Wesley James Hubbard, 40, better known as Wooden Cyclops, was born and raised in Alaska. Due to the remote nature of Alaska, he was not exposed to fine arts and gallery art as a child. Yet, he found happiness, excitement, and inspiration in the colors and humor of Mad Magazine and Garbage Pail Kids.
This affinity for pop culture aesthetics led him to immerse himself in art as a young child, doodling all over his school work while refining his cartoon and storytelling skills in a self-taught manner. Little did he know at the time that later in life he’d move to Portland, Oregon, in the pursuit of music and would end up working as a full-time artist, designer, and painter.
There, he’d end up creating one of his main characters named Tank Dog: a quirky and funny pink cartoon that is half tank and half dog. At first glance, you don’t know what’s going through Tank Dog’s mind. You know he looks like a fun guy, but his sneaky smile deceives you.
“If you see him interact now, he’d be very kind of aloof to what’s happening. Kind of falls into situations type of character. [He’s] kind of happy-stupid, lucky-unlucky. Just tripping through life,” Cyclops says.
Tank Dog’s trip through life has taken him on adventures as the character morphed into different mediums according to Cyclops’ needs. Tank Dog can be a simple doodle, but it can also be a complex painting that transforms into digital art, a non-fungible token (NFT), and an animation. But he can also come to life in the shape of a life-size character with his own costume. Tank Dog can be whatever he wants and can be placed in whatever scenario he wants to experience life.
The World of the Tank Dog
That’s because Cyclops has developed and evolved Tank Dog as a character over the past six or seven years. He’s gained a vivacious personality that’s depicted through his art. But, you’ll also notice that Tank Dog is always accompanied by his army of smaller characters called the Doberman stabbers.
The Doberman stabbers are taking over Cyclops’ world and they’re always evolving by changing color, whether that’s a bright pink, a mellow blue, a neon yellow, or a vibrant red. Cyclops makes use of these colors to evoke feelings in whoever is watching them. Maybe the colorful Doberman stabbers make you feel happy, mischievous, or energetic. But you know that the Doberman stabbers are always staring at you. They capture your attention with their funny looks, which is one of Cyclops’ main intentions in his art.
“With a lot of my pieces I’m trying to convey a message with these guys, but it’s also [that] I’ve got to have a little fun. I want people’s eyes to move through it and get excited every time they look,” Cyclops says.
When you feel that excitement, it invites you to dive deeper into the art. You’ll want to understand better why Tank Dog and his army of Doberman stabbers are half machine and half animal. That’s because Cyclops enjoys playing with the duality of the concepts that Cyclops applies to his art. Weapons and cute dogs are not supposed to be placed together.—they don’t make sense at all. One is synonymous with violence while the other is reminiscent of love and the feel-good chemicals produced in the brain when interacting with it. And pink is seldom associated with weapons or a dog. Nothing makes sense, but it can actually make sense if you really want it to.
“I like the idea of duality. Taking things that feel like opposites and putting them together. Things don’t always have to feel like they fit [in order] to fit. I was playing with that. I was drawing,” Cyclops says. “I’m anti-weapons, but I love drawing them. [At the beginning] I was drawing guns instead of barrels that just got silly faces on them, kind of to poke fun in a way, and I ended up sketching him.”
This duality, specifically in Tank Dog, manifested itself to Cyclops in an unconscious manner as a means to reflect the United States’ current context with its gun-control problem. He wants Tank Dog to communicate a sense of community and create a more inclusive world.
“He’s all about love. He’s not about war. Looks can be deceiving. I want to tell a coming-of-age story with him. You could be ignorant to things and also change the world,” Cyclops says.
Tank Dog Takes Over the Music World
And now, Tank Dog is starting to live his coming-of-age story as he’s become a life-size character in what seems like a pink and yellow velvet costume in Portugal. The Man’s “Dummy” video. He made his first real live performance with his sneaky and vivacious personality dancing around in a bar, doing a moonwalk in the snow, and slapping a car with a giant fish. He’s just tripping in life and serves as a new icon of pop culture made popular by Portugal. The Man in the promotion of their new album “Chris Black Changed My Life.” This collaboration is one of Cyclops’ many ventures into experimenting with art as a versatile discipline that has a strong relationship with music.
"A visual art piece can influence music and music can influence a visual art piece. For me, it’s a feeling and it’s whatever’s playing on the screen of my brain,” Cyclops says.
This particular collaboration came through because Cyclops has known the band since high school. He was their former keyboard player in their first record and has always kept a relationship with them. Yet, it wasn’t until Tank Dog evolved more and built up his skills as an artist that he started reconnecting with them in an artistic way.
But this is not the first time he’s collaborated with musicians. Another one of his collaborations was with singer Weird Al Yankovic, which was a defining moment for him as an artist because of Weird Al’s huge influence on him. In this case, Tank Dog was not the main character and has no relationship whatsoever to this. Cyclops did a set of nine posters for him promoting Weird Al’s concerts with artwork that looks completely different from Tank Dog’s aesthetic. Here, his pieces are way much more textured and evoke the sensation of wanting to touch and grab the food portrayed. Yet, the color palette remains the same as with Tank Dog and his army of Doberman stabbers. It’s a mellow blue, neon yellow, vibrant red, and earthy green because it’s all part of Wooden Cyclops’ cartoon world.
If you want to join Tank Dog tripping through life, just follow Wooden Cyclops on Instagram @woodencyclops.
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