LAUREN BARNETT is a comic artist and painter. She’s been posting a new comic every day for over 12 years (now on Instagram ) and has a bunch of books available here. Barnett lives in Queens, NY with her soon-to-be wife and a cat named Louise. She can also be found at her website, melikesyou.com.
ON PRODIGY VS ACCOUNTABILITY
Even though I wasn’t any sort of prodigy, or that kid in school everyone knows is great at drawing, I’ve always had this push towards art. My parents were always super supportive and let me draw all over my room when I was in middle school/high school. I made a giant pastel mural of fruit on one of my bedroom walls; I even drew on the ceiling and didn’t get in trouble. I think this really helped me to trust my inclinations.
When I got to college (UVM) I was super focused on academics, and ended up organizing my schedule so I could be a double major (English and Women’s Studies) and a double minor (Studio Art and US Ethnic Studies). College is where I fell in love with painting. Fast forward to moving to New York in 2007: I was living in a little apartment with my best friend and trying to balance making enough money to live while still making art. I did paint a bit at first, but it became really difficult space-wise. When my roommate started a blog about knitting it inspired me to start a blog too. I called it Me Likes You comics and posted new drawings every day. The L Magazine (a now defunct free mag in NY back then) had a “comix” issue, and I submitted some work to it. Two of my comics were published, and I think that gave me the confidence to continue posting.
Back then I held myself accountable for posting at least one comic per day (excluding weekends), and I’ve tried to keep to this all these years later. There have been times in my life that have derailed me now and then, but since starting in 2008 I’ve posted 2,133 comics and published 12 books, some with outside publishers and some self-published.
I’m much more dedicated to comics than painting, but i have seen some overlap. On my site you can see a series of animal paintings with words, this was the most clear combo of both ideas, and the cover of one of my earliest mini comics, “Secret Weirdo” is one of my abstract paintings. Perhaps I’ll get back to painting more if I ever have the space to set up my easel again…
ON MAKING EVERY DAY
I get up at around 5:30am every day so I’m sure to get at least a few hours of drawing time in. Mostly I’m coming up with an idea for that day’s comic and then executing it, but sometimes I’m working on a longer project like a book or the mini I recently made, or sometimes longer form submissions to magazines and publications. I didn’t always work this way, but both my comics/art practice and my day job are very important to me. I work at Art21, an amazing non profit that produces films featuring contemporary artists (the comics community may be most familiar with the film we made on Chris Ware). I think it is somewhat unusual to be a practicing artist and to also care very deeply for your day job (perhaps teachers are excluded here?) but this is the case for me, so it’s very important to me that I have enough time to dedicate to drawing in the morning while also being totally focused during the day at work.
I still vacillate between gags and autobio/diary comics, but more and more I find myself factoring what is really happening in my life into my dailies. I think part of this is probably social media and how it has made it more natural/comfortable to broadcast daily happenings. I do hope to show something deeper in most of these (as I’m sure everyone does!) and not just a recap of my day, trying to show a theme or a process.
I’m specifically thinking of this one comic I made where I was blocked so I made pancakes, and then drew about making pancakes. I really liked this one because it is of course about pancakes (and secretly I love drawing pancakes), but it’s also about how this happens to everyone: you get blocked, you can’t think of anything, so maybe you make pancakes and relax. It’s funny; I never set out to make diary comics, and most of the first years of my dailies are decidedly not diary comics (with the exception of a few, and even some where I actually illustrated pages from my childhood diary), or are at least masked in fiction, mainly because they are very short gag comics with minimal context.
ON LIVING IN UNCERTAIN TIMES
There are so many implications from the pandemic and I’ve been trying to keep to my regular routine as much as possible, even with working from home. It is obviously personally affecting all of us, and I am very lucky to have the ability to work from home. My fiance Candice and I have a wedding planned for this coming June and so in addition to the regular worries I have these additional ones swirling around: should we cancel? Should we try to continue with it? Should we try to get our deposits back? And the truth is we really don’t know what to expect in the coming months.
The routine of drawing daily is incredibly important to me, and I am finding it really helpful during the uncertainty of what’s happening right now. Drawing and making comics is keeping me sane. I even made a zine/mini for the first time in forever (it’s for babies, since all of my friends keep having all these cool babies) and it felt really hopeful to make this and to send it to my friends. It also served to remind me of the first time you put together a zine or mini, and try to sell it to comic stores or whoever might listen, and how scary it is to just put things out there and cross your fingers. I’m planning to work on some bigger projects as well. At the very least I have two extra hours per day to devote to this (no commute) and I plan to use it!
Want to be considered for The New Comics? Send work to Comics Curator Keith McCleary via the Entropy submissions page.