Self effacing, painfully honest, coy with a twist of darkness, relatable, human, sexually liberating, encapsulating the pains of youth, laughing in the face of depression - all these attributes can be found in the whimsical, and at times perverse work of Amber McCall aka Thunderpuss.
For most of her life, Amber has been unabashedly creating art that's both personal and personable. Beginning with drawing and painting, she's since branched out into film making and animation on a trajectory that has enabled her to make her art her full time career. She also plays the drums in a number of bands whose sound and lyrics are yet another extension of her carnival mind.
I first encountered Amber's creations on Instagram, and was immediately drawn to the fact that her account was curated in such a way as to show the viewer the personality of the artist behind the work - a feat that is not as easy as it might sound.
With an attitude and appearance belying her real age, Amber is perhaps the perpetual teen - struggling with periods, adult expectations, boys and sex, as well as her internal mood struggles. This makes her work a beacon for girls in particular, giving a voice to the complex internal struggles that come with growing into adulthood, and the confusing world that seems to be sending a constant barrage of mixed messages to women everywhere.
Raised in South East LA by a single mother, Amber McCall initially had modest expectations of her life's journey. Amazingly, it was her ability to expose her true self, something many try their hardest to hide, that has allowed her to work with some big name companies doing what she loves the most and taking 20,000 followers on the journey with her.
You came from humble beginnings as both a child and into adulthood. Do you ever wish it could have been different? What things do you consider a struggle these days?
Maybe I’d change a few things But for the most part I've always learned to appreciate struggles and imperfections. Whenever I'm super down about a difficult situation that I find myself in, I sit and think for a while and trace the bad to good. Usually everything terrible, in my experience, leads to something good if you have the strength to make it through. So no, in general I don't wish things to be different now or then, because the bad stuff is what forces you to grow and learn. I think if everyone tried to trace back a bad time in their life, and really tried to unfolded events that came from it... they could find a little golden moment that wouldn't have happened otherwise.
What makes you happier - playing music or making art?
They both make me happy but also sad. I have a problem when it comes to loving things, it sorta drives me batty. Playing music makes me happy because its fun and I put a lot less pressure on myself when it comes to music, but it also makes me sad because im not very good at it haha. Art makes me much happier than playing music BUT it also has its moments where it makes me a whole lot sadder.... because I just love it so much. So long story short....everything that makes me happy also makes me sad.
Your art doesn't shy away from embarrassing body parts, awkward sexual feelings, human desires and gross experiences. Is this something you are able to express in day to day reality, or is your art a portal to expose that side of yourself and those around you.
I've always been a toilet humor kind of girl and I think sex related things are really gross and funny. I guess sex used to make me uncomfortable like any teenager and I mended those feelings with jokes. So it's a little of both, if you ever find yourself in a conversation with me it will almost always lead to jizz talk but also I hate being naked.....
Are genitals funny?
What's your relationship with butts and butt stuff?
I don’t like MY butthole messed with but I like men’s buttholes. To me they’re this little special intimate secret. When I get to see a guys butthole it’s like a treasure. They feel very intimate to stare into, you know.... vulnerable.
What do guys think of your work?
I am a friend of males. I love guys. I speak and support women because I express what I specifically am going through....and I happen to be a woman. So sometimes guys don’t “get” my art. They think I’m some wild nympho. But more often guys like my art. I think because it’s honest so it helps them see a women’s point of view in a less threatening light. You know, I’m not into man bashing. I’m not into bashing of any kind. And with being opened and honest, even though I’m female-centric, they can identify too because I hope the bottom line of my work is “human” and not just “female”. But also.... girls rule, boys jizz.
Have you ever had any weird/creepy/odd fan mail?
Hmmm probably but I’m not easily freaked out. So I can imagine someone being weird and me seeing it as totally normal. My current boyfriend was a random fan that brought me his cds at an event I was tabling at. I listened to his cds and decided to bone him. I’m pretty opened to weird fans.
Tell me about the symbolism of ghosts in your work
Ghosts usually represent a few things... looming death, the inevitable, pure innocence (because they’re dead so they lose their worldly corruption), sadness, or souls/inner being.
Do you have any nicknames?
I wish I had a nickname, I'm not a fan of my real name. I guess some people refer to me as Thunderpuss now.
