Whenever I click on a David Sankey sidebar contribution, my heart skips a beat because I know I’m about to fall in love with yet another illustration of the most uplifting aspect of life: Death. Yep, his illustrations always make me wish I were a dead animal because then maybe he would draw me and I’d look as beautiful as those dead animals that he draws. Honestly, I feel very honored to get to ask David Sankey, The Greatest Artist to Have Ever Lived Who Draws Dead Stuff for Fun, a bunch of questions because, obviously, he’s the greatest artist to have ever lived. I mean, I know that one guy, Michael Angelou, could sculpt a mean Pieta, but he’s not nearly as good as David Sankey. I mean, I know that one guy, Van Go, could paint a mean potato eater, but he’s got nothin’ on David Sankey. So, without further ado, here’s the man of the gory hour—David Sankey!
Megan Michelle: You’re the greatest artist to have ever lived. Who do you think is the second greatest artist to have ever lived? Why?
David Sankey: Impossible question. There can only be one. However, the first human that comes to mind is the Biblical Sampson, whose elaborate performance pieces included killing 1,000 men with a donkey’s jawbone and setting foxes on fire.
Q: How did you accrue your mad drawing skillz? To whom/what do you owe your genius?
A: I owe a fair amount of my mark-making ability to my parents, who forced me to find my own fun by forsaking television. In pining for cartoons, I drew Belle’s father, from Beauty and the Beast. I drew my favorite basketball players, because I could not watch them play. I drew on paper, on myself, drew in soap on the bathroom walls. I scratched runes with a dagger-shaped letter-opener into the bedroom doors of our home.
I owe almost as much to teachers who crumpled up my work, spat on it, fed it to me that I might taste my failure and produce only that which was beautiful. And without any irony, I am grateful to the powers that be for allowing me to participate, in a tiny way, in the holy and mysterious act of creation.
Q: If you could marry any piece of art, what piece of art would you marry? Why?
A: In any world where marrying art is okay, I would definitely be a polygamist and shack up with as much of it as I could. But if somehow it had to be just one, I can say with near certainty that I’d pop the question to the Anselm Kiefer sculpture Book with Wings. I had the pleasure of meeting her a few years back, and I’ve been head over heals since. I’ve been writing her letters, but they keep coming back, return to sender.
Q: Finding dead animals and drawing them must take a lot of energy and therefore a lot of good, nutritious food. What’s your diet like?
A: I wish I could tell you that I only eat the animals I come across, but my diet is fairly modest. I’m told that I make very good scrambled eggs. I like them well enough. I average three grapefruit a week, and as many scones. Trader Joe’s is a boon to my wallet and palate alike. I’ll never stop loving Taylor Ham, choice breakfast meat of northern New Jersey. I really like yerba mate (is it true that it gives you cancer?). Once, my sister and I unwittingly ate pepperoni made from a black bear that my uncle killed.
Q: (Yes, all naturally-occurring, herbal teas give you cancer.) Now, whenever I write a Pulitzer-prize-winning Sidebar contribution, I always listen to music to help inspire me. Do you listen to music to help inspire you while you work, too? If you do, what inspiring music do you listen to? Backstreet Boys, or Jonas Brothers?
A: I sometimes listen to music while I work, but it’s usually strictly background noise. Maybe it affects my work more than I’d like to think. There’s this great artist, Leif Inge, who slowed down Beethoven’s 9th, just edited it without altering the pitch so that it would take 24 hours to play. It’s great and cosmic. It sounds like the universe expanding and contracting. You can stream it online for free; I do that sometimes. Although, I’m always looking for inspiration in all sorts of mediums. I’ve decided it’s irresponsible to go more than two weeks without purchasing new music. I don’t ever want to not be in the middle of a book. There are too many smart people out there creating wonderful things that need an audience.
Q: I’ve heard that artists tend to not make a lot of money because they are busy being artists and artists tend to not make a lot of money. Are you rich, or are you poor? Have you been forced to take a second job, or are you able to live solely off the income you make from your dead animal portraits?
