size. 8x8 in
by. Jeff Somogyi
city. Astoria, Queens, New York, NY
Welcome to Ice Cream Social, the summer's socially distant group art show, featuring creators and makers from all walks of life, coming together to share their love of the greatest treat known to man. Each week through Labor Day, come chill with new artists as they discuss a wide range of topics spanning their personal journeys, art, pop culture, and, of course, ice cream! In this, our fourth week, we visit a pair of artists whose work is infused with humor, chatting with master embroiderer Zach Gesford, and co-creator of the #AuGhost art prompt, digital doodler Jeff Somogyi.
Previous Ice Cream Social flavors include digital art by comic book creators Brendan Albetski, Marcelo Biott, and Adam Reck, the ultimate ice cream sandwich from sandwich swami Deli Fresh Threads, pyrographic wonders from Michael O'Shields, crocheted wizardry by Chelsey Scully, a fantastic oil painting courtesy of Maria Solias and a colorful triptych from jack-of-all-trades Wally Tautz.
I went four years with a constant stomach ache.
First off, thanks for partaking in Ice Cream Social. What is it about ice cream that conjures so many good memories for people?
Thank you for having me!
For me, I remember ice cream experiences fondly, because my mom kept our house relatively "healthy" growing up. So ice cream was a "sometimes" thing and had on special occasions. We never had it in the house. But our birthday cakes were always Carvel ice cream cakes. So the times we used to have ice cream were exciting and surprising.
Now that I'm older, and can have it any time, it has lost a bit of special-ness. It's lost even more special-ness as I aged, slowly growing more and more lactose intolerant. Thankfully, non-dairy science has come a long way. So at least I get the methadone equivalent to ice cream's heroin.
Never in the house, wow! (It's way too late implement this rule in my own home.) Do you remember when you became aware of ice cream's readily-available nature?
For other people, or for me? For other people, it was the first time I visited my friend Joe's house, and ice cream was just... there. Available to eat, whenever! For me, it wasn't until college when I realized that I could get it any time, anywhere. And boy did I. My lactose intolerance was still undiagnosed, so I went four years with a constant stomach ache.
Ha! That's great. What was your go-to then, and now that you're lactose intolerant, your go-to now?
Oh, back in the day, it was always the Fat Frog for me, when I was allowed to get it. But it was problematic because, as a "husky" child, I had to request something "fat" from a stranger who I assumed was judging me. So I used to make my mom order it for me.
Now that I stick to non-dairy, I have to say I really like Ben and Jerry's offerings. I'm a huge fan of "too many ingredient" ice creams. Have you tried the Seven Layer? It's amazing. )(Even if it, confusingly, only has five ingredients listed on the label.) I mean, what kind of Picard-seeing-four-lights shit is this?
I have to admit, I'm more of an ice pops guy than an ice cream guy, but that Seven Layer deal sounds incredible. I'll have to check it out. Your art, in general, is lighthearted and whimsical, almost like refined doodling. How'd you work your way into this style?
By doodling and then refining it, haha!
I never thought of myself as an artist. Mainly because my parents told me art wasn't a career. So I think I kept myself from becoming disappointed in not being a Capital A artist by keeping it light and funny. "If it's not good, at least it's funny" is a pretty good motto.
I guess I also feel like there's a lot of seriousness in the world, so I don't really want to pursue something serious. I like making people smile and laugh...or at least roll their eyes, snort, and say, "ok, that's enough, Jeff." Frivolity. That's my goal.
Is this where your popular art prompt/hashtag #AuGhost stems from?
AuGhost stemmed from my buddy Dave [Pietrandrea] and I being so tired of Inktober being "owned" by those Capital A artists (the good folk, who, like, know how to do stuff.) Personally, I saw all these great artists being lauded during Inktober and thought, "What about the people who just want to have fun?" Inktober felt too "rules based" (if you read their website, it's pretty strict, though people will tell you it's not).
So I wanted to do something easy, no pressure, and welcoming to all levels. (Especially since I fall into that lower level!) I wanted to have fun and encourage others to have fun, regardless of skill. So, like, two days before August 2018, Dave and I slammed together a prompt list and invited anyone in. And the people who join every year have been the most fun, funny, and wonderful people.
To be clear, there's nothing wrong or bad about what I keep calling "Capital A art". It's just not me. And sometimes it can be very ... difficult for people at an earlier skill level to join in on those things, when there's a certain level being highlighted.
I think that's the charm of #AuGhost. There's no pretension or intimidation to it. How do you come up with the prompt list?
