Anna Haifisch’s The Artist – a nihilistic lampoon of the art world


The Artist by Anna Haifisch – Published by Breakdown Press – 9781911081005   h/b   £12.99

Sometimes, you’re just chilling out at work, doing your job, when a new Advance Information sheet comes through with a few sample panels that make you laugh hysterically, and then suddenly you’re in love. Everyone gets that, right?

For me, the book in question is Anna Haifisch’s The Artist, out in November from Breakdown Press. It is a complete collection of the first year of Haifisch’s brutally hilarious comic, originally published on in serial format.


Originally published by Vice

For a bit of context, let’s consult the press release:

Haifisch’s idiosyncratic, episodic comic chronicles the experiences of a young artist in his formative years, satirising the exclusive, ephemeral and frequently absurd world of fine art. Plagued by doubts and anxiety, the artist is confronted with constant setbacks punctuated by occasional, surprising glimpses of recognition.

Anna Haifisch is originally from Leipzig, Germany, and is one of the organisers of The Millionaires Club, one of the most internationally acclaimed small press comics festivals in Germany. Haifisch has self-published comics for many years, and published her first book Von Spatz (link in German) with Rotopol Press in Germany in 2016. (Here’s her twitter, if you’re keen on that sort of thing.)

Based on Haifisch’s own experiences as an illustrator in Germany and the USA, material from The Artist has most recently run as a serialised comic in Vice magazine to critical acclaim.

Since it was first announced to us, I’ve had no shame in shouting about how much I love The Artist. Sure, I’m neither an artist nor a member of the ‘fine art’ community, but as someone with an MA in the incredibly vague area of ‘The Creative Economy’, I can relate to how absurd the creative industries can be – especially for those trying to break in and build a name for themselves. Haifisch captures this ridiculousness with sharp, self-deprecating humour that will undoubtedly speak to anyone who has worked in the creative industries, and for millennials as a whole (‘the tumblr generation’). Everything is, like, totally ironic and also completely pointless nowadays, right?


Originally published by Vice

What I love about Haifisch’s illustrations is the simplicity. Her black outlines have a slight shakiness to them, adding expressiveness and emotion to her unassuming characters. The colour palette – in near-florescent pinks, oranges and yellows, with occasional purple and blue – provides a warm backdrop for her pale, lanky characters (a starving artist if I’ve ever seen one!). The artwork is the perfect accompaniment to the wry, nihilistic tone of the writing.

Haifisch addresses the shaky lines I love so much in an interview with Left Me Wanting More (this is a really interesting interview by someone who is clearly much more in the know than I am):

 Are your lines just erratic because of your hunger for success? C’mon, no one’s buying the stuff about paying homage to Saul Steinberg.

There’s so much I want: I want to be successful, I want my drawings to be read and shown. I want to be influential, I want to be rich.

But the reason for my shaky lines is my nervous and impatient temper.

After reading interviews with Haifisch, you can definitely see her within the character of The Artist!!

Originally published by Vice

She also discusses her choice of limiting her colour palette with It’s Nice That, who offer an interesting analysis of Haifisch’s style:

The illustrator’s colour palette is a key characteristic an inviting plateful of treats, inspired by “my former days as a screen printer where I had to pick just a few colours to print with” she says. Now working in a more digital aspect Anna has applied her colour knowledge to her photoshop colour swatches, “It’s helping me enormously since it takes the colour decision for each new project away from me. I never want to mess with photoshop for too long, it gets boring at some point.”

For me, this “limited” colour palette is hardly limiting to the feel of the comics. It’s this stylistic choice that makes the drawings jump off the page.

Packaged all together in a lush, section-sewn hardcover binding, The Artist is a shining example of what beautifully-produced comics should be. It’s clear that Breakdown Press have put a great deal of care, thought and love into all of their comics thus far, and this is no exception. It’s the sort of thing that stylish, cool bookshops ought to have in their windows this Christmas shopping season (hint hint!). It makes a great gift for the hungry creative or artsty-fartsy type in your life, but it’s also a perfect treat to pick up for yourself – so long as you have a sense of humour!


*UPDATE: 24/11/16*: Turns out, we’re not the only ones who are absolutely bonkers for this book! 

Bleeding Cool: “Anna Haifisch’s Artist series is perfectly attuned to the self-deprecating humour of the so-called ‘Generation Y’.”

AIGI Eye on Design: “Superbly cynical” …  Later they wrote,”Haifisch underscores the cliché with a lofty tone that’s simultaneously satirical yet heartfelt”.

Women Write About Comics: “The Artist isn’t quite nihilistic but he’s terribly, terribly tender, and this world allows him to be”.

Having read The Artist, Comics Beat were moved to describe the publisher, Breakdown Press, as purveryors of ‘incredible design sense, challenging stories and a thoroughly modern sensibility'”.

Teddy Jamieson, The Scottish Herald: “An inside take-down of the art world.. with the comic tartness and flat bright colours Haifisch uses adding a carbonated kick”.


Like The Artist? Want to make fun of art even more? Why not check out We Go to the Gallery, Miriam and Ezra Elia’s lampoon of the fine art world done in the style of Ladybird’s classic educational books.

Post by Sarah

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