Ladies & Gentlemen … Nate Beaty!

November 25th, 2010

As part of this thing called ESCAPE FROM THANKSGIVING, here is an interview I conducted with Nate Beaty, super-genius and close personal friend. For my latest novel, THE CANNIBAL’S GUIDE TO ETHICAL LIVING, Nate Beaty drew fantastic illustrations of thirteen disgusting meals.

yo mykle
i’m listening to your voice
it’s freaking me out
not only am i on your answering machine
and on your computer screen,
i’m also standing right outside your door!
i did get your cheque, thank you sir
my mother would be disappointed i didn’t send a thank you card
awesome. but i also sent you a copy of the book, did you get that?
hmm.. let me go check
not yet
i did get my OWC catalog. joy
might not get there for another day or two … i think i sent it … saturday.
well … good things are worth waiting for.
i also sent you these four issues of Jeff Levine’s latest comic.
oh nice
I was done with them but they’re so nicely printed …
I’m not sure what to do with ephemera when i’m done with it.
I have a library of ‘zines in my basement but they just collect dust.
They’re not reference works or anything.
i have the same problem
but i get more ruthless as i get older and drunker
and live in smaller and smaller apartments
pretty soon it will be me and a blanket
in a closet
But a really awesome blanket!
an iBlanket
with games
(btw, is it okay that i call this “interviewing Nate Beaty”?)
(long pause …)
haha, yes?
So yeah, you’re a comics guy and you’ve felt how i feel about the impossibilty of hoarding all your favorite comics.
especially minicomics
… which are some of my favorites!
where the hell do you put them?
they’re so cute and charming.
do you ever pick them back up and read them?
i always tell people to feel free to pass them along when done.. when at cons & whatnot
and/or use as TP, the classic plea of an author
if only i could put tissue through a photocopier.
Last night I was in the basement staring at that dusty pile i mentioned …
I pulled out the collected RUMP by Mike Haeg — ever read those?
RUMP is so fucking awesome!
how could it not be with a name like RUMP?
You get the sense that he was drunk all the time and didn’t give a fuck,
it’s very sloppy, but just cuttingly funny and weird.
each ish was a fourth of an 8.5×11 sheet, times, like sixteen pages.
but he did a run of 30 of them, and bound together they make a little book.
that’s probably why i picked it off the shelf: it’s more book-like.
i like longer minis myself
i want my $.50 worth!!
Spoken like a starving artist!
I guess I’m supposed to mention
in this here interview
that you are the genius who did the interior illustrations to my new book,
And you should know that people rave about those illos!
i was on the phone with my mother when you called, and i said “I HAVE FAMOUS AUTHOR MYKLE HANSEN ON THE OTHER LINE”
your propaganda has worked
that’s what she said!
jeez, of all the smart things i’ve tried to do with my career, that dumb joke has succeeded like wildfire.
it just has such a nice ring to it
good cadence
You’re telling me!
It’s how I sing myself to sleep.
counting superlatives
A is for AWESOME … B is for BEEYOOTIFUL …
C is for CHARMING …
omg. please shoot me now. i’m starting to believe my own hype.
anyway, this is the nate interview!
and while i got to know you as a co-worker at that website we worked for, and knew you as a talented programmer and web jockey,
and illustrator, in a pinch,
it wasn’t until i read BFF that i really got to know your comics/illustration style.
the Big Book of Brainfag
spreading fag to all the brains
thank you for teaching me a socially acceptable way to shout “FAG!”
that is my doodie
I’m holding BFF here in my hot little hands right now,
leafing through it again,
did i send you Piecemeal yet?
there are TWO of them now
is what, is this Piecemeal?
a boy melting into his livingroom floor, bad boner jokes, boobs galore, and a car crash
but anyway, you keep interrupting the interviewer here …
/me scolds /you
the point i was getting to:
woa, IM wizardry
is that you go between so many different styles of illustration, and do them all so well!
parts of BFF (Brainfag Forever) are very sketchy, cartoony, and others that are loving portraits in detail of real objects.
you draw your own face and body about a million different ways, and it always works.
but still there’s something about your style that made a friend of mine look at the new book and say “oh wow, Nate did these?”
