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Meet Natalie Andrewson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Natalie Andrewson.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Natalie. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
Well, to start at the very beginning I have to tell you about my obsession with drawing as a kid. I always felt it was the easiest way to express myself and doodling was a source of comfort when I needed an escape. I often got in trouble for it, so naturally I doubled down. I ended up going to art college for illustration in hopes I would have an endless pool of job opportunities where I could pay off my student loan debt. I graduated still not knowing what I wanted to do specifically, after lots of trial and error, until about a month into the summer when I visited the Toronto Comic Arts Festival (TCAF). At TCAF I learned I could make narrative work for a living, which was totally revolutionary and exciting to me. I saw artists selling their own stories and prints, making careers out of work that was highly personal, and supporting each other in a big, accepting community. For the first time in a long time I felt passionate about art again and began making self published comic work.

After my experience at TCAF I started attending a lot of comic festivals. I made new friends by giving them stories I printed at my local office supply store, and a lot of those people are still some of my closest friends now. I moved to Brooklyn a year after college and started printing comics using a Risograph machine that a friend of mine owned. It was a totally new printing experience for me and I instantly fell in love with it’s tactile quality and vibrant inks. It made me want to make more work so I could spend more time with the machine. I started to learn the basics of printing with Riso and was experimenting with it as much as I could. In this time I was mostly working odd creative jobs wherever I could find them, allowing me to pay for paper, ink and trips to comic festivals so I could have more excuses to print with Riso.

In 2016 a new print lab dedicated to Risograph printing was created at SVA and it had an artist in residence program I was accepted into. That allowed me to explore different types of Risograph machines and inks at no cost. My Riso production tripled and I began making new work every few days to test on the Riso. I continued printing at the lab after the residency but quickly realized I didn’t have enough storage space for the amount of work I was producing, so I decided to start an online store.

After getting used to selling online, I began a monthly Riso print subscription service on Patreon. I’ve been working monthly on these personal prints for subscribers for two years now, which has been sparking new ideas for new projects since it began. Last summer I made the big move cross-country from New York to Los Angeles for better job stability for me and my partner (Animation Guild, woo!) and it didn’t hit me until winter that I finally had enough space to purchase my own Riso machine. I finally bought a machine and got it set up just before the pandemic hit and am starting to make lots of new work again while I’m stuck inside. It’s come at the cost of drowning in paper and Riso supplies all over my couch and kitchen table, so hopefully the next step is to find a larger space where I can continue to experiment and expand, but until then, I’m eating breakfast next to my Riso.

I just started full time work as a character concept designer on a new animated show. I’m not sure I would have had this opportunity if I hadn’t made all of the personal work I did for Riso, in which I draw fun characters from my imagination just like in the show. My personal Riso work has now crossed from being a side hustle that was fun and fulfilling to the main face of my work.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc. but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
I was lucky enough to have a good start and really supportive parents who helped me take out student loans for art college, but paying off those loans has been tough. In the beginning I took any jobs I could find, I stretched myself thin, worked long hours, hurt my back and wrist, and said yes to unpaid jobs for exposure. I remember fearing negotiating for higher wages out of fear of losing those jobs. That drained me and made me hate art. But from all that I’ve learned valuable lessons about what kind of jobs I will and will not take. I’ve become a better business person and self advocate, which has been just as important as advancing my art skills. I know my limits now, even as my career changes and I start new and unfamiliar work structures. Knowing how to spend my time wisely and understanding how long my work takes me has been the most important lesson learned, and I’m still learning it. The next most important lesson I’ve learned so far is that things don’t always work out and that tastes change, therefore making space and time for experiments is crucial.

Please tell us more about your art.
I generally like to pursue themes of adventure and fantasy with fluid compositions and lots of crazy colors. I do this work across a wide range of creative industry jobs, from advertising and editorial to chapter book covers and interiors, from band posters to animation designs and from graphic novels to short comics. Probably too much! My Riso work has been the most fulfilling and personal work I’ve made that follows these themes and I’ve zeroed in on it with my monthly Riso Subscription prints. Every month I print a fantasy and adventure Risograph piece focusing on adding more women and girls to these genres. Growing up my favorite stories were of men going on adventures and women usually as side characters or hyper-sexualized. I’m hoping to make more work where women and girls are the leads in their own fantasy and adventure stories and drawn in the way that empowers them. I also love to experiment with Riso color and have become obsessed with layering values and colors to achieve detailed full-color prints, it’s become an unexpected passion. There are fluorescent inks that can’t be replicated in CMYK printing that make the colors jump off the paper, which feels like pure magic. This combination of fantasy work with detailed, vibrant colors is like exactly what I would have wanted to make as a kid so I hope I’m making my nine year old self proud, or at least happy.

What were you like growing up?
Spacey and exhausting, haha. I had undiagnosed ADHD, didn’t like following directions, was usually frustrated and had a hard time focusing on anything other than drawing elves and rollerblading. I loved anything fantasy and adventure related with particular interests in Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings and Robin Hood. So when I decided I didn’t want to pay attention in class anymore or had a bad day I would turn to drawing characters inspired by those stories. In the 7th grade, I wrote an entire fantasy story that I’m absolutely terrified to read now. I grew up playing in the Southern Appalachian mountains as a kid, with lots of room to explore and pretend. Remembering those long hours spent in the woods and creeks is a big chunk of where I get my inspiration now. I can’t wait to someday get back to those mountains, however, living in LA, it has been thrilling to throw on some hiking boots and walk just a few blocks to a beautiful hike.

Pricing:

  • I run a Risograph print subscription where I send out a new fantasy/adventure print every month. It’s $15 if you’re based in the US, $20 if you’re international, and it’s kind of a blind box but always within the same theme. I also share tips and process info for Riso on smaller $3 and $5 tiers.
  • I have an online shop where my work ranges from $4 to $25. I sell my Risograph prints, stickers and washi tape, zines and cards.

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