Natalie Dee Interview
Natalie Dee’s daily drawings are a major buzz on t’internet. We interview the zesty Miss Natalie Dee about swapping the dubious glamour of office work / sexy phone lines for pop art fame.
Hey Natalie, you’ve become kind of famous for doing paintings and drawings on nataliedee.com. How did people start getting interested in your art?
I started putting stuff up in 2001, and it slowly built up momentum. Initially, I did not have much of an audience at all. Not that my stuff at the beginning was that good. It just kind of snowballed over the course of a few years.
A lot of it probably had to do with the whole Livejournal/Myspace set. Those kids kind of latched on to it pretty readily as my stuff got better and more f*cked up, and they basically plaster my drawings everywhere. I would probably still be working at the insurance company if those kids weren’t really into making sure that everyone knows everything that they are into. They nestle me in the list of bands, all cozy next to Sufjan Stevens.
Do you use one of those funny computer pens you plug into your computer? They’re strange. Do you think they’re strange?
Yeah, they are kinda weird to get used to. They are a hell of a lot better than drawing with the little clit-mouse on a Toshiba notebook, which is what I did when I originally started drawing on the computer instead of paper and marker and crayon.
What influences do you have, art-wise?
When I was in high school, I worked in the children’s department of the public library. I have a shitty work ethic, so I would go to work and sit on the floor and read children’s books until it was time to go home. I did this for more than 2 years. I have read every children’s book that came out before 1997.
More than anything else, the style of illustrations in kid’s books really appealled to me. I liked the flat colors, and thick black lines, and I liked how they cut the crap. If it is a story about a frog, they would show a drawing of a frog. Not some photorealistic frog, or some frog dripping with intense symbolism, or some boring art frog. Like, the minimal number of lines necessary to draw a frog. I love it.
I also think my drawings are influenced by stuff like Evan Dorkin and Pete Bagge and Sifl and Oly.
Your pictures are really clean-cut and deceptively simple. Were they like that before you starting doing stuff with photoshop?
Yeah, I have pretty much always been drawing like this. Before I was doing stuff on Photoshop, I just used Sharpie markers, and coloring them in with pencil afterward.
You would actually be surprised how long it takes me to do some of my drawings… I get kinda anal retentive, and will erase and redraw the same thing over and over because the mouth is not screwed up enough, or they do not look horrified enough. It is a science.
Is Natalie Dee like a stage name? Is it easy to keep yourself and your kudos-fame-thing separate on somewhere as gossipy and self-relevatory as the internet?
My real name is Natalie, the Dee is just kinda like a way to differentiate myself in case there is more than one Natalie. Like, if you work in an office and there are more than one lady named Kathy, you would all be like “Yeah, me and Judy and Kathy C and Kathy M went to Taco Bell at lunch.” My last name starts with a D, so I spelled out my last initial in case there is someone else named Natalie on the internet, to keep things straight.
I try to keep things pretty tight as far as letting my personal information out on the internet too much. People have a way of getting a little bit of information, and spreading it far and wide, or using it to try to figure out where I live or something. I don’t get bugged on a regular basis, but sometimes someone will recognize me, and it is pretty weird.
You once did a stint working on breathy phone lines. Did any of the guys make a particularly complete fool of themselves?
All of them did. All of them. It is all very very fake, and I don’t see how dudes get off on chicks lying to them. But anyway..
I know what you want to know is if there were any weirdos, and hell yes there were. One guy in would call and talk to you while he f*cked a jar of peanut butter. Another one wanted to talk to you about how you don’t have any arms or legs, and you wear head gear (the part of teeth-straightening braces that go around your head, like braces in the 80s). He would want it to sound like you had headgear. All in all, it was an interesting job. I learned to pretend that I am a lot of different things, and I learned how to make it sound like I am furiously masturbating with only an electric toothbrush and a jar of Vaseline. It is also the only job I have ever had where I could get completely baked, and then continue doing my job as usual. Well, that job and this job.
