The real Sarah Andersen
As one of the most relatable webcomics on the internet, Sarah’s Scribbles is more than a comic; it’s a way of life. It speaks to us for the same reasons that it’s hilarious: everyday occurrences and opinions put into the cute, LOL framework of a well-illustrated, no frills set of squares to which we react by uttering the Real McCoy of all assertions: “that’s so true!” Sarah took the time to share some insights into her webcomic, processes and person, so read on and discover why we rightly hold a place for these scribbles in our hearts.
Let’s first clear the waters…
Is it Doodle Time or Sarah’s Scribbles?
It was originally called Doodle Time, but when GoComics decided to syndicate my work they asked if I would consider changing it, so I did.
Is your character’s name Sarah?
I think technically the character’s name is Sarah. I mean, she’s me. But I try not to use her name, because I feel like people project themselves onto her. People always write things like, “This is so me.” I feel like calling her Sarah within the panels has this strange effect of making her more of an individual and less relatable. Does that make sense?
Tell us about your webcomic
When did you start Sarah’s Scribbles and why?
I started it my sophomore year of college. I had been drawing comics for years, but one day I got bored at work and made a few comics with MS paint and posted them to Tumblr.
What inspired you to start a webcomic in the first place?
The first few comics I posted, terribly drawn as they were, actually got a small amount of attention. After I posted 3 or 4 I intuitively knew it was something I could be good at if I gave it a shot, so I pushed myself to continue.
How did Sarah’s Scribbles really start to pick up pace in terms of readership?
There were a couple things. Posting regularly and on a schedule helped, but when larger blogs like Tastefully Offensive took notice and started re-blogging my work I slowly started gaining a following. There was also one comic, “Waking Up,” that was my first truly “viral” post and it was sort of where I got my footing.
There’s a Sarah’s Scribbles en Español Facebook page, can you tell us about that?
Glad you asked! The Español page has picked up quite a bit recently.
Maybe 2-3 years ago I was a lot more relaxed about letting people translate my work. I don’t do it so much anymore, but there are people who I gave permission to then that are still working.
The translators keep my signature, link back to my site, and state that I’m the original creator etc. They’re all amateurs, so they do it on their own will, which is really generous of them. Some of them posted just a few translated comics, and some of them have continued to run their pages up until today.
People always write things like, “This is so me.” I feel like calling her Sarah within the panels has this strange effect of making her more of an individual and less relatable.
The Español one is one of the biggest. That and the Russian page, which helped the strip grow so much that now almost half my fan base is Russian (it’s crazy!). The people who translate them are really awesome and regularly email me asking about nuances in the translation, what I intended, etc. The Espanol translator goes in and writes everything by hand like I do. He’s been really great.
Questions about the illustration
Your style is at once simple, beautiful and indescribably engaging. How did you do it?
Thank you! If you look at the earlier comics you can sort of see where it started. It takes a while to find the right style, but if you draw a lot it will develop naturally. I think it’s just about drawing what works for your particular comic and what you think looks funny.
What do you use to create your comics?
Right now I’m just working in Photoshop with a textured brush. I recently got a Yiynova too, and that made drawing much easier.
You graduated from art school. How much of what you learned there have you found indispensable in creating Sarah’s Scribbles?
Honestly, I was really focused on illustration in school. A lot of my teachers never saw my comics. Sarah’s Scribbles was a pet project, and my cartooning style was so different from what I was working on in illustration that I just learned on my own through trial and error. However, art school definitely disciplines you in terms of work ethic and deadlines, so that was important to me. Art school also prepares you for the business aspects of freelancing and working as an artist in general.
What kind of ambiance do you need to draw?
I like to be alone but with background noise so I can focus. Podcasts are so crucial to me functioning as a cartoonist.
How do you think up ideas, and what do you do when you’re stumped?
Thinking of ideas is without a doubt the hardest part of cartooning for me. It can take me anywhere from minutes to days and I don’t have a specific technique. I try to think when I’m in the shower or on the subway. It also helps to have someone who knows your work well that you can bounce ideas off of, so on day-before-comic-day I sometimes go on walks with my boyfriend and pester him for a while.
For other webcomic artists, some of your insight
How do you engage with your readership?
I’m pretty active on twitter lately. And I always spend some time reading comments after the comic goes live to see how people are responding.
Where all do you share your comics now, or where have you shared in the past that you’d recommend to beginner webcomic artists?
I’m on a ton of social media sites, but I would tell a beginner to definitely sign up for both Tumblr and Tapastic. Tumblr’s reblogging system makes it easy for your work to spread around, and Tapastic is a great community with a ton of talent and they make efforts to help artists get paid.
What’s your advice on how to engage your followers?
Hmm. I would actually say it’s good to have a certain degree of distance. It’s probably best for people to see mostly your work. Ideally they should get to know you through your comics. You also don’t want to feel like when people leave negative feedback that they are attacking you as a person, because they aren’t, even when they’re being super mean.
I’m lucky to have never dealt with serious harassment or trolls (knock on wood). My readers have been very kind to me. But harassment does happen, and Julia Wertz wrote a piece on it that’s worth reading.
What was your single most successful comic and why do you suppose it was so well-received?
This one. I think people thought it was sweet and funny, and they also related to it.
