Exploring Nick Seluk’s Heart and Brain
Combine the relatable, the friendly, and cartoonist Nick Seluk‘s penchant for delivering the perfect punchlines and you’ve got a webcomic as loved as his The Awkward Yeti. Apart from Lars the yeti’s misadventures, to which we can all claim to relate, Seluk’s site is also home to the hugely popular Heart and Brain comic (two characters among many other organs and appendages with faces and spot-on character qualities). These comics are at once cute, insightful and even disturbing. Nick Seluk has empowered his passion for this comic craft by channeling it into a way to make a living, and for that and more, us webcomic creators can look up to him. Here he shares with us a bit of insight; enjoy.
Tell us all about The Awkward Yeti
When did you start The Awkward Yeti and why?
I started The Awkward Yeti webcomic near the end of 2012 when I finally caught up with the rest of the world and realized I could do comics without having to get approval from anyone else. I have loved cartooning my entire life (although I never got too good at the art aspect) and was just excited to be able to share my work with people on a larger scale than my friends in middle school or my coworkers.
I finally caught up with the rest of the world and realized I could do comics without having to get approval from anyone else
We all love Heart and Brain. How did they come about?
Brain came first, joining Lars as the self-contradicting organ that a brain can be – and a source of unwarranted anxiety. Heart was sort of a natural balance that came next, and was only intended to be in a comic or two. But people really loved Heart, so I started working with my own version of that classic dichotomy. The very first comic without Lars was so popular with people that I decided to keep going with Heart and Brain, and the rest, as they say, happened later.
Can you recall when The Awkward Yeti started to get popular?
I had some luck with science pages early on sharing my work, and I think that’s what started inspiring me to keep a subtle science theme in a lot of my comics. I had a lot of comics that got attention on reddit, imgur, etc, but I think the first moment I realized something was working on a deeper level was when I made a comic about a sad gallbladder. It went viral in a way that I hadn’t experienced yet, and still resonates with people today.
If Warner Bros wanted to buy the rights to Heart and Brain, what would you do?
*fixes hair and looks around* why, did they say something?
I don’t know what I would do, but I don’t see a scenario where I’d want to give up the way that I do Heart and Brain.
Questions all about the illustration
How do you make your comics?
Most of my comics are done in Adobe Photoshop on an iMac, using a Wacom Intuos 4 tablet. When I want something to look a bit cleaner, for example if it’s going to be on a product, I’ll use Adobe Illustrator.
Tell us about your history with drawing.
I’ve been drawing my entire life and cartooning for as long as I can remember. I took one art class in college. I did some freelance cartooning while I was getting my degree in psychology, but didn’t really know what else to do with it for years. I ended up going into graphic design, and was able to draw a little in that job to keep myself sane. Eventually, as I discovered that my career was going nowhere, I turned back to comics and started The Awkward Yeti.
I ended up going into graphic design, and was able to draw a little in that job to keep myself sane.
What kind of ambiance do you need to draw?
Light music is helpful, but I will often change the playlist to match the intensity of the drawing or character. If I’m trying to do a comic with some authentic emotion, I like to listen to movie soundtracks.
How do you come up with ideas, and what do you do when you meet writer’s block?
I sit down with a notebook away from the computer, think of a subject, and start going with it. I’ll write a few comics and hope that one is still funny to me the next day. When I have a block, I try to write anyway to ‘burn off’ the bad ideas, or take a break and experience something. Sometimes going to a museum or reading then waiting a couple days can get me back on track. I try to accept that some weeks nothing will work, and those weeks I try not to force anything at all.
Things that other webcomic artists would love to know
What’s your advice for growing a webcomic?
Do your comic the way you like it, and do it as often as you can. When I started my comic it’s all I wanted to do, so I worked hard for it. I’m married with three kids, and worked a full time job before making it on my own. That required working mornings before work, writing comics during my commute (literally, like scribbling ideas at stop lights), evenings and weekends. I still spent time with my family and some time with friends, too. If you want to do something bad enough, you’ll find time.
Do your comic the way you like it, and do it as often as you can.
How do you engage your readership?
I grow and adapt with them. I try to be honest with a lot of my comics, and I think that makes readers feel more connected to the work.
Trolls are everywhere. How have you dealt with trolls?
It’s upsetting when someone’s only goal is to get under your skin, but the reality is that their opinion is meaningless. They’re usually angry because your work isn’t what they want it to be. I try to ignore them for the most part, or I’ll just ban them. I don’t have time to waste on people like that. Who does?
What was your single most successful comic and why do you suppose it was so well-received?