I’m wondering: do you just use lots of different pens, or what?
my favorite quote on the back of BFF is from lewis trondheim, who thought it was an anthology of multiple artists
Yeah, that’s really what it looks like.
Were these, like, phases?
well it does cover a span of 10 years, but i still change up my style a lot
Do you pick a style to imitate? What makes you drop a style that’s working so well to go do another?
it takes a lot of talent to stick with one style for multiple pages.. to draw a character in many moods, angles, lighting, etc, and make it always feel like the same character
i think i struggle with those talents, haha
if i try to imitate something, it gets completely warped because i’m not skilled enough to mimic
oh stop.
but that works for me
because nobody can tell i’m stealing ideas
it gets put through my cheese grater of a skill set
i seem to be somewhat settling on a style as i get older i guess
like the Papercutter story i did, and Piecemeal 2
but i still like to play around with different styles. it’s fun
drawing is my favorite pleasure, and if it loses the fun, i get terrified
When you say “drawings” … I know you as a black & white artist mostly,
but you use all these different kinds of lines. Do you use a brush? A brushpen? A brencil?
ah, brushpen mostly!
Pentel Pocket Brush is god’s gift to the art supply store. it’s amazing.
as opposed to painting?
Yeah, how do you define drawing anyway?
I mean, what makes it a drawing and not a watercolor?
i don’t think i make much of a distinction. but i’m self-taught in all my wily ways
so maybe i just never done learned that
Outsider Artist Nate Beaty, folks.
In some of your earlier BFF stuff you use shades of grey, and you used that to awesome effect in the illos for the Cannibal’s Guide.
Those illos were perfect, btw, in terms of what you need to do to get pictures to reproduce well in the printing process we use.
I was kind of shocked how well they came out.
nice. yeah, ink wash is a nice fit to offset printing
it’s a style i seem to be using more often than others, rough ink wash with black brushwork
So … Nate Beaty …
(long pause)
..sips tea .. yes?
how about those Steelers?
terrible play in the fifth inning. complete travesty.
Do they play, like, baseball or something?
(Where did i put that list of insightful probing questions …)
aha! here’s one …
only it sucks because if I had your most recent comics i could ask better questions, but:
autopiographical comics.
you are hip-deep in them.
there are so many.
to quote the back of your book,
“There are a lot of autobio comics out there … most of them are pretty boring.”
I admit that I like yours but don’t go for most of them, but i wonder how you feel about that genre.
no need to name names or anything, but do you crave autobio comics more than the average reader?
well, i honestly haven’t drawn autobio for quite a while
the last i guess was my Korea mini (do you have that?)
(you see, i’d know that if i was keeping up better.)
um … i know i read it somewhere, maybe online?
even though as a reader it still is one of my favorite genres
I guess I’m not a “reality” guy,
but the memoir boom is huge in publishing,
i love reading about other cartoonist lives. jesse reklaw’s Ten Thousand Things To Do was amazing
Yeah, actually, i have the first one of those. it’s rad.
And I like James Kochalka’s American Elf —
just getting insight into another person’s day-to-day
i eat that shit up
but as an artist, i feel like it’s lazy .. at least for me to do it
because all i’m doing is filtering, editing
As opposed to writing?
yeah, fiction is immensely more difficult for me
every time i’ve done it in the past, it falls flat
i have the same problem with autobiography.
BFF has none of the fiction comics i did, really
i totally omitted them
i do think it takes skill to write autobio, i guess it just came too easy for me. and i got bored talking about myself so directly i guess
Issue #1 has all those funny ads in it.
I don’t know if you’d call that “fiction” but it’s definitely writing.
i love that stuff, but most other people didn’t, heh
Poofy poopsy!
The Masticator!
Live Like Shit, But Keep On Living!‚Ñ¢
That style of illo reminds me of Kliban … was that an influence?
you know, we had a book or two of his growing up, so quite likely
and MAD
