In the 2008 presidential election, artist Shepard Fairey created a propaganda-style image of Barack Obama that went so viral it became the official image of his campaign. This election, we have seen many different artists create images of Bernie Sanders, but not so much Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton, unless you count derogatory memes of both.
How do you make a candidate into a viral piece of art? We asked local artist and designer Chad Mize, who has created political artwork during the past two presidential election seasons. Mize, who was raised in Bradenton, moved to St. Petersburg after spending some years in Boston. He and his then-partner, Philip Clark, created artwork and designs under the name Blue Lucy, which eventually became the name of a gallery space on the 600 block of Central Avenue.
Mize closed the gallery in 2015 and started designing under the company name Chizzy. He knows a lot about images going viral; he created the now-iconic World Tour (Paris, London, Tokyo, St. Pete) T-shirt.
In the 2008 election, Fairey put out a call for artists to submit work to be considered for "Manifest Hope," an art show in Washington, D.C., during the presidential inauguration. Mize was accepted. His piece, Hope Is Dope, was also featured in two books, Designing Obama and Art for Obama.
You are a supporter of Bernie Sanders. Tell me about the first design that you created of Bernie.
The first design I did was a caricature of Bernie as a cross between Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street. I was in the car one rainy night listening to NPR and it dawned on me. ... I went home and designed it and placed it online right away. Most of my designs are done within a half-hour or so. I work direct and put them online fast. I got a great response so I decided to run a T-shirt of it, with all proceeds going towards Bernie's campaign. I raised over $1,000 from T-shirt sales and stickers.
What elements of a design make an image resonate with so many people?
For myself, I take a tongue-in-cheek approach to my political art. Usually character based. An LOL.
How do you go about getting images out to the public?
Really with today's social media you can reach beyond your own circle. And down the road you see people reposting a repost of a repost. Once you place something online, it can take it places you never knew of.
You had some problems with the Bert and Ernie mashup image being stolen and copied. How did you handle that?
There has been several times when someone used my image without permission. One guy was a Georgia Etsy user, selling a bad pixelated version without my CHIZZY signature, that had bought my design from a guy in Israel. He removed the image once I showed him proof of ownership. If I saw someone online using it to promote Bernie, I had no problem, as that is what I was doing creating the art in the first place.
You also created the "Sanders Side Eye" image, which you made into mouse pads with a Louis Vuitton-style pattern, and enamel lapel pins. What was the response to that design? I read that enamel pins are a new favorite medium for artists to get their images out in an inexpensive, accessible way.
I was approached by a company called Collaborative Goods to make the Sanders Side Eye enamel pin. They wanted to do a run with 100 percent of profits to be donated to the Sanders campaign. I had never had a pin made of my art, and it was really cool to receive the pins.
Does this body of work help your brand?
Yes, it helps with my brand. To have an inspiration like Bernie and his message is great. It allowed me something to be inspired by. And to create art with a message.
Contact Maggie Duffy at email@example.com.