With social media becoming so prevalent in our lives, thus enabling everybody to have a voice and a platform, do you think it's hard to stand out amongst so many talented people online? What advice do you give to artists who approach you asking how they can be seen?+
I think the best way to stand out is to be genuine. Everyone is scared, and insecure, and unsure... so most people hide behind egos and personas. If you put out a real genuine message in your art, that will always shake people up and make them look twice. We are so prone to falling into the same mental patterns BUT your feelings and experiences make you unique.
I dont really have advice on how to get attention other than be genuine, do it a lot, and make friends that you admire... Don't calculate your art. Don't make art that you think is what people want, because it wont be genuine. Do what comes naturally out of your soul, it'll probably feel really scary but that's good because nothing worthwhile comes risk-free. And never give up, just keep trying and growing.
What message do you have for young girls struggling with the common problems that come with discovering identity and their place in 2018 society? What do you think that society is?
Being young is hard. I don't think any advice can cause you to avoid that. But I guess I'm hoping to help young people handle depression and self acceptance. My depression was so intense in my teen years, I was completely manic. The feeling of being alone with your feelings is the hardest part, so I'm hoping that by sharing my depression thoughts and feelings, it'll ease others depression because they'll know they aren't alone in their feelings.
If you're young, you're going to make mistakes. you're going to look back and be utterly appalled by some choices. When you're young everything seems so monumental, like farting in class on accident, or not getting to go to a party, or failing math. I miss feeling THAT intense, as an adult you look at all those things and you know it doesn't matter. So hopefully, teens with intense feelings will see my drawings and it'll remind them to not worry so much and just laugh at bad situations. Nothing matters, life is a huge joke! So just go out there, make mistakes and laugh a little.
Are there any drawings you've done that you've looked at and thought "I can't post that, it's way too controversial/shocking"?
Probably. But for the most part, my aim is to transform something controversial into something innocent and cheeky. It's a battlefield right now, you have to tip toe around to avoid the mine fields. Which yes, is frustrating, but also ... so what? I'm not looking to upset people, I want to make people happy, if I have a different opinion, one that I know will spark an internet war.... I'm not going to light that match. If I say something that I KNOW will upset people, then I'm just being an asshole (which I catch myself being guilty of on occasion, sometimes I really enjoy being devils advocate)... plus peoples minds and viewpoints never change when they're angry. Laugher is the cure. change a controversial topic into a non-threatening joke, it could help people feel less freaked out about the topic if they can see it from a perspective where it's laughable AND you'll be getting a feeling/thought off your chest. Win win. We gotta be good to each other and love each other’s differences.
What are 3 films that put you in a great mood?
Well The funniest / feel good movies in my opinion are Superbad, Step Brothers, and Wedding Singer...oh and Walk Hard.
What are 3 albums that make you sing along involuntarily?
I'm not really an "albums" person, I tend to pop an artist on full discography shuffle. But as for not being able to stop myself from singing along, it'd have to be Christmas music... I love Christmas music.
What is your relationship with Brian Wilson? Is he the king of beautiful sadness?
I love Brian Wilson. I saw a beach boys documentary as a kid and I really identified with the part about him being bed ridden. He was just so blunt and honest about not being able to handle life and I just loved him.
How do you overcome creative block?
Usually I need to do something else. I like cleaning, that tends to clear my head. Or I force myself to draw. When I have a block everything I do looks like a hot pile of a shit but eventually one of the piles will look okay and that'll knock the block out of me.
Is it possible to make a living from selling art online? if so, is it tiring or exciting, or both?
Yes, I'm somehow managing living on just art. I don't live luxurious at all though. It's definitely both tiring and exciting. you need to REALLY hustle, I usually work from the time I wake up to about 2 hours before I go to bed. It's definitely easier to clock into Taco Bell and get a paycheck. But in the end, its rewarding and an investment, which is exciting. It's great not having a boss and being in charge of my life. I don't mind working but I HATE being somewhere at a certain time, it's always given me anxiety.
Tell us about what's next for Thunderpuss
I've been starting a lot of projects I haven't been finishing. I'm not sure which order things will unfold but I'm hoping to write and publish a comic, finally make the animated short that I wrote out 2 yrs ago, finishing writing a cartoon pitch ive been messing around with, and I'm trying to learn C# and coding to create my own video game. So hopefully I finish at least one of those things at some point.
Amber McCall Official Website