Dutch cartoonist André Slob on daring to really look at your work

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Dutch Cartoonist and illustrator André Slob shares his outlook on his life and work, and the moment when he realised that he had to leave his job and throw himself into his career.

The themes used in my short stories are personal issues I struggle with. Things like how to show yourself, how to connect with people. Or how to connect with your work and really dare to look at it. Once I have a theme that I can connect with, I try to get to the core of what this means to me, both story-wise and graphically. Even if the theme is not personal, for example in case of a competition with a certain theme, I put myself in it as the main character even if he or she has looks totally different.

I illustrate mostly for articles in magazines and newspapers. That’s also where the money comes from. Comics are harder to get published. The short stories I make appear in anthologies or comic magazines. In my hometown, Utrecht, I’m part of a collective called De Inktpot (The Inkwell). Together we work on stories that are published in books.

Illustration and comics are what I do most. Besides these two I do animation and drawing live at workshops or brainstorm sessions.

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I share my workplace with an animation studio for which from time to time I make drawings in a programme called Screenflow that makes 30 screenshots per second of your desktop and films so to speak the making of the drawing.

I still sketch a lot on paper and often scan the sketches to continue on the computer. For that I use a Wacom Cintiq 22HD. It’s a fantastic tool but you need to develop your way of working on the computer and be able to adjust your style and make the screen your paper. For inking Manga Studio is a great programme. It also has a nice overview of the pages your comic has.

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Every day I bike to my studio, except when I really have to concentrate like writing a story. Then I can’t cope with the distractions of people calling, walking around etc. The studio is one open big space, beautiful but noisy. Having a seperate place for work and private works perfect. The work has to stop once in a while. It’s easy for an illustrator or cartoonist to disconnect from your surroundings and continue working until you find out the well you get your inspiration from has turned dry.

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I used to clean houses of old people for 2-3 days a week to pay the bills and use the rest of the week for drawing and making stories. After 10 years of using this routine, I didn’t see much progress career-wise. One morning I found myself biking to the place where I would clean that day and thought: ‘I could do this for another 10 years without getting anywhere. This has to stop’. That very afternoon I was called and informed that my job was cut back. I didn’t mind and was convinced that this was a clear sign that I should concentrate on making a living, solely doing illustrations and comics.

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Drawing has always been there. When reality is too hard to deal with, you get into this great world where you decide what happens. After high school, I wanted to go to the Art Academy. My parents didn’t like that idea very much and wanted me to be an art teacher so I could earn a living later on. I graduated with a self-published, small press comic book. Now we have schools to educate aspiring cartoonists but back then, you had to figure out everything yourself or go to a ‘professional’ and learn the trade from him or her.

I continued with graphic design and worked as a website designer for various companies. After 5 years of doing so, I was happy to get away from this. More than happy actually. I felt totally depleted. That was the moment where I started to clean for old people and concentrate on the drawing. I also started to do yoga and became a vegetarian.

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What I’m struggling with, is to tell a story that doesn’t need a well constructed plot but is driven by what the theme means to me, focusing on what you feel more than a logically planned story. Japanese manga artist like Seiichi Hayshi and Oji Suzuki are great in doing so. The mood they create is telling the story. Letting go of a structure that normally keeps a story going, letting go of what is aesthetically appealing, is hard. Poetry can do it. So why not a comic? I don’t read a lot of poetry but it’s very much of how I would like to transmit a feeling. If I get too serious in transmitting the message of the story, things tighten up. Also I do. It makes you kind of heavy and the energy stops. At least for me. The fun is gone and the story lost it’s appeal.

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For me making an illustration or a comic works different. I don’t mind drawing for an article not made by myself but when it comes to comics I like to work on my own, doing both text and art. Or at least have a lot of freedom to design the stage, the characters and dialogues. The writing and the art are so much interwoven in comics that it’s hard to let one person write and another draw. It’s like making a painting and someone asks to give him the brush so he can add some details or change the colours.

What I still want to do is make a longer story. The short stories I make are up to 10-12 pages. I would like to extend that and use this space for getting more into the story and the characters.

Learn more about André on his website.

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