Samantha “Sam” McCullough, the creator of Stinky Dog, was born in England and moved to the United States as a child. Her parent’s alternative lifestyle made her an interesting and unusual child who turned to the fantasy world of books and doodling to make sense of it all. She sold her first comic doodles at eight years old, going door-to-door in a neighborhood. After leaving home at 18, Sam continued on with the gypsy lifestyle. She moved around in the U.S., and traveled extensively overseas. Upon returning from India, she rented an attic with exposed insulation in Portland, Oregon. Fortunately, she also found work in a bizarre, downtown laundromat. One day, in the laundromat, a homeless man tossed a tweed coat into the garbage. Being that Sam had no money to buy her boyfriend (now husband) a gift for his birthday, she fashioned the old coat into a dog similar to the one he’d rescued from the pound. The stuffed dog made people laugh, so she started doodling the image on everything she could find, like napkins, old receipts, etc. Her friends insisted that she sell these weird little dog drawings, so she began selling what she called “Stinky” comic art at the Portland Saturday Market in 1997. Stinky took off immediately and she became known as the “Stinky Artist”.
Several years later Sam and her husband decided to move to his small hometown of Northville, where there is not even a stoplight, located in the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York. Sam’s gypsy ways had come to an abrupt halt. She slowed down to a pace she didn’t know could sustain life. Surprisingly, it was in this town that Stinky really came alive. The comic nature of this simple town set the stage. The very first time Stinky took his seat at the diner on Main St., it transformed magically into the “Peanut Butter and Belly Diner”, and the patrons became his comic companions. It was here that Stinky opened his first retail store in 2005.
Thereafter, Stinky has lived out his days on historic Broadway in Saratoga Springs, NY at his very own retail store (and website) most appropriately named “Stinky Dog.” Sam has been selling Stinky Dog drawings successfully full-time, for over 17 years as comic art and on a multitude of Stinky Dog products. Recently, she spoke about her experiences working as an artist as well as her hopes for the future:
Meagan Meehan (MM) of Entertainment Vine: What influenced you to become an illustrator?
Sam McCullough (SM): I became an illustrator sort of accidentally and also because I was totally broke. I had just returned from India and Nepal with nothing…no job, no money, and no hair (it’s true, I was bald). Even though I didn’t go to school for art, being pre-med in college, I found myself drawing constantly. I carried around an old lunch pail filled with oil pastels. I drew on 3 x 5 index cards everywhere I went. One drawing in particular, “Stinky Dog”, made people laugh. I sold a few right out of my lunch pail. I was amazed that people would give me money for my drawings. Eventually, I sold larger, more colorful oil pastel “Stinky” drawings, with titles like “Stinky in the Moonlight”, “Stinky in the Bathroom”, “Stinky at the Park”, and “Super Stinky” at the Portland Saturday Market in Portland, Oregon. It just kind of took off… and I became known as the “Stinky Artist”.
MM: How did you come up with the character of “Stinky Dog”, and in which kinds of items and/or media does he appear?
SM: Stinky Dog was born in a laundromat. I was dating my now husband of 18 years, and I couldn’t afford to buy him a birthday present. I found an old tweed coat in the garbage can of the laundromat where I worked and turned it into a stuffed dog, which resembled his beloved dog that he had rescued from the pound. This hand-sewn dog was jokingly referred to as “Stinky” and serendipitously became the main inspiration for the character. There are Stinky t-shirts, Stinky art prints, Stinky hats, Stinky magnets, Stinky stickers, Stinky soap, Stinky jewelry, Stinky greeting cards, Stinky mugs, stuffed Stinky dogs, Stinky pillows, Stinky dog treats, Stinky coffee, Stinky tote bags, and of course, Stinky underwear! I’ve done a few comic strips in local magazines and a few stop motion animations.
MM: As far as working in illustration, what has been your most rewarding experience so far?
SM: Opening the Stinky Dog Store in historic Saratoga Springs, NY has brought Stinky Dog from illustration, to life. The store is a fun and happy place. It’s like stepping into a huge cartoon world. It’s a rewarding experience every day.
MM: What would be your “dream project” if you could work on anything?
SM: Animation is my dream project! I have a “Stinky World” in my brain that’s just dying to come out. I would really love to see my Stinky characters speak and interact.
MM: Are there any up and coming projects that you would like to mention?
SM: At the moment I’m working on developing Stinky Dog as a brand. I’d like to get Stinky Dog products on store shelves across the country.
MM: Where do you hope to be, career wise, in ten years?
SM: I see Stinky Dog as a national, even, global brand. In ten years, ideally, I’ll be a Stinky philanthropist after having created my Stinky Dog Empire. Laugh. Stink On!