Lifelong Learning

These days, artist Kittihawk’s first cartoon anthology will be published by Lappan Verlag. The book contains about 90 cartoons on 64 pages and they are all funny. I kid you not. I met Kittihawk in Berlin to ask her a couple of questions about her art and about the book.

IMG_0167_croppedKittihawk, you started drawing cartoons only in 2005 and now  you got your first anthology published. The book is called “Lebenslanges Lernen” (Lifelong Learning) -  Did you learn anything in these four years of doing cartoons?

Yes, definitely. I always notice this when looking at my first cartoons: sometimes I don’t even think they’re funny anymore.  Over time, you discover how you have to tell a story to make it funny. I’m better at that now, but I’m still learning new stuff. I am really interested in the different ways of telling a story.

I originally wanted to ask you about why most of your works are black and white, since most of your stuff on is. Then I noticed that there are lots of colored cartoons in your book.

Well, actually I think I really like black and white cartoons better. They have a kind of beautiful sternness to them. I only started using color a year ago, partly, because everyone does it. In a lot of cases, I don’t think that it’s necessary to use color and I really don’t like cartoons that look as if they have been colorized. Who knows, maybe colored cartoons will be out of fashion again in a couple of years.

Most jokes in  your cartoons would work without an elaborate setting, but I noticed that you sometimes draw really detailed backgrounds. For example, I really liked all the small background items in the revised “phone-sex Nazi” cartoon. In what situations do you decide on doing these backgrounds?

Sometimes you need to place the action of the cartoon in a distinct setting to make the joke work. In other cases this is not crucial, but I still like to situate the cartoon somewhere. Some artist leave out settings altogether, but this also means a lack of ambience that readers can recognize and relate to. I really like it when you get the sensation of being in another place when looking a cartoon. That’s also something I really appreciate about other artists.

Do you try out different backgrounds for a cartoon?

Yes: often I will think of a joke and draw a background. Then I’ll notice that there is too much stuff in the background and have to remove it. Since I only work digitally, I can try out different things.

I noticed that people writing about you will often point out how you’re a woman doing a job that’s dominated by men – this is repeated in your press kit and even in the introduction to your book. What do you think about this?

I asked them not to emphasize this, but everybody does it. This happens with other female artists as well, it’s a kind of a cliché. It’s the same with reports about Angela Merkel: They often put an emphasis on her being  woman working in a field that’s usually male. Maybe it’s natural that this is the first thing that people notice, but it’s sad when they don’t go on from there. It’s important to me not to me labeled as “woman cartoonist”, male artists don’t draw “men cartoons” either. We all interact with both men and women. Making up a “women cartoons” category is stupid.

Thanks for your time!

For those of you living in Berlin: An exhibition of Kittihawk’s cartoons will open on Friday, September 25 2009 at Cartoonfabrik Berlin (Krossener Straße 23, Friedrichshain). You are all invited to celebrate the opening & Kittihawk’s new book “Lebenslanges Lernen”. Doors open at 8 PM.

If you can’t make it or don’t live in Berlin or Germany, you should consider buying the book or try to get a free copy:

Win a signed copy of Kittihawk’s book “Lebenslanges Lernen” – just send an e-mail to [email protected] & put “Kittihawk” in the subject field. (any recourse to courts of law is excluded).

Paul Hellmich


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