively. Yet a lot of people may not realize the breadth of his work across artistic disciplines. He’s not just a visual artist, but a DJ, hiphop musician, fashion designer and all around entrepreneur. He remixes and blends inspirations from as many different sources and distills them down into work that is sometimes chill, sometimes activist, but always passionate.
Z | Thanks for sitting down with us. I want to start off with where you’re most active these days. You’ve been on a couple different sites over the years but now it’s mostly on Twitter: @S0lardog. How does Twitter work for you?
SD | It works great! My art gets spread around, people get to see it more often. I did briefly have a point where I was on FurAffinity, but I decided to ditch it and go straight to Twitter. I actually think I’ve gotten a lot more exposure on Twitter than I have on FA—or any other site that I’ve used to post my art.
It also gives me a lot more of a chance to talk with anybody who’s a fan of my art. It’s a lot easier to get to know people, and you can see how they pass it around. If you’re just posting on a website, you’ll see someone comment on it but you don’t get to see somebody say, ‘hey, check this out’ to all their friends. As soon as someone’s retweeting it, that’s them saying, ‘hey, I want everybody else to see what I just saw’. It feels a lot more personal. It’s a better connection.
Z | Can you tell us about some of your artistic influences?
SD | It’s kind of different because I know a lot of people would just list off names and names of artists. But my inspiration really varies.
I’d say one of my main pieces of influence are actually music artists. Tyler the Creator and Pherrell Williams are two of my top favorites. What I like about them is that the music they’ve done really inspires me to create. It inspires me to paint pictures to what I’m hearing. On top of that, they’re also both fashion creators. They create fashion lines and clothing designs. The color palettes they choose and the artistry is really interesting.
I feel like furry fandom inspirations are almost a whole different subject. A lot of them are my friends. I spend a lot of time going to LiveStreams, watching people draw and see their techniques. And hitting up friends and saying, ‘hey, how can I make something better?’ I could say it goes from Vantid, who I think was the first person in furry art who I was enamored with, to SCPkid, Skiaskai, and I definitely have to mention Jeibon and Squeedge Monster. In the middle of when I really started to gain my stride in art, I used one of Squeedge Monster’s ink tools. They had just posted them online and said anyone who wants to use this, go ahead and use it. And it’s crazy that I went from using one of their brushes to calling them a friend.
Z | And one other artist who is not a furry, but whose art seems to be reflected in your own work is Keith Haring. Again in the use of color and pattern, and bold line, especially with your earlier work. But not just visually, Keith Haring was also a big political activist. Would you say you also have a desire to use your work in that way?
SD | Oh yeah, I definitely agree with that. There’s a little bit of activism there. As I’ve grown, one thing that’s opened my eyes a lot is the furry community being a strong LGBT community. I’m straight, but being apart of the community helped me learn things I don’t understand, like the discrimination against LGBT.
It’s sort of a philosophy of mine that everybody just wants to be respected and understood, and treated fairly. As a black man myself, I face discrimination and stuff like that. I know the place where my people were. I know personally my people are still fighting—I’m still fighting—so I try to push the envelope to make the world better.
Not only do I like to include both political activism, or just bringing in fun to peoples’ lives, but I also like to bring in my culture. The furry fandom is white majority. Coming to the fandom, I was trying to find my place. At a certain point I kind of felt like I didn’t really have a place. Well if you don’t feel like you have a place, you just have to make your own. So I started to talk about more things that were of my culture. I started to incorporate more hiphop, more R&B, or just references to black culture in my artwork. I kind of want to spread that around. I want to make it a spot where people can learn about things they don’t know about, or appreciate it, or maybe encourage other people of color to join in.
I also run a POC party at cons and it’s been very successful in getting people to come out and understand that the furry fandom is not just a “white people thing”. I’ve heard people joke about it in the background. And it shouldn’t be like that. The fandom should be for all cultures everywhere. I’m happy that I’m giving a space where people of color can thrive and I’m hoping that I can influence that culture.
Z | You’ve mentioned one of your influences is fashion. You’ve been involved with a big fashion project lately too, called Fashion Furs, often styled as F/F. What can you tell us about that?
SD | Yeah, not only do I like to put hiphop and black culture into my artwork, I also try to include fashion because I felt like that was another thing that the fandom wasn’t having much of. There’s the stereotypical idea that furries can’t dress well. And there’s nothing wrong with not dressing fashionably, or just throwing something on to go outside the house. But I also feel like fashion is an art by itself. I feel like we should celebrate that too.
The F/F book is a part of that. It’s a magazine that me and a bunch of friends planned that grew out of the Fashion Furs chat. It started as a place for furs to share fashion, and help learn it if they wanted to. After a point we started talking about running panels, doing a magazine, maybe a book. Someone in the chat did a few doodles of everyone in the chat and put them into a little book. So then after that me and my friends were like, maybe it is time we did something with that. It’s going to be in physical form. We want it on peoples’ coffee tables. So if you purchase it, please put it on your coffee table. We’re working with Braeburn and they’re amazing. They helped with the layout and the printing and everything. It will be done in time for BLFC 2018.
More information on F/F can be found on Twitter: @TheFFCollective.
Z | In addition to your art, you do a little bit of music on the side as well. How has your music and art been working together?
SD | I go under the name SxlarDxg. It’s still SolarDog, with the O’s X-ed out. For the most part, it’s me doing all the artwork and the music. For the first mix that I released I did the art design for it and a small mini-booklet. I also plan to do that on my second one that I’m going to try and release soon. I’ve got a full art cover and full back made. I’m going to call it Comfy. The whole meaning behind that is a lot of the music was made in or based on places that I felt comfortable. Every song will represent a place I’ve been where I’ve felt good.
In college I was a part of this thing called the Friday Cyphers. Me and a bunch of friends would get together in a circle, play some beats and everybody just practiced their freestyling. During that time period in college, I was mainly the person that’d provide beats. A lot of those kind of stacked up and they just collected dust. So I ended up using them with my first album that I made as SxlarDxg.
Z | Speaking of college, did you study art formally while you were there, or did you go for something else?
SD | I went for audio/visual technology and broadcasting. Art has always been a hobby. Of course there was getting those basic classes in where you just do art stuff and they teach about the basics. But past that, all my digital training has been by myself, studying others and having others just teach me. Watching LiveStreams and talking to friends. It really helped steer me in a direction where people think I was professionally trained, but honestly—none.
Z | Do you do furry art full time?
SD | Technically I am—currently it’s paying the bills while I’m looking for a full time job. I’m not really looking hard for people to commission me though. Every once in a while I put a shout out about it, but I’m never stressing about it. But if you do want to get any art from me—small plug—just hit the DMs. DMs are always open.
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