It's a long process for something so silly! Dave and I make a spreadsheet with all of our own words. Then we vote on which one of the other's we would think would be fun to draw, or be good inspiration. Those words are moved to another column of "final round" words, then we repeat the whole process.
Once we have more than enough words for each day, we comb through it and remove some. Once that's done, we think about what would be good first and last words, but the rest of the list we tend to not re-order, as "random" is kinda fun.
It is kinda fun. That same energy is obvious in your Ice Cream Social entry here. "Cold Soul" looks like a sticker that belongs on an ice cream truck. Is it safe to safe ghosts are your thing?
Ha! You know, I guess so? It's like one of those things you don't realize you do all the time until other people point it out! At least people are just noticing me drawing ghosts all the time, and not the weird grunting noise I make every time I sit down or stand up. But, if people look at me and say, "Oh, the guy who draws ghosts?" I'll take it!
In your head canon, are the eyes of the Cold Soul bubblegum, M&M'S, or something else?
Bubble gum for sure!
They're a shockingly bright red, which leads me to believe these might be a flavor other than the ambiguously named "original". True or false?
Cherry. But definitely the weird hollow type. Like, are they saving money? Why are they hollow?
For the bulk of our lives, it seemed like gumball eyes was the standard bearer of any fruity brand name character. The Pink Panther, Spider-Man, Spongebob, the Ninja Turtles. Did you have a favorite?
I wasn't allowed to chew gum as a child, so I wasn't allowed to buy I've cream with gum! I was always Fat Frog, since that had M&M'S!
No ice cream. No gum. You didn't have a Nintendo, did you?
They caved on that one after a while. We'd had an Atari 2600 for a long time, at that point. So, weirdly, I don't think they were super against video games.
Parents choose weirdly inconsistent hills to die on. Which brings us back to ghosts! They're certainly not your only thing, though. You're also to be socially involved and conscious of the world around you, and have even coupled your activism with print orders. Any similar plans for the future? And if so, what are the causes that hold value for you?
Oh boy, you're going to tarnish my Bad Boy image, bringing that stuff up! Honestly, I'm just a half-assed socialist at heart: I just try to help who I can, when I can, with what I have. And if me drawing, like, a strawberry dressed as Batman will get you to donate some money to help ease some of the pain out there, too, then that's great! I'm very very lucky to be in a place right now, where I'm not worried about going hungry or having access to medicine or mental health services, but the few bucks I might raise from a charity art piece, when donated to The Trevor Project or CityMeals, could keep someone fed and mentally healthy. And if I have the means to help, I feel like I should. But anyway, I'm not a hero or an activist, just a guy who's always pissed off, but likes drawing, like, a strawberry dressed as Batman. (Note: As of this interview I have not drawn that, yet.)
I think you have your next assignment. And on that note, let's put a cherry on top of this. Favorite topping?
Ha! Yeah, I gotta draw that. Okay, toppings: Jimmies. Chocolate jimmies. I dunno, there's just something great about when the ice cream gets soupy and the sprinkles are in there... All waxy and weird. And your tongue feels numb, after. Yeah, I love that!
You may be in the minority with jimmies. We'll see. (EDITOR'S NOTE: This was the first interview conducted for Ice Cream Social, back in late May.) Sherbet or Sherbert?
Cup or cone?
Jeff, as always, it's been a pleasure. Thanks for ringing the bell here for the first Ice Cream Social.
Dracula's Blood Pudding
Chocolate and pig's blood combine to form "a heady combination of warm spices and cream [with] pig’s blood from one of our favorite partners, Portland’s Nicky USA."
Creepy Crawly Critters
Tequila and orange matcha ice cream combine with candies, chocolate-covered crickets, and toffee brittle mealworms for what head ice cream maker Tyler Malek calls, "an ice cream that might start of bright and cheery but then slowly churns to the curiosity, slowly changes to something both intriguingly delicious and eerily weird."
Essence of Ghost
A mix of sherbet, black cocoa ice cream, and scotch, Malek says, "This ice cream flavor will literally give you chills. If it steals your breath and sends shivers down your spine… we made it right."
What do you call a fish with no eyes?
#AuGhost2020 Prompt List
Growing up, Jeff's parents convinced him that art wasn't a viable career choice. They have yet to be proven wrong. He resides in Astoria with his very real wife, and, someday, a dog. The dog will be named Potato. Someday... In the meantime, you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram, and participate in the 3rd annual #AuGhost.