This interview is reprinted in its entirety from MOME Vol. 5.
Andrice Arp was born in 1969 in Altadena, California, where she grew up in the ’70s and ’80s. Her mother was an artist — a sculptor, performance artist and, most recently, a novelist — and probably influenced her future vocation. Her father is an astronomer, whose profession apparently did not influence her quite as much. She was by no means a comics geek. She remembers reading beautiful childen’s books when she was a little girl, as well as the work of Edward Gorey, Charles Addams, B. Kliban, and Tove Jannson’s Moomintroll books. Later, she read Asterix and Krazy Kat.
She was drawing as far back as she can remember, encouraged by her parents, but she didn’t have a burning passion to become a cartoonist. It wasn’t until she attended college and stumbled onto a volume of RAW in the early ’90s that she recognized the artistic potential of the medium and became seriously interested in pursuing it herself.
She graduated from Cornell University in 1992, and proceeded to work as a graphic artist at a restaurant PR firm and then as a production artist for a packaging firm, which she continued to do on a freelance basis after leaving that job.
In 2001, she co-edited (with Howard John Arey, Joan Reilly, and Bishakh Som), designed, and self-published Hi-Horse Comics, which ran four issues, an anthology that featured her and several of her artist friends; she subsequently edited a book collection, Hi-Horse Omnibus, published by Alternative Comics.
Arp’s uniqueness is manifested in both subject matter and technique: Thus far, most of her comics stories have been adaptations of ancient fables (predominantly from Japanese sources) and most of her stories have been painted rather than drawn in pen and ink. We discuss both of these aspects of her work in an interview that was conducted on May 1.
andrice arp: I first started reading RAW when I was [attending Cornell], which really inspired me. And I was doing these drawings in black pen at the same time, and I just realized that, you know, I like to read comics and I like to do these drawings — that I could just start drawing comics. And that was kind of like “duh,” when I finally figured that out.
So what happened was after I got out of college — I think this was around ’95 — I got this idea for a comic that I wanted to do and it was a two-page comic. But I just didn’t have the skills to do exactly what I wanted to do with the comic. So I decided that I needed to take some classes and learn how to draw better, basically. So, I started taking classes at the Academy of Art here in San Francisco. I took a bunch of illustration classes and painting classes and things like that. And so then like five years later I finished that comic. That was kind of where I got started painting too.
gary groth: When you picked up RAW when you were at Cornell, was that really your introduction to what we might call art comics?
aa: Yeah, I think so. I remember looking at RAW before that. The first one that I had was the first of the small ones. I think it was Volume Two #1. And I remember looking at an earlier version of RAW in stores, and I didn’t understand what it was. Like, maybe I just opened to the pages that weren’t comics. But I was like, this is a magazine but what is it about, I don’t get it. But then once I finally read it I was like, “Wow, this is great.” And then, coincidentally, there were these people that were putting together a comics anthology at Cornell that I got involved with. And that happened all right around the same time.
gg: And what was the name of this anthology?
aa: It was called Strip!, with an exclamation point; very original.
gg: And how did you get involved in that? What did you do?
aa: Well, it was a collective. And we got money from some kind of student resources committee. And whoever wanted to be in it could basically be in it and we all put it together. You know, we were doing old fashion paste-ups. And we had a lot of meetings, although I’m not sure what they were about. I think it started in ’89 or ’90. I was in about six or seven issues, I think.