Sarah Andersen

Sarah is a cartoonist and illustrator, and the creative mind behind Sarah's Scribbles, Fangs, and Cheshire Crossing
December 27, 2020

I'm Sarah Anderson, and I'm a cartoonist and illustrator. And I'm the author of Sarah Scribbles, and Fangs.

What's your background, what were you doing before being self-employed?

I went to school for illustration, at MICA. The Maryland Institute College of Art. And I started my web comic, Sarah Scribbles while I was there. So when I graduated, I already had a little bit of a footing. But I did work food service jobs, all through college. And then I think a year out of school, I was a barista. So I definitely did the balancing act for about a year, before my freelance work started to come in. But I did have a bit of a headstart because I did have the privilege of going to art school, and developing my work while I was there.

So that explains the more classical element to your work as well, I guess. The art school background and that type of thing.

Yeah! People are always surprised, because the web comic I'm known for, which is usually Sarah Scribbles is so simple. And I think people wouldn't necessarily guess that it's very intentional. But it was a deliberate artistic choice for me to keep it that simple.

It looks simple, but I can imagine how much hard work must go into Sarah Scribbles, in terms of the writing and the timing. The comedic timing in each of those lines. I love it, it's so good.

Thank you! And I'm glad to hear you say that, because the writing really is a huge bulk of it. And it takes so much time. Just one idea can take a week. It's brutal, in a way I think people wouldn't necessarily anticipate.

How did you prepare for self-employment while working at your previous jobs? Was there an intentional plan?

Well, I think web comics was still very new. And I just had no idea how I would make money off of it. So the best I tried, which did work, was to just keep the web comic up. And keep it posting. So while I was working as a barista I did try to keep that twice per week schedule. And that eventually did get me enough attention that I could start writing. I actually started writing for a website called CollegeHumor, and that's what allowed me to quit making coffee for Brooklyn ladies!

But it was just that I kept uploading. And I think that's something that's quite important for artists, is to just maintain a little bit. I don't want artists to overwork themselves, but if you have a day job, if you can maybe get just a bit up, depending on your level of detail. Once a month or so, I think really helps you just maintain an audience and keeps freelance potential open.

What was the 'jump point' like for you, when you first went full-time self-employed?

I remember at first it felt amazing! Because I was so happy to not be getting up at 5:30 AM, to make coffee and smoothies. It was so liberating, I remember. But I will say, and I think a lot of people who freelance also experience a bit of a backlash where you have to learn how to manage your own day, and keep yourself a functioning human without a boss.

Luckily I'm already very introverted, and a bit self-motivated as well. So I think I had an easier time than some people. But definitely, you feel it. That transition definitely makes you think.

How did you learn the business side of illustration and cartoons? So much goes into it from marketing to working with publishers!

I was so young, I think I was 22. And I really just tried my best. I will say, I think going to art school did prepare me in some ways, to be able to bare minimum meet deadlines. And meeting deadlines is really what a lot of it's about.

When it came to book publishing and stuff, I had no idea. And I just tried to do my best. It's a very chaotic time, and it's hard to give any blanket statements. Because everyone's career so different and it constantly changes with the internet.

What's the best thing about being self-employed?

Well, we began this phone call by me saying that I'm a night owl. And honestly just able to work around some of my basic needs, that haven't always fit society's, like being a night owl. And I like to work off and on throughout the day, instead of giving it big chunks of time. I like to sketch, and then take a break. And then get coffee. And then sketch again. So I think that freedom was so liberating. And I think it's just a tremendous privilege, because not everyone is able to make the world work for them. But I was able to, so now I can go to bed whenever I want. And it's great!

What's the hardest thing about being self-employed?

I definitely miss teamwork and input. I think I have to be very tuned into my intuition, and be my own editor and my own boss. And I really miss having outside perspectives. Because I think especially in creative businesses, usually you're working with some editor, or a boss who will help steer you in the right direction. But for me, I've really had to learn to cultivate, and trust my own gut. And I miss having some help sometimes.

What does a typical work day look like for you? What's your average daily work schedule?

I wake up whenever, and I try to start the day with at least a little bit of movement. So I try to do yoga. Or go for a walk. Or do something that's not art. Because when I go straight from waking up to working, I need a clearer head, so I do that.

And then I answer emails, and get that out of the way. And then, most of my work right now is writing, so I work very sloppily. And I work on lined paper, which a lot of illustrators and cartoonists don't. But I can't take the pressure of a sketchbook.

So really most of the day, I'm just sitting in front of this lined sketchbook, and trying to make something happen. And then I've got my Cintiq right here next to me. And when I finally think of an idea, I'll go onto that and finalise the drawing.

What advice would you give your past self to help them get to where you are today?

I think when I was younger, I didn't realise how much my mental state impacted my work. I didn't see the correlation between times where I was very stressed, or overworked, and just bad writing and worse work appearing. And I didn't make that connection until I was later in my 20s.

And now I really actively try to keep my mental health a priority. And keep things clear, and my schedule healthy. And I think for young illustrators and cartoonists, basically I would sum that up, as take care of your mental health. Because it's so connected into your work. And also how much you enjoy your work. Which I hope we all do enjoy our work as well.

Do you have any specific resources that helped you that you could recommend?

I don't think I have a great answer for that question. Except that I think it's very important that illustrators and cartoonists connect with other illustrators and cartoonists. So I think using social media to discover a lot of artists is very useful.

And I think your taste is so key. A lot of artists think just drawing skill is involved. But it's also the things you see and the things you know. So I think really using social media as a tool, to understand your peers and the work they're making, is something that we can all take advantage.

What's next for you, do you have any future projects or plans you can share?

Oh, I do have stuff! So I'm finishing Sarah Scribbles book four, I should be done with that in February, so it will come out in 2021. And then I have a concept for a book called Cryptid Club, about the adventures of cryptids like Mothman and the Loch Ness Monster. So I'm really hoping I can get that out in 2021 as well. So I do have a new series in development, and I guess it will be announced here first! But I'm very excited for the things that are going to be coming out in 2021.

Where's the best place to keep up with your work?

My handle is usually @sarahcandersen and I'm on so much social media. I'm on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, all of them. Tapas, go follow me anywhere!

Sarah Andersen

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