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Interview with Anders Brekhus Nilsen

Who are your main influences as an artist?

That's an impossible question – influence is so hard to tease apart. But here's an arbitrary top three: Herge, author of Tintin, Laurie Anderson, and the historian/psycholinguist Steven Pinker. And then also the way the sunset looks outside the airplane window. Also I went to Palermo, Sicily last winter and just driving frantically around the falling-apart streets there was extraordinarily evocative. It made me want to set stories in such a place.

Can you tell us about your career so far?

On leaving undergrad I thought I was going to be an installation artist. I sort of fell back into comics in spite of myself, partly because drawing little birds was more fun than making big complicated installations. I self-published a mini-comic called Big Questions for a few years. Chris Oliveros saw it and invited me to do a story for Drawn & Quarterly which became a book called Dogs and Water. That then led to more projects with them and others. My books and comics helped art directors find me and I started doing some illustration as well. I kept up both and here I am.

When are you most happy with something you created?

I know things are clicking when it's time to go to bed and I find myself compelled to wander back to my drawing table to get another look at what I drew that day, just for the pleasure of it.

What is your opinion on the cultural climate in the US?

That's a gigantic question. Hmm... the cultural climate... I don't know. People worry a lot about new things replacing old things and the degradation of culture, language, music, comics, whatever. I am constantly impressed by the proliferation and evolution of culture. People make stuff that is important to them, and what that is, and how it works changes with the times. I try not to worry about the culture. I figure it mostly takes care of itself. I feel lucky to get to contribute.

What contemporary artists (any art form) should get more attention?

Geneviève Castrée just passed away. It feels criminal to me that her music and comics aren't better known. Her drawings are magical. Other than that... I'm sort of surprised Dan Deacon isn't playing stadiums, though I would be sorry if he were. And it's weird to me that photographer Todd Baxter isn't a giant international art star. Also Robert Sergal.

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