Coming Up Roses: Interview with Nat Sampson

Welcome back! For this week’s interview, I’m pleased to spotlight Nat Sampson. Nat is an accomplished comics artist and author of numerous zines and other illustrated projects. A multi-talented creator to be sure!

Recently, Nat and I discussed their inspiration as an artist and what upcoming projects are on the horizon.

When did you first decide to become an artist, and who are some of your favorites in your field?

Nat SampsonI’ve been drawing consistently since sixth grade, but I only decided to become an artist “for real” in 2013. I was in grad school and realized… school was terrible! Oops, ha.

Most of my favorite comic artists are the folks I know via social media and the big ole web: Jane Mai, Mia Schwartz, Rory Fransis, Carta Monir; I’m in love with the artist collective, FANGRRLZ! As far as “formal” print comics: Okazaki Kyoko, Matsumoto Taiyo, and Ronald Wimberly.

What’s your “typical” day as an artist? Do you have certain rituals (e.g. listening to music or working at a specific time of day)?

I try to get to work as soon as I get out of bed, which can be tough. I wash my hands with a bar of lavender soap before I start drawing! I try to eat beforehand if I’m feeling up to it, and I always have a glass of water nearby to stay hydrated. If I start early enough in the day, I like to take a break two hours in, to walk around and maybe get coffee. Sometimes ya gotta get outside for a bit!

And music, always music while I work! Music helps me to concentrate and develop visual ideas.

The style of your art is bright and striking and at times even subversively cheerful and humorous. However, you never shy away from serious themes in your comics and zines. Your previous work has touched upon topics such as drugs and violence as well as sexuality, identity, and suicide. Is it ever challenging to find a balance between the contemplative, grim aspects of your work and the more humorous elements, or does this balance come naturally to you?

Girls I LovedI think the balance comes naturally. I use humor to cope with my mental illnesses, trauma, dysphoria, etc. It’s sort of like, “If I can’t make light of this, how can I possibly deal with it all?” But then again, a lot of my own laughter and humor comes from the absurdity of how ridiculous, irrational, and frankly terrifying being alive can be. Like, can you believe this shit?!
When it comes to my art, the balance in presentation is a byproduct of my own needs. Zines and comics are cathartic for me, so my work mostly speaks to what I need to do to process what’s going on in my life. In one of my earlier zines, BRAT, I accidentally let it veer from “overtly humorous anxiety-confidence talk” to some heavier mental health concerns. That wasn’t on purpose, but it was what I needed to do, and so I think that’s okay. Some of my really old stuff from grad school is a lot of self-contemplation followed by self-mockery… I don’t think that’s always 100% healthy, but it’s one way for me to relate to myself and my weird lizard brain, so I think it’s okay.

My work is kind of a conversation with myself that goes, “Hey, how about we think about this absolutely bizarre thing you’re doing/feeling/thinking? Why are you doing that? It’s ok for you to acknowledge this thing that’s happening, but really, what the heck are ya doing? Doesn’t something about this strike you as kind of goofy? If it’s not funny at all, what are some other ways we can address it?” And the readers get dragged along for the ride.

Out of your published works, do you have a personal favorite?

Definitely MOIST! If you want to talk about the balance between contemplative and humorous? It’s upside down and backwards in MOIST, oh boy. I love it. I also retroactively love “girls i loved”, if only because I didn’t realize how good it was until people started telling me what an impact it had on them as they read it.

What upcoming projects are you working on?

I’m writing a big “for real, for real” fiction book that will hopefully come out… sooner or later?! Plus I’ve got some autobio projects that will hopefully be out in the fall. I’ll also be featured in One Beat Zines’ anthology, ‘Performance’! Make sure you check that out!!

Big thanks to Nat Sampson for being part of this week’s interview series! Find their work online at Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, and their official site!

Happy reading!