Cofounder of the independent comic festival The Millionaire’s Club, Anna Haifisch’s work is both fun and profound. In her comics and screen prints, there is a dark sense of humour. This pervading darkness contrasts the vibrant landscapes of her illustrated world that she has filled with adorable, humanoid/animal protagonists.
She draws upon themes that we can all relate to, such as anxiety, work/life balance and loneliness. She has published multiple books, such as Von Spatz, I Can’t Find my Shoes, Drifter, and The Artist. Many have been translated into multiple languages. Haifisch created The Artist originally as regular a comic series for Vice. The half-crane-half-swan protagonist with spaghetti hair is said to be her alter ego through which she explores the struggles of life as an artist in a stark and hilarious way.
If you could be any animal, what animal would you be and why?
Some kind of bird, I think. Maybe a heron. They have beautiful long necks and can fly long distances.
Your comics are sweet, sad and funny. Have you always been into this medium?
Not really. I started with printmaking, doing loads of screen prints. I still love doing that, but I became more interested in narrative drawing. Telling stories. Using words and pictures seems to be the perfect fit for me.
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It’s hard to pick a favourite, but I’ve always loved your comic Drifter. What would you say has been your favourite project to date?
I loved drawing Drifter. It felt like a good mix between the old screen printing days and the current comics. I think my favourite projects are always the current ones. They are the most exciting ones. I get to try out new things and everything feels new and fresh.
Your narratives are always so strong and compelling, how do you come up with them?
I don’t know exactly. It’s hard to extract the main inspirations. They come from bits and pieces. Things I experienced, art I looked at, books I read, etc. It¡s always a carpet woven from all those things.
Like the half-crane half-swan in your comic series The Artist, have you too always wanted to be an artist?
I think I made the conscious decision to become an artist when I was 14 years old. I went to the local art school because they had an open-door day once a year. I saw students in the print shops printing wonderful magical things and I immediately fell in love with the idea to study at an art school.
What has been your favourite character that you’ve created and why?
It is probably The Artist. I know him best. But I also like the elephant and the frog. I can sneak them in wherever I need them. They can be good friends, enemies, murderers or saviours. They are more variable than The Artist because he became almost a real person over the last couple of years I spent with him. Sometimes, I really think: what would The Artist do in this situation?
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What are your feelings about how digitalised the illustration world is now?
I don’t mind it too much as long as people use it clearly as a digital technique. I think the problem is when artists are trying to fake an analogue look; this is when things get really ugly. Why throwing an aquarelle texture over a digital drawing when one can use fantastic watercolours on nice paper? I don’t get it. I love to draw on paper, I think I can never change that. But I also like to do computer work, like layouts and colouring.
If being an artist didn't work out, what else would you see yourself doing?
I don’t know, really. Maybe becoming a writer would have been interesting too. But I feel like I would never have become very good at it.
You’ve said before that as an artist you have been quite insecure. Do you feel that you’re finding your feet now?
More and more, I think. But still, I am my meanest critic. When I started studying art, I was less critical with my own work. I needed others to tell me that my work is bad.  It took me a while to understand that, but they were right. Now I don’t want anybody to tell me what’s good or bad. I think I can figure this out by myself now.
In previous interviews, you’ve expressed your love for cartoonist and illustrator Saul Steinberg. Whose contemporary work do you admire the most?
At the moment, I admire Amelie von Wulffen’s drawings and paintings the most. She is a fantastic artist. Her paintings are nice and mean and dark. There is so much to them, I can look at her work for a long time. Plus, she also draws comics on the side, they are incredibly funny!
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Was maintaining inspiration for your weekly comic series of The Artist at Vice difficult?
Not really. I felt I would not run out of episodes in the near future, but I was scared that the readers would get tired of him.
Have you ever thought of breaking into the animation scene?
I did two short episodes with my very early comic characters The Buddies. They are still on Vimeo, I believe. I tried to do it Disney-style, frame by frame, drawing by drawing. I felt like a god when my characters moved for the very first time, but I am not patient at all. Why work for four months on three minutes when one single drawing or painting can tell the same story in one image?
For all those struggling artists out there, what advice would you give them?
Keep drawing. And don’t come up with projects that are too big and seem endless. Draw shorter stories and see where that goes.
If you could time-travel back and talk to 18-year-old you, what would you say?
(Laughs) I would say: “Move away from Leipzig!”
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