As I mentioned earlier, the gallbladder comic was my most successful comic, and it remains one of the most popular characters. I think it was well-received because it’s such a common procedure to remove a gallbladder, but an uncommon cartoon character. In terms of selling products, Gallbladder is just as popular as Heart and Brain.
Do you make a living with The Awkward Yeti? For webcomic artists thinking about monetizing, what’s your advice?
Yes, I started doing this full time in December 2014. I left a job in corporate America and never looked back. Monetization requires you to think like a business owner. A book alone might not be enough to sustain you – you need to consider merchandise, ad revenue, comic conventions, Patreon, and any other ways to pull in a little money. When you get enough things going you’ll be able to make a living. First things first: build an audience of people that like your work.
For other artists concerned about web hosting, how does your website handle huge traffic spikes? Any web host advice?
A friend of mine hosts my site on a shared server that handles spikes really well. If you use a standard host like GoDaddy, your website will crash with hardly any traffic, so this is a worthwhile investment, especially if you’re into sharing on sites like reddit.
First things first: build an audience of people that like your work.
Tell us how it happened that you got picked up by GoComics.
They contacted me a little over a year ago and I thought it was a cool place to be side by side with classics like Calvin and Hobbes. In order to use a site like that you need to prove that you have a lot of consistent work. A lot of artists make the mistake of doing three comics and then asking everyone to share their work, but you’ll want dozens to be taken seriously.
A bit about Nick Seluk
What’s a typical day in the life?
I wake up, take my oldest kid to the bus stop, come back and answer emails and messages, deal with customer service stuff (which I really don’t like), make a comic, post the comic, go out to lunch and write new comics, come back and pack and ship products, make another comic if I have enough time. Dinner, bedtime for kids, TV or reading, bed. Repeat.
What else do you do besides cartooning?
I love running, but can’t seem to keep consistent with it. I recently got back into reading, so that has been a great way to escape when I have the time.
Which of your comics is your favorite?
I usually like the ones that make a mundane thing unnecessarily epic, like this one.
Who wins out more often in your body, the heart or the brain?
For me, it was more often Brain, but I think I’ve been embracing the value of Heart more and more every day.
Who inspires you?
I get inspired by people who work in different humor styles because it reminds me not to get stuck doing the same thing every time. I love reading comics without big audiences, because they are still generally experimenting and doing it because they love it. That inspires me to keep my comic genuine, without succumbing to the pressure that can often come with a larger audience.
I love reading comics without big audiences, because they are still generally experimenting and doing it because they love it.
Everything in the universe has to be painted in shades of a single color. Which color would that be?
If I had to choose, I’d have to go with blue…something calming to combat my anxiety.
If you could have one superpower…
Teleportation, so if I needed to get out of an overwhelming situation I could just take a quick trip to somewhere serene, get myself together, and come back when I’m ready.
You are cursed to live in one young adult book or movie universe for the rest of your days. Which would you choose and why?
It’s probably because I just read this, but I’d want to live in the OASIS from Ready Player One. The options seemed limitless in this virtual reality universe.
What would you do if you could time travel?
It depends on what fictional laws of time travel I’m working within, but if anything goes I’d probably go back a few thousand years and draw some meaningless symbols on a cliff, then come back and watch the History channel.
You can get rid of three human emotions forever. Which ones would it be?
There’s nothing I’d want to get rid of forever – even anxiety drives me to do things better than I would otherwise. But, for like a week or so I’d welcome a break from crippling self doubt.
You can choose one fictional gadget to exist in real life.
I’d like to have my very own T-1000.
You get to replace democracy with your own concept. What would the world look like?
I really don’t like politics, so I’d probably just be like ‘do whatever.’ I imagine the world would look kind of like a Mad Max movie within a couple weeks.
The world is coming to an end, but you get to decide how we go. So how’ll it be?
Drifting into a black hole would be lovely, and maybe we’d learn something on the way to certain annihilation.
You get to master one skill perfectly without trying. Which one would it be?
I’d love to master small talk, so that I wouldn’t have to dread it.
Questions about the future
Where do you see The Awkward Yeti in the future?
I hope I’ll be working on new fun projects in the future, but I don’t know what those will be yet. As long as I’m still making comics and paying most of my bills I’ll be pretty happy.
What else are you up to that you’d like your followers to know about?
My first book just came out a couple weeks ago, so I’ve been really focused on its release. I’ll be starting work on a second book very soon. I’m also working with a factory on a plushy of the Tongue character, and it’s going to be pretty cool.
I would like to thank Nick Seluk for doing this interview, and I encourage you readers to check out his comic The Awkward Yeti. Here’s how:
Buy a Heart and Brain book
*Affiliate links may appear on this page