Graphic Novel

Four-and-a-half questions for: Andy Fischli

His beings have either no eyes, or animal heads, and his comics disclose bizarre worlds with a mad sense of humour. Andy Fischli, born in Glarus (Switzerland) in 1973, is an illustrator and comic artist. He lives in Zürich.

According to the British magazine “The Economist,” Zürich ranks as the world's most expensive city. Do you feel this as a free-lance illustrator and artist?

Andy Fischli I do feel that Zürich is a very expensive city, yes. Above all, rents are horrendous. It's difficult here for people on a small budget. But since I'm not all that often in other European cities, I don't have any direct comparisons, except maybe with Berlin. And a lot of things really are cheaper there. But life isn't cheaper in other Swiss cities. Only in the country - there you can still get a cup of coffee for 3.50 francs.

You draw bizarre, sometimes melancholy, mostly enigmatic stories of daily life. How do you work?

Andy Fischli: Ausgezeichnet!, 2012The best stories arise when they move me emotionally or stir me up. That's when working is at its pleasantest, because I don't have to meet any customer's demands. Often a sentence or a short episode is enough for developing a story. Some things are autobiographical as well, although I try to conceal that. Fiction is very important to me. I like to put stories together from various different pre-existing components. Good stories don't need a grand plot.

In my work the text comes first. When the text is standing, I start in on the sketches - with paper and pencil. Then I scan the drawings. I work with In Design for the layout with text and image. Then I print the whole thing out and complete the ink drawing. I scan this again for the lettering; for the colouring I work with Photoshop. I have three texts drawn and digitalised by me. That really takes a load off me.

Talent and skills are required for drawing. Which is more important?

Andy Fischli: Ausgezeichnet!, 2012What's important is the will to create something of your own, and enjoying the work. Talent alone is not enough, but with discipline you can acquire the skills. I approach my work with passion and try to make as few compromises as possible - not so easy in Switzerland because people here tend strongly towards cultural levelling.

One of your trademarks is the sinister “three-eyed” portrait drawings. These beings have no noses or mouths, but only three white circles in their faces. How did this come about?

Andy Fischli, 2007I was supposed to draw two pictures for a design trade fair. Since I got the commission on very short notice, at the end I simply had no more time for working out the faces. I had already roughly sketched two eyes, and then the third was added in somehow. It wasn't a conscious decision, just a pure fluke. Since then I have been experimenting around with it, and a variety of stories and pictures have emerged.

What are the three Swiss German words everybody should know?

Chuchichätschli (refrigerator), Zigerschlitz (Canton Glarus). Chääs-Chüächli (cheesecake).

Rieke Harmsen conducted the interview.
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
August 2012
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