I recently sat down and chatted with my friend Tristan Beukers, the mind behind Dapper Shabby. A cartoonist with a satirical edge, his work might look simple, but it’s also meaningful. Read the interview below.
When did Dapper Shabby begin? How did you come up with the name?
“Back in 2011, a friend and I were getting ready to go to some event, he was on me about how fancy I looked and kept calling me dapper. I pointed out to him that my peacoat was missing buttons, had cigarette burns, the lining was shredded as were the pockets, I think I had used peroxide to get blood out of my dress shirt, and I had these huge holes in my dress shoes – my toes would touch the sidewalk when I walked. I told him I was shabby.
It was this mischievous feeling of getting one over on these sheltered rich kids we were going out with. We were these absolutely outrageous punk kids, most of us had it really hard dealing with abuse, being broke and not having a home– those sorts of problems. All of a sudden because I’m wearing a peacoat, and it’s too dark too see how destroyed it is, I’m acceptable to these really successful, hip people.
I said dapper shabby at the same moment it was all dawning on me and we had a good laugh.”
How long on average do you spend on each piece?
“I try and force myself to make some pieces really quick, to not get too attached or overthink it. Those often turn out best in my opinion. Sometimes I’ll actually time myself and only give myself 5 minutes. I’m always busy so it’s not hard to synthesize the time crunch.
Some pieces I’ll spend 3 days on, giving up and hating it, and then just coming back the next day and forcing myself to fix it. I’ll go from considering throwing something away to falling in love and working on it all night, even though I have to leave the house to start a 13 hour work day at 8:00 AM.
Most of my pieces though, I try not to obsess over and just let them go. I leave them around at bars and work and wherever I get food.”
What does your inspiration come from?
“Lots of things. Mostly walking around the city and talking to people. Strangers are so interesting and there are these really incredible stories unfolding all around us. There’s beauty in the mundane you know. It’s not actually not mundane at all if you approach it a certain way.
I’ve always just sort of wanted to make messages for people I guess. Capture how we’re feeling. Even just making cards for people.”
What’s the underlying philosophy behind Dapper Shabby?
“I try not to take myself or life too seriously. I think it’s about finding humor in every part of life. Especially the dark and hard parts. I’ve had it so bad it was almost over, before, and I’m one of the lucky people, imagine how hard it must be for people with real problems. People have it really rough, and we’re all in this together whether we like it or not.
So my art is about acknowledging the tough things, having a laugh at our own folly.
I look a lot at the contrast between this ultimate togetherness we have– nobody makes it alone– versus that really profound alienation we can bring onto ourselves. We’re all special and unique and that’s what makes us admire each other so much and want to be like each other. That sounds a bit silly.
It might be a bit of a paradox because I tend to sort of harp on the very same issues that I’ve struggled with, but that’s why they’re important. Being a gentleman, being selfless, patience, surviving loneliness, unconditional love, not becoming jaded, not giving up.”