QUEERIES

Still bitter about Valentine's Day a week later? Meet Puppyteeth, the artistic prince of cynicism

By amplifying the hopeless aspects of relationships, this Vancouver artist is making a lot of fans.

By amplifying the hopeless aspects of relationships, this Vancouver artist is making a lot of fans

Jaik Puppyteeth. (Tom Hsu)

Queeries is a weekly column by CBC Arts producer Peter Knegt that queries LGBTQ art, culture and/or identity through a personal lens.

With Valentine's Day a solid week behind us, it seems like an apt time to celebrate the truths it doesn't represent via Vancouver-based artist Jaik Puppyeeth, who has been making a considerable name for himself by hilariously focusing on a fairly bleak outlook of humanity.

"I try to find a black levity in life's insecurities and on peoples' weaknesses," Puppyteeth tells CBC Arts. "Failed relationships, heteronormative ideals, unfulfilling jobs and friendships and skewed representations of nuclear families are all focal points of my work.​​"

The work of Puppyteeth. (Puppyteeth)

Take this Valentine's Day-themed piece, for example, which summarizes the idea of love as "just being immune to each other's venom." Or this one, which shows a mother cradling her newborn and telling them that she "can't wait until you lose your innocence so we have more to talk about."

Puppyteeth says that he's inspired by "trying to make humour through negativity," aiming to "dilute society's collective nihilistic undercurrent and put it on display." It's certainly connected with folks, with nearly 46,000 Instagram followers currently waiting for their next dose of Puppyteeth. He even put his own spin on the iconic RuPaul Charles for a recent commission.

The work of Puppyteeth. (Puppyteeth)

The secret to his success? At least in part, he believes, is how he amplifies the "cynical and hopeless aspects of relationships." 

"Of course there are healthy couples happily in symbiotic relationships, but I feel like they're not interesting," he says. "Everyone has dealt with horrible people or are themselves a horrible person, and that makes for much more compelling content."

Of course there are healthy couples happily in symbiotic relationships, but I feel like they're not interesting. Everyone has dealt with horrible people or are themselves a horrible person, and that makes for much more compelling content.- Jaik Puppyteeth

Puppyteeth — whose moniker is derived from the artist's early fixation on drawing people who have really large gums and jagged, tiny teeth — says he's ultimately most proud of the fact that he has been able to support himself through his art, and that it has resonated with so many people.

"Young queers often reach out to ask questions and advice, and I am always happy to be there for them," he says.

The work of Puppyteeth. (Puppyteeth)

And Puppyteeth will be there for them in big ways in 2018. This April, he'll be releasing his first graphic novel, which will be on exhibit at the Littman and White Galleries of Portland State University. In the meantime, his Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and website should be regularly offering fans more than enough curated cynicism to get them through the rest of the cold, dark winter.

Corrections

  • A previously published version of this article misstated that RuPaul commissioned a piece by Puppyteeth; the commission was for someone else and featured an illustration of RuPaul.
    Feb 21, 2018 8:45 PM ET

About the Author

Peter Knegt

Peter Knegt has worked for CBC Arts since way back in 2016, with highlights including co-hosting weekly live talk show State of the Arts, writing the regular LGBTQ-culture column Queeries and playing integral roles in the launch of series The Filmmakers and Canada's a Drag. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also the filmmaker of numerous short films and the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.

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