A: By day, I am a graphic designer. I am neither rich nor poor. I work at a small design firm not far from my home and put in some freelance time on the side. I try to spend as much time with illustration as I can. This keeps me clothed and fed, keeps my rent paid. While I’ve worked with some great clients and created some pieces I’m genuinely proud of, there’s a clear distinction in my mind between the commercial work I handle and the things I make on my own time. The two come from totally different places and mean entirely different things. I think the biggest difference for me is that when I’m working on a self-initiated piece, I feel there’s full potential for me to make a discovery. I think that’s the comically tragic and misleading goal of the artist, really—to happen upon something new, to actually create—that is, to make something from nothing. I’ll let you know when I’ve got that down. Through it all, though, I’m slowly learning to manage my time and productivity, prioritize. Not an easy task.
Q: Have you ever been able to travel to see famous art pieces? Like, have you ever been to the Cistern Chapel or the Lube? If you have, was it really, really great like everyone says it is, or was it just really, really boring like everyone says it is?
A: I haven’t left North America. Of course, I’ve been to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Moma, the Guggenheim, the New York museums. I’ve seen all that the National Archives has to offer in lovely D.C. Plenty of things from art history books that are beautiful, significant and moderately moving. I never get bored in those places. A few years back, though, I was at a children’s illustration museum in Massachusetts that had some great work. I got to see some of Eric Carle’s very hungry caterpillars. That was a small pilgrimage I won’t forget.
Q: How much does one of your dead animal portraits go for these days? Do you take Visa, Mastercard and/or wampum?
A: These pieces haven’t been priced. I’m open to offers but I don’t think I’d like to split the series up; I think it would be a disservice. I believe they’ve found some companionship and a sense of belonging in their collective afterlife. I accept PayPal, check, cash, wampum, or beaver pelts. I have sold a few pieces in the last year or so for actual American currency. One was through a great gallery in Louisville called the 930 Gallery. I had the opportunity to show some work there on a couple of occasions, and during one of these shows, recording artists Herman Düne came through to play in the gallery’s listening room. Apparently, David, who sings, plays guitar and writes songs, purchased my print. I was really excited about that. I love his music and he’s also a very talented visual artist. That was a huge compliment. I haven’t met him or had a chance to thank him personally, so a big public thank you to David from Herman Düne!
Q: As you well know, a genius artist must acquire perseverance and courageousness to make genius art because it takes a lot of perseverance and courage to make genius art. Also, as you well know, a genius artist must perform a sort of self-incarceration to be able to acquire the aforementioned virtues because perseverance is only produced in the prison and courage can only be conceived in a cage. What’s your prison/cage-residence like, then? Do you have enough room in there for me? If you do, can I come live with you? (thanks)
A: Not long ago, the folks I live with and I set out to build ourselves an ice palace, a snow fort, an igloo. It comfortably housed the four of us, but it was cold. We had candles inside—four grown men, building a snow fort, and then hanging out inside, spending the longer half of a Saturday doing so. It was the very fuel I needed to sustain me for no less than three years of tortured productivity. The roof has since caved in, and I think grass is showing through the floor. I think we could work something out in the way of rent there, but it’s gonna cost you a pretty penny. We’ll have to fly snow in daily from the far north to maintain it. The ongoing construction costs will be huge. It might be worth it. Wireless internet is provided.
Q: It’s common knowledge that whenever an animal dies, a fairy comes to take its soul to Animal Elysium. Why do you always leave these fairies out of your illustrations? Do you have something against fairies or something?
A: I like to pursue in my work the suggestion of the fantastical and the metaphysical. I often think more can be said of the spiritual by way of omission, by abstract inference, than by reference…what I mean to say is, I post all of my fairy drawings exclusively on my page at deviantart.com.*
*For those of you who prefer dead animal portraits, visit David’s other webpage, www.davidsankey.net.
Miss Megan Michelle is a former Classics Major, greatly-skilled Goatherdess and full-time Romantic who has always loved The Living Logos