For Books’ Sake talks to Anna Haifisch

9th Nov 2016

For Books' Sake talks to Anna Haifisch
Cartoonist Anna Haifisch tells us about her debut graphic novel and its neurotic protagonist, her own experiences 'flapping around' in the art world and her tips for aspiring cartoonists.

The Artist is being released very soon! How are you feeling about it?

Oh, I’m very excited! The English version with Breakdown Press is a hardcover. The book is a funky object. I really like how it turned out.

When and how did you get into comics?

I’ve always read them but was more into printmaking when I studied art. I went to New York eight years ago to work there and met my friend James Turek who drew comics at that time. Besides a few zines I haven’t drawn a lot of comics, so I decided to take drawing them more seriously.

The main character in The Artist is charmingly neurotic. Was he inspired by any artists you have met? Do you personally identify with him?

He’s inspired by the troubling times we live in. I totally do identify with him. He’s my son.

Do you create most of your art digitally or traditionally? Do you find technology has streamlined your process in recent years?

I still draw with a nib pen but my colouring is mostly digital. I’m trying to simulate the colours from my former days as a screen printer. That works kind of okay for me. I never thought about whether or not technology has influenced my work. I’m still drawing very traditionally, almost conservatively in the field of comics. But scanners and photoshop are a big help.

You studied illustration at the Academy of Visual Arts in Leipzig. Did you enjoy studying art in a formal setting?

Yes, I had a good time there. I met all my friends there and I was able to do whatever I wanted to do at any time.

You also have a screenprinting background. Do you feel that informs your style as a cartoonist?

Yes, my colouring definitely comes from that. also reducing my lines, not going crazy on shades and the amount of colours… I liked that limitation in screenprinting a lot.

The colour combinations you use in the book are very fun and vibrant. How did you choose your palette?

I really don’t like a colour palette that’s too harmonic. I want my colours to look a bit bizarre.

Here’s how I do it:

  1. Don’t use red, yellow, blue and green together unless you want your work look like an ugly children book. get rid of at least one of them. (Goodbye green.)
  2. Use the colors that’ll emerge when you mix them (that’s where the purple and pink are coming from).
  3. Pick one colour that bites one of the chosen colours from above and add it to your palette (here and there you’ll find an awful brown in my work).
Flapping around in the art world myself, I pick up most of the disaster The Artist has to go through from my own or my friends’ experiences.

The book provides a witty commentary on the problems faced by young artists. Is it representative of your own experience with the art world?

Flapping around in the art world myself, I pick up most of the disaster The Artist has to go through from my own or my friends’ experiences. But none of the Artist episodes are taken 100% from my own life. I need a high level of abstraction and exaggeration in my writing. This comic is not about me, that would make me feel uncomfortable.

What problems do you think are faced by women artists in particular?

Internet trolls. They go way harder on women because they’re cowards. Every other issue like being paid less, not being taken seriously enough and whatnot is always problematic for women regardless of the profession.

The Artist was originally published in the form of shorter webcomics on How did you find the experience of creating comics to weekly deadlines?

That still is challenging sometimes. My weekly deadline is on a Monday, so that’s not going well with any plans for the weekend. I might end up with zero friends soon.

The book is very funny. Are you generally drawn to humour when making and reading comics?

Oh totally, especially comics with funny animals. But not like newspaper strips. I like it when the humour is vicious and hidden. Or even bizarre! These are my favorites to read.

At one point it all gets too much for The Artist and he departs into the wilderness. Have you ever done this?! Does the idea appeal to you?

Hahaha, no! Nature is not my thing. But I do have the urge to escape sometimes. In some desperate moments I think that being in jail could be nice. One gets fed, has a lot of time and they probably have a cool library. If there weren’t the other inmates. Sorry, sick thoughts… but maybe material for an Artist episode.

Which cartoonists, particularly women, do you admire?

Anouk Ricard, Tove Jansson, Amelie von Wulffen, Lala Albert, Gina Wynbrandt, Jul Gordon, Sarah Ferrick, Aisha Franz, Zoe Taylor, Marie Jacotey & Kyung Me. Oh, I’m sure I’m forgetting a bunch of names.

Do you have any tips for aspiring cartoonists?

Share a studio with friends.

Do you have any more comics in the pipeline? Or any other projects?

I finished four short stories that aren’t for Vice in october. One was for “Edit”, a German literature magazine, one for “Texte zur Kunst”, a big shot in German art theory. I loved working for both, it’s cool that they wanted comics! A 12-page story is for Kramers Ergot 10. It’s my first adaption of a (very cool) novel. The fourth one is for the German version of “Le Monde Diplomatique“. There is one more comic sitting on my desk right now. Sadly staring at me since I failed the deadline.

Slowly I’m working on a longer book again. It’s going to be titled ‘The Mouse Glass’. Maybe I’m kidding.

Anna Haifisch is the creator of The Artist, which you can buy from Breakdown Press. She tweets @anna_haifisch