For webcomic artists thinking about monetizing, what’s your advice?
Cartooning has changed a lot, and the way we get paid has too. You can’t just get syndicated and have that be your job, unfortunately.
As a webcomic artist, it’s very likely you’ll have to balance a lot of different things to make an income. You have many options, and look into all of them and decide which are best for you. A lot of sites hire cartoonists to do freelance work, or you could look into crowdfunding sites Patreon. There’s also merchandise (zines sell well), commissions, ads… I also have passive income from sites like Tapastic and Gocomics that share their revenue with creators. Basically, get ready to live a balancing act.
ALSO. This answer is going to be long winded but I need to share this: If a company or website comes to you and wants you to create original cartooning work, do NOT sell yourself short. Remember that this is original work that only you can do. I’ve seen more than one cartoonist making original work for like $35, and this is for companies, not stuff for fans or commissions. Illustrators make anywhere from $250-$1000+ for a single piece and I know that because I have a degree from an art school. If they can’t afford to pay you what you deserve, then you can’t afford to spend the time and energy to make it. Your work is valuable. Don’t let people take advantage of you.
Your work is valuable. Don’t let people take advantage of you.
Revealing Sarah Andersen
Sarah’s Scribbles is semi-autobiographical. Which aspects of your comic would say are the most autobiographical?
The way she overreacts and panics about everything. I’m very dramatic. That character is definitely me.
Tell us about your hobbies?
Oh god. I play piano and I also like to run. But honestly, my life is mostly drawing.
What’s a day in the life?
Wake up. Regret sleeping in so late. Make breakfast, shower, answer emails, and then draw till around 7 PM. On coming-up-with-ideas days, instead of drawing, insert me bopping around my apartment for hours trying to think.
Which of your comics is your favorite?
If you had a lifetime supply of one drink, which would you choose?
I cut down on coffee because it was making me an insane person, so, margaritas. I am a piece of trash, I know.
You attain one magical power. What is it and why?
I want to be able to transform into anything. If I don’t want to take the subway I’ll turn into a bird and fly. transform into a hotter version of myself for parties. The opportunities are endless.
We have been invaded by an alien civilization, and you escape in a rocket. As you’re going by the mother ship of the invaders, you get one opportunity to open the hatch and do, say, throw whatever you want. What do you do?
I’m just going to go ahead and assume that my weak, clumsy cartoonist self would be completely useless in this situation, even if by some miracle I was given an atomic weapon. All I have to say about this hypothetical alien situation is that it’s going to happen. Prepare yourselves.
You get to add one response to all magical 8 balls. What do you add?
“Ask Your Mom.”
Japan has finally perfected robot technology, and makes a significant other product line. The robots gradually replace humans as individual humans’ closest confidants. What happens next in this story, from your point of view?
After like 50 years of everyone arguing over it we all just date the robots because we are lazy and technology has already started the slow process of crippling our social skills.
But listen. I’m not going to lie. If someone could somehow make my OS like Samantha from “Her,” I’d be psyched. I’m bad with computers. I’d love to actually talk to my computer instead of trying to figure everything out. “CAROL. PLEASE. STOP MAKING THE ITUNES ICON JUMP UP AND DOWN. IT IS SO ANNOYING.”
If I don’t want to take the subway I’ll turn into a bird and fly. transform into a hotter version of myself for parties.
You get to be the main character in any movie.
I want to be a really dark, dramatic detective that has to solve some sort of crazy cerebral murder. We need more of those, but with female leads. I wanna be like, a female version of Jake Gyllenhaal in Prisoners. And if you were wondering, yes, given my personality, in reality I’d actually be a terrible fit for this.
What would you do with 50,000 dollars?
Blow like 5k on a new wardrobe, again because I’m a piece of trash, and then put the rest into savings. I’m too young to make any serious investments, so I’ll save it for a house or car in the future.
What is your ideal home?
GLAD YOU ASKED. I think about this all the time. I want a cute little Cape cottage by the sea. With a barnstar. And it’ll be blue, and have floral wallpaper on the inside. And on the outside there will be a lil garden with roses and stuff. I think I fantasize about this so much because I live in garbage-ville Brooklyn.
Take us into the future
Where do you see Sarah’s Scribbles in the future?
Well, I have a book coming out. I haven’t publicly announced it yet because it won’t be out until March, but it’s up for preorder. For most of my career having a book was my top goal, so I’m really happy to have it be a reality soon.
If possible, one day I’d really like to work on an animated mini series of Sarah’s Scribbles. Maybe like 5 episodes. I’d love to find a voice actor for her.
What other projects are you engaged in that you’d like us to know about?
I started a small greeting card company called Sandpiper Trading Co with two other illustrators. We have a bunch of cards due to be released soon, and we’re getting everything professionally photographed this week so we’ll look real legit. We’re still building the site so for now you can check us out on etsy.
One sentence that you’d like each and every one of your followers to hear:
It’s cheesy, but please: never be afraid to be yourself and to laugh at yourself.
I would like to thank Sarah for taking time out to create some really insightful and interesting responses for this interview. She’s a wonderful personality that we can all tell even through the haze of cyberspace. There are many ways you can follow and support Sarah, so please take a minute and explore all the possibilities!
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