The Scotland Herald interviews Anna Haifisch

“Graphic Content: Anna Haifisch on Disney, the ideal rehab clinic and artistic insecurity” / The Scotland Herald / Teddy Jamieson / April 9, 2018

So, Walt Disney, illustrator Tommi Ungerer and cartoonist Saul Steinberg are in a rehab clinic. No, it's not the start of a joke, but a new graphic novel by German cartoonist Anna Haifisch.

Back in 2016 we reviewed Haifisch's book The Artist. Now she has returned with another sly, absurdist take on the world of art and the mysteries of creation.

In Von Spatz she conjures up a vision of a rehab clinic with its own penguin pool, art supply store and hot dog stand.

And, yes, three of her favourite artists; Disney, Ungerer and Steinberg are all in situ; Disney is recovering from a nervous breakdown (something that happened to him in real life too).

The result is an oblique, comic take on art, mental health and funny animal comics sketched out in scratchy lines and block colour.

Here, Haifisch answers some questions for Graphic Content and we learn if she's a cat or a dog person:

Anna, where are you, how are you & what are you up to?

Hi! I'm sitting here in my studio in Leipzig, Germany and I'm pretty happy right now because I'm looking at the faces of my studio mates across the room. I was working on my bird opera, the new The Artist book, a couple of minutes ago but got a bit stuck, so I switched to the computer and thought I'd answer these questions.

What are the origins of Von Spatz?

I was fantasising about a paradise for artists for quite some time and all that came to my mind was the Betty Ford Clinic and Lindsey Lohan wearing an ankle monitor and smoking an e-cigarette under the Californian sun.

I thought: what if there's a wonderful rehabilitation centre intended for artists somewhere on this planet…?

Were Walt Disney, Tomi Ungerer & Saul Steinberg childhood heroes?

Walt Disney and Tomi Ungerer for sure! I grew up with both of them. I discovered Saul Steinberg a bit later when I was studying art.

What is your take on all three now?

The three of them are visionaries and great artists in my opinion. And isn't Walt Disney the most famous artist in the world?

I'm not necessarily the biggest fan of the Disney style, but I love that the whole studio cared so much about the details when they drew animals. My favourite photo is the one where they invited a deer over in the middle of the production of Bambi.

One of my favourite children's books might be Crictor by Tomi Ungerer. The one picture where Crictor the snake is lying down in a very long and narrow bed still breaks my heart.

And Saul Steinberg's The Discovery of America still hits so close to home and reminds me a lot about the time when I first went to New York for work when I was 22.

The love-hate towards America he expresses in Reflections and Shadows still makes me laugh and brings me to tears. I was as confused as he was when I arrived in the US nearly 70 years later.

I have to ask: favourite Disney movie?

The Jungle Book. I love the scene where Shere Khan picks Kaa's nose with his claw.

At what point does an artist put aside the insecurities and believe in a piece of work? Do they ever?

Oh, I can only speak for myself. Sometimes I am really, really happy about a drawing and then I'm riding my bike home from the studio as if I was riding on clouds. Unfortunately, that feeling always weathers away quickly.

I think every artist needs satisfaction from time to time. Otherwise, it would only be stupid and frustrating to keep going.

If you ever had reason to go to a rehabilitation centre, what be your ideal kind of place and would it include penguins?

The Von Spatz clinic would be ideal! I once said to my friend Jay Gard that I wish to be delivered to such a clinic with a bucket of mashed potatoes on my lap and a teething ring in my mouth. He said he'd happily take care of my wish.

Cats or dogs?

Cats.

Who is your favourite funny animal artist?

That might be [German children's book author and illustrator] Janosch.

What do you love about comics?

Words and drawings in one book! Isn't that awesome?

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