But whatever you’re writing, I imagine it’s a really different process from mine.
Do you do scripts for comics, or just being drawing with an outline in your head?
the more i try to figure out how by talking to other authors, the more i think all writers are completely different
i do outline, then wordy shorthand with visual notes, then thumbnails, then pencils, then ink/inkwash/letter/etc
comics are a complete pain in the ass
and take months to years to make
while minutes to read
So much work!
I always wanted to be a comic artist,
I can even draw, a little,
but I don’t have it in me to work that goddamn hard!
i’m challenging myself to write a longer fiction piece over the next year
it really is some form of insanity, i’m convinced of it
Like hoarding urine, basically.
exactly like that
some of us do both
Forgive me for all the how-to questions, I’m just fascinated as a writer …
When you have a long-form piece, do you plan ahead to serialize it?
Break it into “issues”?
i love hearing about technique. i think it’s similar to liking autobio. and seeing pictures of people’s desks. that’s like technique porn to me
i’ve never done a long form piece, honestly
You draw me your desk, I’ll draw you mine.
Does your “longer fiction piece” already have a beginning and end? Are you allowed to start before you know how it ends?
i’ve been brainstorming for the last few months, writing down themes, ideas, characters, arcs, acts, doodles, official sounding words…
i have most of it outlined
but i think i might start without a definite end in mind
start in on the thumbnailing and whatnot at least. i’m learning as i go, honestly
The serial is an interesting form. Having characters and a world, and a plan to use them over and over and over forever …
I don’t know how that’s done, but it’s the tradition of superhero comics.
i’m totally fascinated by that type of writing
yeah! me too.
long story arcs
television writing is similar that way.
that’s what i was thinking
there’s a lot of amazing writing happening in tv right now
which in a way i hate, because i find myself watching a lot of tv all of a sudden
when before i hated it without any gray area. now i’m confused
I think it’s because hollywood got so big-budget and awful,
and television became a refuge for people who wanted to do smart things on a low budget.
cinematically speaking.
I always was anti-TV as a child,
but these days you can rent the DVD of just the series that everybody agrees is awesome, without any of the commercials.
And watch it whenever you like.
A much more “empowering” version of passive consumption. =)
yeah, that’s the type of “tv” i’m watching
So when is BFF going to be picked up by Hollywood?
well, dan clowes’ Wilson just got picked up apparently
comics are very much on the radar in the last few years
it’s kind of weird
The Surrogates got picked up from Top Shelf and made into a godawful vessel for Bruce Willis
There’s nothing they can’t fuck up in Hollywood.
they’re good at that
But comics and cinema have so many obvious parallels, it’s not surprising to me that Hollywood loves comics.
oh, they’re like storyboards ready to go with a guaranteed audience of fanboys
on the cheap
you wave $10k in front of a cartoonist and they pass out
dreaming of ramen and brushpens
months of uninterrupted productivity!
a windowless room under the subway, for months!
And with cel animation, it comes full circle!
Now a thousand indonesian anime fans can work just as hard as you, for even less,
drawing the panels between your panels.
(long, awkward pause …)
sigh, true
i doubt i’ll ever see any of that world
which i think is a good thing
It’s creepy, but I knew an animator from Vietnam (i think) who honed his craft there, came over here and kicked ass as a high-paid CG guy.
He was happy to have that experience, I think.
that sounds like an unusual success story
but who knows
The ethics of where stuff comes from and who makes it is endlessly confusing, depressing and fascinating.
Probably we should all just eat millionaires.
i’ve heard of some good recipes
Last things before I let you go eat lunch,
or whatever you Chicago people eat,
deep dish pizza i guess …
fried ribs …
with beard sprinkles
aside from your comics work, you do a lot of other things
walking that line between creative and someone-will-actually-pay-me-for-this .
design work for the web,
as well as back-end engineering work.
bmxmuseum being my favorite
