Anders Nilsen’s comics were some of the first comics I ever bought. What I find unique about his work is that the writing is just as amazing as the drawings. I am so so thrilled that not only was he willing to share pages from his sketchbook but agreed to do a short Q+A about his work. Enjoy!:
How much time do you spend working in your sketchbooks?
Not a ton. I’m usually working on my regular work, Big Questions or whatever. I just keep my sketchbook(s) with me all the time, so if I get an idea, it’s there, or if I have a few minutes while I’m waiting in an airport I can play around with ideas. I feel like the ideas I get in in-between places like that are very different than what the ones I get sitting at my drawing table. Just different ways of thinking. I like having a place for both.
How do you work in your sketchbooks? Do you have several going at once- or finish one and then go to another?
It depends. I’ve been working in these little red datebooks lately and I feel like they’ve taken on a slightly different character from my regular sketchbooks. So at the moment I’m working in both, at least nominally. In fact I’m probably working much more in the datebook, and the other one has been reduced to more of a journal. It’s pretty much all writing, I think.
You mentioned you started making your own sketchbooks. Is there a particular reason for this?
I’m a little picky about things–size and paper. So with the handmade ones I can control those things. But I also just like the slightly wonky handmade look and feel of them and the process of finding the cast away parts and turning them into something new. They are like little sculptures.
How much of your published work is first worked out in your sketchbook?
The stuff in Monologues for the Coming Plague was all done in sketchbooks, as was everything in The End #1. Actually Big Questions really started the same way. The strips from #1 and #2 were all things I’d done in my sketchbooks as well. Once I started working on #3, which is where the drawing gets more refined and involved, everything is done directly on bristol. It’s all official.
Do a lot of your sketchbook pages directly become part of published work?
Not really…maybe more than your average cartoonist, because of Monologues and The End, but there are a ton of other things that aren’t worth looking at at all, are bit personal or just bad. I play around and experiment a fair amount and not everything turns out well.
Off the topic of sketchbooks, I notice that sometimes your work is super detailed, highly rendered (ie.Dogs and Water), and then other times it’s very simple- just silhouettes or symbols to represent people(ie. parts of The End #1). How do you decide stylistically to approach your next comic?
The work really just evolves on it’s own, I don’t really plan things out much ahead of time. The simpler drawing is conducive to expressing more immediate ideas, or ideas that are more about the text, the dialogue. The End came out as it did because I was sort of struggling through those feelings and ideas as I was drawing them, so it helped to not have to work a long time on, say the background of the room or the folds of the character’s shirt. So in a way it started as a kind of expedience, but then the simple, solid, iconic forms that resulted informed the way the piece evolved and took on meanings of their own. I think the blank, passive expressionlessness of the figures worked as a powerful counterpoint to the super heavy, emotionally laden subject matter. But that wasn’t something I planned ahead of time, it just evolved, I noticed it took advantage of it.
What are you working on next?
I’m working on several projects at once at the moment (not really the best way to get a lot done). I’m doing a group of stand-alone landscape drawings for a show I’m doing with Paul Hornschemeier and Jeff Brown in next year, I’m working on Big Questions #11 and today I started taking a stab at finishing up the second Monologues book, all the material for which is basically drawn and done, but there’s a little rewriting and editing that needs to happen and then it needs to get laid out.
Thanks so much Anders! I appreciate you taking the time to share all this and good luck with all your upcomming projects. You can see more of Anders work here and more sketchbook pages from Anders ( and Jeffrey Brown, Paul Hornschemeier and John Hankiewicz) here. Make sure to pick up the latest issues of Big Questions and The End or one of my favorites Monologues for the Coming Plague. You can also buy original art here.
***Just a note- I’m sorry these images had to be so small and are often unreadable. I wanted you to see the pages as a whole and the format of the blog is set up for pictures at this size. If anyone is super interested to know what they say please email me and I can transcribe them for you. I have titled them with what Anders had named the the files. The photo on the homepage was named Guy with Mohawk.
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© Julia Rothman 2007