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Cleveland Artist Spotlights
Eugene Sopher’s jovial, lighthearted manner is directly reflected in his medium of choice – cartoons. At first pass, his work elicits smiles and snickers from the viewer. But, looking deeper, his cartoons seem to represent a darker reality of living in Cleveland. “All my artwork represents what I see. Literally, when I’m walking outside, I’m living in the news.” Eugene says, “I’m a realist. I don’t sugarcoat.” There are so many preconceived ideas of who black people are and black culture, and Eugene plays with this theme in his work, bringing these preconceptions directly to the forefront. Though, he does this in a way that disarms the viewer with humor. “I can find humor in anything,” he says. “Since I was a youngster, anytime I had a bad situation happen to me, I would look at the brighter side and the humor of it. When you have bad things that happen in the neighborhood, people don’t have any hope. Laughter has always been the best medicine for me.”
Eugene has found solace in art-making throughout this life. To put it bluntly, “If I didn’t have art in my life, I would be dead,” he says. His goal now is to uplift others through his work, and he’s on a mission to do that. He wants people to see a little bit of themselves in his cartoons and knows reaching young people is critical. After years of drawing, it was only a short while ago that he realized he could communicate with others better through his work and send positive messages. “I want the kids to do better than I did,” he says. This is his way to give back.
Q. Briefly describe your work.
A. All of my cartoons are in Black and White, because that’s how the world is. I give the people the chance to put color on my characters.
Q. Why are cartoons or comics your medium of choice? What is it about this medium that you like?
A. In life, you’ve got to do what you love. I’m always drawing, and doing cartoons was my escape. A lot of people get drunk and high, but there’s not a high I haven’t had that’s better than when I draw and create. Whatever is in my mind I can draw. I chose to do that and this showed the beauty of me. Drawing is my way of expressing myself.
Q. How were you introduced to your craft?
A. God’s Gift. But I had T.V. as a babysitter so I loved cartoons and I have a crazy imagination.
Q. Do you have any long-standing influences?
A. My father. My father made art his whole life, and he too is a big black man. He loved art and had to do it in his spare time. He made metal sculpture and knows how to draw; I wanted to be as good as him. He was in my life, is still in my life and played a big role in my growing as a man, but also in my art-making. He told me not to be ashamed of anything I do and encouraged me to stay with my art.
Q. Describe your idea of artistic success.
A. To have my work all around the city and to bring a smile on everyone’s face who is feeling down and out. I want to create a newspaper that has not only my cartoons in it, but uplifting news. For the single mothers out there trying to take care of her family alone. For the good men out there that are taking care of their children. I want to uplift kids in the ghetto spirit so they can want better in life and work to stop bullying and gangs in the community. I’m just trying to bring some shine to the darkness.
Q. Describe your current goals and project ideas you have for your comics.
A. I have many ideas, but I have three main goals: I want to create a coloring book for kids using my cartoons, sending positive messages they can relate to. I want to create a newspaper publication that showcases my neighborhood and community, but with only uplifting positive news in addition to my comics. And eventually, I want to have a place where people can come and express their artistic abilities. Something that will put value in other people’s lives.
7. How do you feel your work affects your audience? (and/or) How do you
want your work to affect your audience?
I want my audience to see a little of themselves inside what I create.