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Meet Amber McCall of Thunderpuss in South East LA

Today we’d like to introduce you to Amber McCall.

Amber, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Creating a career around art was never my plan, in fact- I openly avoided it. I was born and raised in South-East LA (Cudahy,CA). Having been raised under extreme poverty, success to me meant having modest stability. Aspirations like getting a job at Bank of America, being a receptionist, or even In N Out Burger because they pay like two dollars higher than minimum wage. Despite being so set on staying away from art I fell right into it in my mid-twentys, without even noticing. I believe the true and genuine things inside us will always win in the end.

I was a cook at a restaurant in Pasadena for a short period of time. The front of the restaurant had an old fashioned soda fountain where they served specialty soda and ice cream. On my off time in the kitchen I would draw for fun, and had started drawing up the ice cream and other display signs for the soda fountain. Two young artists came in one day and noticed my drawings and really loved them. They friended me on Facebook and from there I was suddenly participating in this whole art world that I didn’t know existed.

It started with doing gig flyers for local Los Angeles bands. Then that lead to album covers and shirt designs for bands ranging from L.A all the way to the U.K. I started c0-running a rock n’ roll flea market with one of the artists that had discovered me at the restaurant, Ryan Coyle. We would book the bands, go around recruiting vintage sellers, and artists to participate. Eventually I started to table at our events too, and that’s basically how my Thunderpuss online shop had started. I started very small with a few handmade items (mainly Shrinky-dink illustrations glued onto safety-pins). Now three years later it’s grown into shirts, patches, enamel pins, cards, zines, and more. I currently run my online shop through a start-up company called Witchsy. It is an alternative to Etsy for artists that can’t restrict their art to the PG Community Guidelines.

After we discontinued the flea market endeavor I started teaching myself how to animate. That quickly lead to working with tons of really cool companies like Fox ADHD, Giphy, Super Deluxe, and I even got to animated for the show Party Legends which is owned by VICE! I also have been given the opportunity to directed and animate a couple music videos too.

I got to where I am today basically by staying true to who I really am, despite always wanting to be someone else. I couldn’t run from art, it’s always been a part of me and I’m the happiest I’ve ever been since finally embracing that.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Yes and No. I started drawing again because I was having a really hard time and it helped relieve my emotional stress. I was trying to go back to community college to get a real job, like teaching. During that I was living in my car for about 3 months. Which was kind of scary and isolating. When you live in your car you don’t really want to talk to anyone or see anyone because you feel so ashamed. It was also pretty cold because it was during November- March and I had a pretty bad flu that lasted over a month, so… it sucked. Then my car blew up because it was an old 1990 Toyota Tercel and I lost my job as a nanny. So, I couch surfed a little with vague acquaintances until I saved enough money doing TV audience work to buy another car. A week later that car was stolen along with everything in my car. I really felt like giving up on life entirely. Then my mom got a really bad injury at work and couldn’t walk or work at Kmart any longer. So, in addition to my struggle I had to figure out a way to help her pay her bills too. It was extremely stressful, no matter how hard I tried the universe kept kicking me down. The community college I was attending then advised me that I can’t re-enroll for the next semester until I pay for my stolen text books I rented from them. At that point I had done a few art flyers and decided to forget my plan of being a teacher and to whole-heartedly jump into art.

That was the hardest year of my life but also pushed me to be where I am today. Through it all -drawing and pursuing creative outlets kept me going. It showed me that no matter what horrible things are happening… art is what has always and will always keep me going in life.

After that, everything seemed really easy in comparison. I go through the normal struggles constantly like not having enough money or enough confidence. But in a way I’m lucky because anytime I’m feeling really discouraged I look back at that hellish year and I know I can get through just about anything.

Thunderpuss – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I’m an independent freelance illustrator and animator. I also run my online shop entirely by myself still. Which means I design all my products, I invest and order all my products, and I ship and communicate with customers directly. I currently run my business and do all my work out of an artist’s studio in the Pico-Union area.

My art is known for its cheeky kitsch style. I love to incorporate retro aspects in my work paired with taboo humor, I twist the dark genuine human feelings into a child-like funny package.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success to me is having my art help others cope with life and the emotions that come with living, especially young women. I try and be as genuine and transparent with everything I do because I know by doing so I could potentially help someone else laugh at their hard time or feel like they belong. I want to make people happy because I myself have struggled my whole life at being happy.

Contact Info:

  • Website: www.ambermccall.com
  • Email: DearAmberMcCall@gmail.com
  • Instagram: @Thunderpuss
  • Twitter: @Thunderpuzz

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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