I first peeped Lana’s work in a book called Black Comix, an anthology of sorts dedicated to independent African-American comic book artists. Her comic strips had this quality to it that I can only describe as genuine. I don’t mean that they were in your face or controversial like The Boondocks, or somehow too over-the-top. I mean they exuded a quiet realness in each panel, transforming them into a window of how Lana sees the world, her circumstances, and the obstacles that she has had to overcome as both an artist and a woman in this game.
Ironically, Lana owes much of her current success and ventures as a cartoonist to those very obstacles and the absence of “yes” in a vast sea of “no’s” throughout her life and career. What she has proven, however, is that she is a master of flipping the negative in spite of the naysayers – even those who may be closest to her. “I got the ‘when are you going to be done with this art stuff and grow up and get a real job’ thing,” Lana says as she reflects on statements from her parents and friends that threatened to completely discourage her at one point in her life. Among a burdening workload at the University of Bridgeport where Lana is currently studying, unfortunate job rejection letters, and prospective clients who are ultimately looking for nothing else than some quick nookie, Lana decided to quit as a cartoonist.
Well, for about 2 weeks. Let’s just call it more of a vacation.
“I got tired of bitching about my life, so I decided to draw what I was bitching about!” Lana says. It was then that she decided to make her comics semi-autobiographical, following an often overlooked philosophy that she learned from another comic book artist – draw what you know. Lana started writing a strip called On The Real, where she takes slices from her own life and plants them into the world of her characters.
My personal favorite, though, is Chronicles of a Broke Ass Artist, for obvious reasons. “I was inspired to do this after I ‘quit.’ I had a guy approach me on Facebook to do a book cover, but he was starting to drag out the project before it even got started and took forever to approve the contract,” Lana explains. “I had to cut him loose.”
I think that any artist who exists in the daunting world of freelance design knows what that is like. For any freelancers who are passionate about their art, being a broke ass artist comes with the territory at some point in their career. Lana has managed to transform client horror stories, minute ridicule from all sides, and disappointment into the fire behind arguably one of her most entertaining and relatable comic strips to date. She couldn’t have been doing too bad either, because her work gained her entrance into the Glyph Award winning comic book anthology, Black Comix:African-American Independent Comics Art and Culture alongside notable artists Eric Battle, Afua Richardson, Mshindo Kuumba, and former interviewees, Shawna Mills and Shawn Alleyne. “It was an awesome experience!” Lana says as she reflects on her excitement at being asked to participate in the book. “When I got the book, I screamed so loud I woke up my upstairs neighbor’s dog! It was a humbling experience to be in a book with so many people I admire.”
From there, Lana was the mastermind behind Press Start, a video game themed art show that featured work from a variety of talented artists. “It was an extremely rewarding and frustrating experience, but the show turned out to be a hit! I’m brainstorming another show to do this spring.”
So far, Lana has had a myriad of ups and downs, self-doubts, and personal struggles. “My greatest challenge so far is proving the validity of the type of art I like to do,” Lana admits. “Many people do not see cartoons and illustration as art so a lot of times I don’t even get a chance right away. I have to blow their minds, then they recognize me as an artist.” Despite those challenges, however, Lana has managed to gain some pretty notable positives in her budding career as a cartoonist. “I love doing a piece or a project for someone and seeing their face light up because I did exactly what they wanted,” she says of what she considers the most rewarding aspect of being a cartoonist. “When I want to stop, I think about Frida Khalo, and how she was literally on her deathbed and she still attended her last art show. Despite the physical and emotional pain in her life, she still managed to create. I’m trying to get to her level.”
Lana hopes to finish school as soon as possible so she can get back to focusing on her comic strips, her career as a cartoonist, and getting a job in her field. “The simple things in life, like eating, are nice,” she says. I’m sure we’ll be hearing about her journey as an artist, and the ongoing struggle for basic meals in her comics soon enough.
Thanks for reading, guys. Until next time.
Lana Andrade is currently a freelance artist and creator of such comic strips as On The Real and Chronicles of a Broke Ass Artist. Follow her as she expounds on her life as an artist, friends, colleagues, and the basic necessities of survival. Lana’s work can also be found in Black Comix: African-American Independent Comics Art and Culture.
Chronicles of a Broke Ass Artist: http://brokeassartist.tumblr.com/
Lana’s art-blog thingy: http://lanandradeart.blogspot.com/