(someone in another tab just hired me to write a press release for some new software, for instance, haha)
it’s raining work!
economy shmonomy!
Well, you’re so versitile!
i’ve been doing fine, bmxmuseum actually being a part of that, ha
that site is buuuusy, it’s nuts
seriously, you are, i’ve seen it.
(Can you pimp my new book on BMXMuseum? It’s got bikes in it … not.)
if it has no oldschool bmx appeal, it’s invisible to them
highly focused nerds
Anyway the real question is: how do you decide what to do?
All sorts of writers and artists face this thing
where they have a day job and a real job,
and the two things fight one anoher.
Do you struggle with that? You’re so productive, you must know something about it I don’t.
i code until i have enough to stop panicking about paying rent and eating tacos. balanced with the creeping fear of never accomplishing anything creatively that i feel is worthwhile — they go back and forth
from one panic to the next
oh, i feel your pain on that one!
a piercing insight into my neural circus
Well, you seem to manage it somehow. Passing you on the street, nobody would know you’re insane. What are the things that help you?
i’d say beer, but then i’d uncover my teetering alcoholism, haha
alcohol, masturbation, coffee, haircuts
If beer really helped me write, I’d drink it for breakfast.
as i’m sure you know, the only thing that helps you be productive is being productive
the trick to writing is writing
anything else is distraction
Maybe it’s your distraction-free existence, then.
quite possibly
It must be awesome, having no friends.
just cats
and they do their best to annoy the hell out of me
i have Trubble Club
who needs friends?
Yeah … that reminds me,
i’ve been meaning to tell you:
i’m dumping you.
we’re not friends any more.
you didn’t tell me you had a new comic out,
and i think you just don’t care about my feelings.
also, i’m seeing someone else.
i’ll return the book-sending favour as soon as you send me your booke
see? it’s always you, you, you in this relationship.
whereas I’m always me, me, me,
which is like the exact opposite.
i hope we can still be friends,
even though i hate you.
don’t worry, it’s just you, not me
oof … okay, i give. i’m just kidding.
you know that,
*sob* WHAT?
but i feel like a jerk ’cause i know how many ex-girlfriends you have.
i go hot and cold. i’ve been cold for a very long time
look at this handsome fella!
he needs you!  he’s cold!
i mean old!
he’s full of talent and he’s gentle
i mean bald!
and he’s hung like a brushpen!
i mean a pushpin!
don’t spend another winter outside the comforting, sexy embrace of Nate Beaty, ladies!
he’s in Chicago! Go get him!
good luck at penetrating my force field, bwaha
i’m writing my Big Book
i know it’s around here somewhere…
He’s deep! He’s sensitive!
He’s a stallion!
So, in closing: Nate Beaty is rad.
(copy/pasting to my OK Cupid profile)
I used to see him all the time when we worked together, now he’s in Chicago and we never hang out any more, but he’s a brilliant artist and he illustrated my book,
which you should buy,
in case i neglected to mention that,
but also you can see a lot of his great work online for free.
Nate, which of your many website should we mention here?
hi mykle, well, i’d like to mention, thank you.
and give a shout out to my good friend, um, mom, yeah, you know it!
Word to your ancestress!
have you ever considered Game Show Host?
i think you could pull that off in your sleep
Maybe … gotta get more famous first!
Srsly, tho: i want to come visit.
The last time i was in Chicago i had a blast.
hey i have a heated box that allows multiple humans
with running water and friendly felines
it’s always open
This summer I’m going to do that midwest book tour I didn’t do two summers ago.
Let’s set up a reading/art show!
Hotel Nate: Don’t Use The Bathroom Too Long Shitting In The Morning Because I Panic‚Ñ¢¬Æ
All right, that’s a wrap!
You did mahvelous!
bird is the word
Sorry I’m not more deep.
maybe there isn’t much to mine
oh bullshit.
i really do love your work.
plus, i have to poop
okay, you poop, i eat lunch.
somehow the two things are connected.
can’t wait to see the book
watch your mailbox!
i’m staring
and thanks!

One Response to “Ladies & Gentlemen … Nate Beaty!”

  1. Vince Kramer Says:

    Great interview, guys! I loved the art in The Cannibal’s Guide to Ethical Living! Gonna check Nate Beaty out now. Not on OK Cupid, but

Leave a Reply