Everywhere you look / There’s a face of somebody who needs you.
Brooklyn-based illustrator Sam Thurman has consistently demonstrated a fascination with bodies in his work, and his latest zine (or “art book”), Every Where You Look, includes more than just “a face of somebody who needs you.” It is filled with faces—distorted, grimacing portraits of the Tanner family from Full House—that need you, or somebody, or something.
Illustrated with a brush and ink, digitally colored, and printed using a Risograph, Every Where You Look follows in a similar stylistic vein as previous woks Egg and The Body, the latter of which Thurman summarizes as “A man tries to reject his body, so his body rejects him. It aches, it stinks, it smells, it escapes, it strives, it falls, it runs, it sweats, it stretches, it strives. Will it find peace?” Flipping through EWYL, it’s clear his fascination with the body has not waned; the Tanner family portraits staring back at you reveal an anxiety and unease beneath their comically strained, smiling faces.
We recently sat down with Thurman to discuss television as artistic inspiration and the appeal of Full House (or lack thereof).
Syndicated: From the title Every Where You Look to the Tanner family “sweating face” portraits, your latest work includes a lot of Full House references. What’s your experience with the show?
Sam Thurman: I grew up the youngest of three brothers during a tumultuous time in my parents’ marriage, so I spent a lot of time by myself. Full House fascinates me because I know I’ve watched, or at least sat through, hundreds of hours of it. However, it wasn’t a show I liked or sought out. It was just there. The rhythm of the Tanner family problems was the white noise I needed. It made me feel less alone.
And how did that inform the content of the zine?
My parents divorced when I was a teenager, the summer before I left for college. I spent that summer going back through my life obsessively, rewriting my memories with this newfound knowledge that my parents’ marriage was falling apart. Eventually I turned that churning reevaluation to my third parent: the television. This zine is about that process of going back through memories I cataloged away as superficially pleasant and digging out the sadness underneath.
How does media influence your work in general?
Even though I illustrate comics, I think in television. I can’t help it. This book is more of a collection of portraits and ideas, but if you look at my narrative work, you can see I am thinking shot for shot rather than page by page.
Have you been watching Fuller House?
No. For me, having to expend energy to watch Full House takes away its purpose.
Between Animaniacs, Charmed, Fuller House, and more, there are a ton of ’90s reboots already out or announced. How do you feel about “reboot culture,” especially in regards to tapping into ’90s nostalgia?
Full House is not a relaxing show for me. It fills me with anxiety and dread. The humor falls flat; the characters seem sociopathically disassociated from the tragedies in their lives. It makes me deeply uncomfortable. I know for a lot of people that’s not the case. You might find Full House comforting and nostalgic and could use some more of it. Life in America is terrifying, and we absolutely need comfort and nostalgia. These reboots aren’t stopping American television from being more diverse and inclusive than it has ever been; I see them as harmless. They’re not really for me, but if they are for you, I’m glad they exist.
Is Every Where You Look in line with your past work? Or do you feel it’s a lot different?
EWYL is a book more about a deep feeling of unease than a sequential narrative. That’s a pretty big deviation from my past two comics which were, well, comics. Working on this zine felt like exorcising a demon. I’m really interested to see who it resonates with.
What was your process for creating EWYL?
A lot of my work starts with an image I can’t get out of my head. This zine started with a drawing of a sweating, grimacing John Stamos. I drew it five years ago when I was living in a storefront in Greenpoint. I had a lot of time on my hands then to comb through my memories. Somehow Stamos came out. The rest of the zine came naturally, five years later.
Are you working on anything else? Or have plans to work on something soon?
I am currently working on a sequel to Egg, a comic I put out two years ago, about a man with an egg for a head. I’m hoping to have that finished by the end of the year.
Every Where You Look debuts at Chicago Alternative Comics Expo (CAKE) June 2 and will soon be available for purchase on Thurman’s shop, Whatnot NYC. You can also follow Thurman on Twitter and Instagram.