- A storyteller and humorist at heart, Anders Nilsen uses the medium of comics and the graphic novel to examine the most fundamental of philosophic questions: What the f*&k does it all mean? Beginning his artistic journey as a painter and an obsessive skateboarder, Anders Nilsen began self-publishing his philosophic ponderings in the form of an alternative comic called Big Questions in 1999. The story was serialized by Drawn & Quarterly and finally published as a complete book 12 years later. The book garnered an Ignatz Award, the Lynd Ward Graphic Novel Prize Award, and it was listed as one of the New York Times’ 100 notable books of 2011. Along the way, he published Dogs and Water, Don’t Go Where I Can’t Follow (both of which also won an Ignatz awards), The End, Rage of Poseidon, and Monologues for the Coming Plague. His most recent endeavor is Poetry is Useless (Drawn & Quarterly, 2015), an utterly unique sketchbook format which lovingly jabs at just about everything from God to Capitalism. It’s also probably worth mentioning his features in MOME, Kramers Ergot, the Best American Comics Anthology, Interview Magazine, The New York Times and the Utne Reader. Nilsen is the co-founder of Autoptic, a bi-annual festival of independent comics in Minneapolis and he is also an organizer for the comics residency, Pierre Feuille Ciseax. Anders Nilsen lives and works and skateboards in Minneapolis.
Lines & Marks: On your blog you wrote, “Sometimes I make comics, sometimes I do illustration, sometimes I make diagrams and sometimes I make ‘paintings’… but everything I do is drawing. Drawing is everything.” Could you expound upon that and also talk about what your drawing practice is?
Anders Nilsen: I don’t know if I really have a routine. I try to draw in my sketchbooks semi-regularly, but I don’t do it everyday. I do it much more when I’m traveling, when I have forced free time and am waiting a lot. I guess part of what that quote means is… let’s see… I’m gonna try to articulate this and we’ll see how it turns out… (laughs) The distinction between drawing and painting for me is that painting is about the creation of a finished object, the corollary being that it’s a thing for sale. Drawing is more a process of thinking and seeing and so it’s all about investigating and trying to make a physical record of a thing that’s in your brain, or that’s in front of your face that you’re looking at. So to me, drawing is much more about seeing and trying to understand the world. Some of the drawing I do is in my sketchbook, some is doing thumbnails for comics, some of it is the drawing of the comics, but it’s always about some sort of investigation, trying to make a thing happen, trying to articulate thought.