You’ve been coming up with new comic art every weekday since 2001! Is it stressy coming up with a picture for the website every day? Have you found any ways to make money out of it?
Nah, I have been drawing everyday since I was like 6 or something, it is not something I look at like a chore or anything. I just sit down and draw whatever I want. I think it would be different if someone else was telling me what to draw, but I can draw whatever. Like, I will wake up and say, “TODAY I AM GOING TO DRAW ANIMALS”, and just draw some animals. Totally stressless.
That is what I do not understand about a lot of web comics that have a schedule, but will then skip days or weeks at a time. I like what I do so much that I have a bank of stuff geared up and ready to go at all times. I draw so much that my website is set up for months at a time. I can go on vacation for two months, and nobody would know. Other cats are like NO COMIC TODAY, I HAVE A DOCTOR’S APPOINTMENT. Like making excuses for not bringing it. I bring it everyday. Everyday.
I sell a lot of drawings, and do freelance stuff, and sell merchandise. I do alright.
Do you still have a day job? If so, isn’t that criminal? Shouldn’t all good drawers who sell their stuff be able to do it full-time?
No no no no no. I quit my day job like a year ago. The thing is, working in and of itself eats up a lot of money. You need less money than you think to be able to quit your job. I think anyone who is prolific and cocky can do it.
If we did our research right, you and your mookyduke Drew set up a ‘Get off the internet and vote’ campaign once where people would get presents if they could prove they voted. Did anything come of that?
Sure did. We got thousands of entries, and a guy with a handsome set of muttonchops was selected as the grand prize winner. (We did not pick him because of his chops, it was serendipitous.) He got a giant box full of hundreds of dollars worth of stuff, and was never heard from again. He vanished. Poof. Took the Guster CD and ran.
It was a pretty fun project. I think it is important to get people excited about participating in the democratic process. I was feeling particularly aptimistic about things when we set all that up, and the contest went well even though the election did not.
Are you all about the cats or all about the dogs? (We are all about the pigeons. We’re cool with either answer).
I like dogs. I think cats are kind of creepy.
If a stranger was to give you a present, just because, what would you most like to receive?
I like candy. I would like for a stranger to give me some candy.
If you could invent a conspiracy, what would it be?
My husband and I made up a conspiracy theory the other day, actually. Our theory is that the government decided that we had a bad attitude, and didn’t want us mixing around with people, so it made us think we were popular on the internet. It sends us boxes of tshirts every couple weeks or so, and we separate the tshirts into separate envelopes and send them to people. Then the people at the post office intercept the envelopes, sort the shirts back into boxes, and send them back to us so we can do it all over again. The government then deposits just enough to live on into our Paypal accounts, and they do not have to worry about us going to work, poisoning the minds of our coworkers with our f*cked up ideas, and making them uncomfortable with our giant heads.
What 5 songs are on your iPod / tape deck / gramophone?
Boris/The Melvins, Stroke of Death/Ghostface Killah, Random/Lady Sovereign feat. Riko, Everybody Lets Me Down/ J Mascis & the Fog, Best Friend on the Payroll/Morrissey.
What would you have done if the internet didn’t exist? Would you have become a graffiti artist and tried to contribute to the world by doing stencils on the Gaza strip like Banksy? (www.banksy.co.uk)
I’ve never really thought about grafitti as social contribution… the extent of my experience in grafitti is making up band names and writing them on the wall of the bar.
If the internet did not exist, I would still do the same thing, only I would deliver it to everyone’s house like a paper route.
Can we pimp a link to Drew at www.toothpastefordinner.com because he’s a good drawer too?
Only because he has a big dick.
Have you got any advice for girls who want to get into showing their art on the net? Or just being artists in general?
The only thing you have to do to be an artist is make art. Decide what you want to do, and keep on doing it. Don’t let anyone tell you what to do, or what is funny, or what is art. Make something you like. There is no such thing as going too far or running something into the ground, or having a crappy idea, just do whatever you want. If you keep on doing it, your audience will find you.