Ditze-Hörsaal, Finkenau 35, HAW Hamburg
macht Comics, Illustration, Animation
Anna Degnbol is a visual artist from Copenhagen, Denmark, working with comics, illustration and animation. Her work revolves around visual storytelling in different media. She's obsessed with the comics medium and thinks a lot about what a comic is, what it can do and how she can draw a lot of them. She has made a number of zines and has had two longer comics published through danish publishers. She is currently doing her Master's in Graphic Communication Design.
Anna begins by showing a street-view photo from Munke Bjergby, “this is where I grew up, well, not on the street,” she laughs, and explains that the village where she grew up is a small one.
Here she spend her childhood drawing and going through her fathers’ big (and not so kid-friendly) comics collection: “…some of them were definitely not for kids, like the ‘fabulous furry freak brothers’ for instance, or like heavy metal magazines,” but these comics inspired Anna to make comics herself. One of the very first comics Anna made is from ’98, when she was 5 years old; her father helped to write the dialogue and text as dictated by Anna. With a smile she says; “I hope he stayed true to my original intentions with the story”. The individual drawings have been stapled together – there is no doubt that this is a comic. “Later on it became a little more sophisticated,” Anna explains, and shows examples of a zine called ‘Gang of the Scorbions’, written with typical childlike spelling mistakes. Again her father assisted her and made photocopies of these zines, so that her whole family could get their own issues. Already as a child Anna found it meaningful to create stories and images, and she hoped that she would continue to draw throughout her life, “fortunately, I’m still drawing a lot and sometimes I get to earn some money from it as well, which is just cool”.
Whenever she gets a new client, Anna takes time to figure out what would be fitting for the given job: editorial illustrations, young-adult bookcovers, and record covers all call for different materials and aesthetics. Here her background in graphic design comes in handy – she likes to try to incorporate it into her work with illustration.
When working with clients, Anna places a lot of value in creating something that doesn’t necessarily fit perfectly into her own style or aesthetic, but to create work that encompasses the ideas of the clients as well. When talking about some of the young-adult bookcovers that she has done, she says, “I think it’s really fun to not be afraid to spread out your styles, and work in different ways and not being afraid of like, I don’t know, selling out or being untrue to your aesthetic, but just really work towards making that specific client really happy and see their vision in the books”.
One job in particular has stood out from the rest: in 2019 ‘Social Service Club’ (a movement and platform based in Copenhagen) were creating a new identity. They asked Anna to make illustrations in the form of digital stickers that they could incorporate in this new identity. Anna had no idea how her work would be incorporated, but she found it exciting to send off the illustrations and give away control of what would happen with them.
The illustrations weren’t just used in a new dynamic website and on shirts, they were also made into an augmented reality experience that, by using a phone, could be walked through at the launching event: “that was a really fun experience, just to give it off to someone and then it’s like wow, I can walk into my illustration. That was cool.”
Between client-work Anna takes time to work on one of her personal projects called ‘Mirror-Gazing’. This is a collection of illustrations inspired by people, fashion, and ‘modern stilleben’ that she finds on Instagram. All these fit into “this kind of alien-world that I feel like I’m building in my head, where people look a certain way and don’t necessarily have a specific gender or sexual preferences, where it’s just fluid a little bit. And they’re proud to be whoever they are and whoever they want to be,” Anna explains. Besides using this project to let herself focus purely on aesthetics and to have fun, it also works as a form of meditation for her.
Before being published by a publisher, Anna did self-publication. “I am gonna show you something that I normally never show to anyone,” she says, “this is my first published book”. In 2012 Anna decided to self-publish a 200 paged comic she had been sharing online, and with the help of a grand she had gotten, put in an order for 200 books. Back then she lived with her parents, and when the boxes of books came in she realised that 200 is a lot of books. Anna did sell this comic over the years, but still has a couple of boxes in her basement. When Anna looks back on this time, she says that, “it was a weird experience, but it was also cool to just do it. Even if I was embarrassed for a few years it was a nice experience”.
In 2017 Anna’s latest graphic novel ‘Grus’ (Gravel) was published by the danish publisher ‘Fahrenheit’. The story is about the woman Mathilda, who, after her mother falls into a coma, travels back to her childhood city. While waiting for her mother to wake up she is being confronted by spectres of the past.
Anna describes the three years she spend on the story as a classic comic-creation: she made thumbnails, planned out dialogue, created character sheets, and made sure to keep a consistency in drawing-style throughout the whole book. After ‘Grus’ was published Anna has been exploring different ways of comic-creation, and experimenting with pacing, how to depict abstract concepts, and what different mediums does to the comic format.
Currently Anna has a new (secret!) comic project in the works. She is momentarily focusing on world-building; letting the story unfold.
When talking about comics Anna says that her “heart is beating for this medium,” but she also finds it to be a very lonely process. “It was fun when I was a child, but it also came out of a feeling of loneliness and not belonging where I was,” she explains. But Anna doesn’t think that this loneliness have to be a fixed part of the process of making comics, which led to the creation of the collective ‘OS’ in 2018. The purpose of this collective (together with Kaja Meyer, Nikita Michelsen, and Astrid Kongsted) is to open up the process of creation, to experiment and “kind of play like you did when you’re a kid,” as Anna describes it.
For one of the projects that they made together as a collective, they decided to lock themselves up in a studio space for a week in order to intensely work together. Instead of working on each of their own separate things to a common theme, they were working directly off of each others drawings, coming up with ideas and suggestions as the project started to take form.
It has been important for Anna to be part in creating a space where comics doesn’t have to be something that is only done alone, but where it can be shared and explored with others.
Ever since she was a child Anna has been highly influenced my movies and always wanted to make movies herself, but it wasn’t until mid-2018 that she tried her hand at animation: “it was a thing that I always thought that I couldn’t do, because I wasn’t classically trained in it. It’s like that with most things that you think you can’t do, that you should just try it out a little bit”. With her first experiments she quickly found out that it didn’t take a lot to make an image move a little bit; then a little bit more. It wasn’t long before Anna started creating longer and longer animations.
Since then she has made a couple of music videos, one of them for the American singersongwriter ‘Flunkie’, who gave Anna free rein to react to the music however she wanted: “I think that is one of the most exciting ways of working”.