Monday, January 1, 2018

the truth about butts

You want to know the truth behind Butt Drawing Monday?

For a year and a half now I've been drawing one butt each week and featuring it on Instagram with the hashtag #buttdrawingmonday.  If you haven't seen this yet, you owe it to yourself to check it out.  I think it's worth downloading Instagram just to see it.  You'll laugh for several minutes, I promise.

I do realize this is a weird thing to do.  It's probably even weirder to actually tell people you do it.  When I tell my kids they're being strange they quickly come back with "well, you draw butts for a living!".  To be clear, I do NOT draw butts for a living.  But I do draw butts with a religious regularity.  Doing such a weird thing and having it snowball into such a bigger, long lasting thing probably deserves some sort of explanation.

First off, this is not about pretty or well formed butts.  That will be clear very quickly if you look it up.  To the contrary, many of the butts featured are comically large or ill proportioned.  Because of that, I feel the need to say that this is not about making fun of people or having fun at other peoples' expense.  

This whole thing started at the beach.  Sitting on the beach for a week observing the world around me had me thinking about how humans like to forget who they are while on vacation.  It's like we take a vacation from more than just our jobs or school for that time.  We take a vacation from who we are the rest of the year.  Many of us get up and put on appropriate clothing for public viewing on a daily basis.  We act a certain way and go through our routine.  But on vacation, we sleep in, eat absurd things and when it comes time to go out in public, we cover ourselves with the most ridiculous things we can find.  Neon giant floral print shorts that sag and hang down past our knees.  The one-piece we haven't worn or thought about since last summer, even if it's a bit too large and loose this year.  Or the other direction, the swimsuit we probably outgrew in 2008 but if we can still pour ourselves into it, that means it still fits, right?  I guess a sociologist can explain why we do this, but as an artist, my job is to observe it and then find ways to re-present that observation to you after it passes through my filter.  And that's what I started to do.  It started with swimsuits that were regrettable in one way or another.  But then the observation started to have a life of it's own.  I started to notice the butts around me on a daily basis.  When you do this, you can't help but think about how odd the human body is and how strange our perception of it really is.  People talk about butts as if there's a perfect one to have and if you have a great one it will make you more attractive.  Yes, the butt, that thing you sit on and use to take potty breaks.  Have you ever thought about how weird that is?  

I like to think about things like that.  The awkward transition of skin and muscle between the human torso and the legs is something we've placed an arbitrary value on as a society.  You can get butt implants or you can buy these odd tights with padded butt cheeks to make your butt look bigger.  Google can help you find which of the several named butt types you have.  Or you may be like me and suffer from the dreaded disease "noassatall".  Sufferers of this may have a back that stops abruptly where two legs immediately begin.  

Regardless of what sort of butt situation you have going on, there's also the issue of how you cover it.  Or refuse to cover it in many cases.  There's plumber's crack or the "coin slot" from when jeans fashion decided to drop the waistline of pants to well below sea level.  There's mom jeans that try to pull the butt up towards your shoulder blades.  There's countless types of swimsuit butt in both male and female categories, some featuring much more fabric and some featuring much more skin.  And there's yoga butt in every possible shape, size, color and texture.  Once you decide to observe modern butts, it really becomes a full time job.

So why draw them and share them online for everyone to see?  That's probably the easiest part to explain.  

We have the opportunity each day we are alive to share love and joy with other humans.  One of the ways I've decided to do this is with humor.  I want to make people smile.  Butt Drawing Monday is one way to make people smile.  I've had so many different types of people tell me that they look forward to opening Instagram on Monday to see what butt drawing they'll get.  People have told me it's the highlight of their Monday.  Others have told me stories of opening Instagram around other people to look up something and the Butt Drawing Monday image pops up creating a very awkward and hilarious moment where they have to explain why such a thing would be on their phone.  One guy met me for the first time in person and hugged me and thanked me for making him laugh.  Another person told me how on a couple of occasions they were having a terrible week and they opened their phone and started laughing.  

Of course, there's a downside to all of this.  I have to be known as "the guy who draws butts".  That's not so great.  When I see people I know at Walmart they make sure they are always facing me and when they leave they always do so walking backwards.  When I go hiking with my students no one wants to walk in front of me.  I've even had friends see a drawing and accuse me of surreptitiously drawing their butt.

On the other hand, this weird habit also creates some fantastic moments that normal people never get to experience.  My wonderful 82 year old aunt sometimes finds butt pictures and texts them to me.  My wife, silent as a ninja, will sneak a perfect photo of an extraordinary butt and send it to me.  My kids will notice some butt hanging out of it's clothing in public and almost burst trying to quietly get my attention.  We walked in Lowe's just before Christmas to get some bolts and we learned about restraint while some old hairy dude bent over for an extended amount of time right in front of us.  In each instance, the laughs are shared, savored and appreciated.  

The butt drawings also have been given a life beyond social media.  Over half of all the butt drawings have been given away.  I've taken them to different cities around the state and hidden them in public places for strangers to find.  I've had students take them to places as far away as Boston and leave them for others to take home.  I've mailed them without explanation to people I know.  The first year of butt drawings were collected in "The Book of Butts" and produced in a small edition of paper backs made available at my annual studio sale.  Just like the real butts, these guys are out there for people to enjoy.  

So if you see a butt drawing on Instagram or if you are lucky enough to find one hidden in public, I hope it makes you smile.  I hope that, if only for a couple of seconds, I can have a hand in making you happy.  And I hope that the next time you see an absurd, disproportioned or strangely beautiful butt in it's natural habitat, you'll smile, think of me and maybe send me the image to draw later!

PS: If you see a butt drawing that looks eerily familiar, I promise it's not yours.

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