Champion of Making Fun
An Interview with Johnny Sampson as the Artist of
The Vienna Beef Print Series, Winter 2023
Establishing opposites is an artist’s ultimate hack to igniting creativity. For a man well described as a cool, calm, and a collected whirlwind of opposites, Johnny Sampson surpasses what it means to master creativity – he personifies it.
We introduce Johnny Sampson with honor as the artist of The Vienna Beef Print Series’ Winter 2023 Edition. A world-class creative rooted in Chicago, Illinois, we are delighted to share with you his story, work, and fellow enthusiasm for the Vienna Beef Hot Dog.
Sampson’s playful titles like Cartoonist and Illustrator are roles worn with professionalism, and he has mastered this balance in a fulfilling career. “I started doing storyboards for a friend post college, and that’s when I really started thinking… I could actually draw stuff for people and it’s not just art, it’s functional, it’s got a purpose,” he expresses. However, Sampson’s talent exceeds the standard ability to construct a cohesive, fun-to-observe visual story. What makes his work distinguishable is the way it welcomes the audience to interact within the story. Sampson’s illustrations challenge the eye, demand double-takes and evoke questions. He has “always been attracted to and enjoyed more subversive work.”
What makes it subversive for the reader is Sampson’s ability to submerge himself, so to really get to know this man, head first to his portfolio. The entire site is a jungle gym of contrasting perspectives, train-of-thought rail switches, eyeball challenges, and goofy caricatures. While every portfolio piece includes a hearty dose of Sampson, a more prominent example of his character is displayed in tru-ly, MAD-ly, a heartfelt autobiographical comic about his journey from being a fan of Mad Magazine to being the face of it. Sampson’s defiant ridicule is just as evident in this comic as his humble character, and, being an autobiography, tru-ly, MAD-ly is about as Johnny as Johnny gets. “With MAD (Magazine) being a satire, poking fun at institutions and advertising, that was me… the smart ass in school,” he modestly admits, “My work has always had a humorous bent to it.” With his humble personality sharing a space with his out-loud wit (and the osmose of both into his work), Sampson is, undoubtedly, the champion of ‘making fun’.
Raised in the suburbs of Chicago by two Chicagoans, he learned from the very best. While life has pulled him around the country, Sampson has always gravitated back home, where he and his wife currently raise their family together. “I love the city– it’s a big little city. I love the neighborhoods, the accessibility, and the attitude of people in Chicago, it’s very midwestern,” he fondly remarks. “I absolutely identify as a midwesterner. There is a distinct work ethic and attitude: we like to complain about a lot of things, but that is also how we show our love about things, too,” Sampson grins, as he reveals yet another example of how truthful he is in the application of himself as a creative, and how visible it is in his art.
Among the cornerstones in his memory of Chicago, Vienna Beef is placarded. As a boy, Sampson and his father would often pass the Vienna Beef Factory at the intersection of Damen and Fullerton, and he withholds a vivid recollection of the Vienna Beef Navy Pier billboard. “It was such an iconic landmark,” he reminisced. “I remember when I had my first Chicago Style Dog. It was from Vienna Beef, with all seven ingredients on a poppy seed bun. It was a taste representation of Chicago. That is something the city can claim as its own and is known worldwide for. I will always associate Chicago with the Chicago Dog, how can you not?”
It is not uncommon for a Chicago-dweller to associate the city with the Vienna Beef Hot Dog. As the family-owned business approaches its 130th Anniversary this year, the value of and pride in tradition burns just as strong in the spirit of the company as it does on grills across Chicago.
The Vienna Beef Print Series is a celebration of this symbol, from the eyes of Chicago’s very own. Each artist in the series has contributed a print expressing their artistic style and voice, as well as their personal definition of Chicago’s Vienna Beef. Sampson’s deep familiarity with both the city, and the iconic hot dog brand, made it easy for him to deliver a concept for the Vienna Beef Print Series.
His commentary on the culture and tradition surrounding the Chicago Style Hot Dog is brilliantly on brand for the artist. The upcoming release of this print is highly anticipated, and one should expect nothing less than a picture worth a thousand words– and maybe even a whole laugh– by the one and only Johnny Sampson.
“That’s what I love about drawing and cartooning– if you can raise someone’s spirits for a minute, or if someone looks back on it and smiles. The world needs more smiles.”
The Vienna Beef Print Series’ Winter 2023 release with artwork by Johnny Sampson will be released on January 23 at 9:00 AM CST and available for purchase at www.ViennaBeef.com. For exclusive access to new releases, join the ‘Official Group For Vienna Beef Fans!’ on Facebook.
Visit Johnny’s portfolio at www.johnnysampson.com.
Purchase the limited edition print here.