Andy Warner is not only a long-time contributor to As You Were (he’s four for four right now), but he’s also sort of like the human version of Wikipedia; a quick glimpse at his work reveals a wide range of interests, in things both commonplace and obscure.
He’s also a really busy person, but luckily we caught up with him after an impressive year to talk a bit about his art, his teaching, and his forthcoming book.
How did you get involved in AYW?
I got involved in As You Were because my buddy Avi was publishing it and needed a quick page to fill out the first issue. I’ve been in every issue since. It’s sort of serendipitous, except I also work out of a garden shed in Avi’s yard, so I’m easy for him to corner.
How did you first get into drawing / comics / art?
I decided to become a cartoonist when I was in elementary school, but then I spent the next decade doing other stuff like studying Lebanese Civil War era literature and working as a graphic designer.
In my early twenties, I realized comics were the thing that fascinated me the most, and I went for it. I ended up getting an MFA at the Center for Cartoon Studies in 2012, and I’ve been working full time as a cartoonist ever since.
What is your process like?
I work on a Wacom Cintiq, and I’ve been entirely digital since I broke my drawing arm in three places in a bike accident in 2007. I got the arm back after many months, but I learned digital tools to be able to draw with my left hand while I was still in the cast.
Is the scene you contributed to AYW someplace you’ve lived before? What can you tell us about the house, the people, or the period in your life spent living there?
It’s sort of a house mash-up, but I think the strongest element was the house I lived in in San Francisco from 2008-2010 called “Tapalpa.” Between five and eight people lived there, including a woodworker, animator, writer, etc. It was a really interesting, beautiful, and sometimes frustrating environment. I think it worked best when we all got the hell out of the house together and forgot about who wasn’t doing dishes. Actually, the last party the house threw was in 2013 when my wife and I got married in the awesome backyard that we’d terraced and made into a garden. Then, the next week everybody that still lived there got rent evicted.
Your art and writing are both serious and political and lighthearted and fun, depending both upon the outlet and the topic. Do you feel like the work you do is sometimes on opposite ends of the spectrum, or is it all more connected than it might seem?
It’s sort of hard to get a grasp on what I do sometimes, but I don’t mind that. I think the thing that ties it all together is that it’s stuff that interests me that I can really dig deep into. Oddly, that includes both the Syrian refugee crisis and the history of the toothbrush. It’s not difficult to switch gears, because I think my mind is working the same way in both: trying to figure out what’s really going on, and how to tell it as an interesting story.
What does 2016 look like for you in terms of creative things? Your book will be published, is that correct? What can you tell us about it?
Yeah, I’ve got a book coming out in October from Picador called Brief Histories of Everyday Objects. I’m really excited for it. Just found out that it’s up for preorder on Amazon already. It’s going to be more than 200 pages hardcover, which is like four times as long as anything else I’ve ever done, and I’m really excited for it.
For other stuff, the amazing nonfiction and journalism comics publisher The Nib is getting resurrected this Spring. I’m really looking forward to working with them again. They published stories I did on everything from treasure hunters on the lam from the feds to the history of the Boko Haram insurgency in northern Nigeria. So I never really know what kind of stories they’ll bite on!
I’m going to try to put out a couple new mini comics for the convention season, too, and tour around with the new issue of Irene, a comics anthology that I co-publish. Irene 6 has a cartoonist from every single continent in the world, including Antarctica. I think we were the first people to ever do that.
Tell us about teaching for Stanford and CCA.
Teaching is really fun! I think about comics theory and practice a lot on my own, and it’s awesome and weird that I get paid to talk to other people about it. It’s very performative, which can be exhausting, but it’s rewarding when you see the effect you can have. Comics are an exciting subject to teach. It’s a whole visual language and tradition that’s so complex and interesting! I’ll be teaching at Stanford again this fall, and I can’t wait.
If you had to choose one artistic piece of output of yours (comic or otherwise) that would be representative of who you are to show someone who is not familiar with your work, what would it be?
Haha, I dunno. I guess you’re supposed to brand yourself with one thing that you do really well, but I’ve always been too scattered in my focus to do that. So it’s hard to find something representative of the whole. Brief Histories of Everyday Objects would be a good place, but it’s not out until October. I guess this piece I did about invasive python hunters in Florida is a decent place to start.
Off the top of your head, who are some artists whose work you love that fans of your comics should check out?
There are SO MANY fantastic artists working in journalism/non-fiction comics right now. Jackie Roche, Lucy Bellwood, Emi Gennis, Matt Bors, Sarah Glidden, Sophie Yanow, Susie Cagle, and Wendy McNaughton are some of my favorites.