Natalie Dee is all about dog farts. Baby poops. Hating your cat. And so much more. She is the author and illustrator extraordinaire of web comic Natalie Dee, which offers a daily dose of hilarious one-panel pieces that range in subject matter from not giving a fuck to her two gassy dogs to squirrels, and all things between. When she isn’t making her own comics, she and her husband Drew, of Toothpaste For Dinner, are collaborating on Married to The Sea, another source for the not so serious, as well as a number of other projects. Did I mention they also sell T-shirts, prints, and other goodies? Persephone Magazine, please welcome the hilarious and whip-smart Natalie Dee.
Persephone Magazine: How did you get started making comics? Has it always been something you knew you wanted to do? What changed the game for you in doing it
Natalie Dee: I’ve always liked comics, and drawn them in some form or other since I was 13 or 14. I never really thought about doing it as a job. I went to school to study design and whatnot and didn’t really shoot for making comics my full time gig. I started putting stuff online just as something fun. I just did little drawings for fun, and started putting them online for fun, and people started looking at them for whatever reason. I was working in the insurance/pharmaceutical industry and just doing my site as a hobby. At some point, I decided I didn’t like my job very much and had a couple months of living expenses saved up, so I quit my job. I didn’t really think I was going to do my site as a thing even then, but when I had more time to invest in it, things really took off. I assumed I would have to get another job, but I haven’t had to yet, and it’s been 7+ years at this point.
PM: Why comics? What about them makes you think they can communicate what
you want better than other forms of expression?
ND: I like visual art a lot, but I don’t really like the pretense and layers of obfuscation that go into fine art. I’ve always liked art for everyone more than art for the elite, and I think comics are
something that is easily accessible to most people. There is an image, and then there is text. It’s pretty straightforward. Sometimes there are more layers to the piece, but the majority of
people can appreciate it at a superficial level even if they don’t share the same cultural references I do or the same feelings about things.
PM: Your comics range from talking vegetables to the noticeable moments of
your day-to-day existence. How do you gather your material?
ND: This is always a hard question that people ask a lot… I don’t know how I “gather material.” It’s very much a time-to-make-the-donuts thing. I just sit down and get to it. I
don’t struggle with it, I just do my thing. It’s like any other creative pursuit, I suppose. People who play piano just sit down and play piano, people who dance just get up and dance, and I just sit at
my computer and my site is what happens when I do that.
PM: Do you ever struggle with the term for your occupation,
“comic artist”? Do you feel like this term does or doesn’t do it justice? How
do people react when you tell them that, yeah, this is what I do for a
ND: Not really. When people ask me what I do, I just answer in whatever way I think they’ll be most likely to understand. If I am talking to someone my age, I’ll say I am a cartoonist or illustrator or whatever, and that’s usually good enough. If I am talking to middle-aged
people, or my old neighbor or something, I might say I sell apparel, because that’s how I make the bulk of my income, and an answer like that is less likely to alienate me from people who aren’t too hip. Basically, I just answer in whatever way is least likely to result in a conversation about my job, because working online is already pretty alienating, and I like my social interactions to be as regular as possible. I don’t really worry about doing my profession justice or anything like that. I made a decent living and own a decent house in a good neighborhood, and the fact that I am not living on someone’s couch and smoking cigarette butts off the ground is justice enough, I
think. I try to downplay what I do a lot. If I can avoid the conversation, I always will.
PM: What have been some of the challenges of supporting yourself off
making web comics? What are some of the benefits?
ND: I haven’t really had many challenges, aside from the day-to-day business of coordinating our printers and warehouse people, but that’s just part of the job. I think being able to be independent and run my own business is a benefit, but everything else that goes along with it is usually bullshit.
PM: Some of my favorite comics of yours are concerning Nona, a.k.a. your
daughter and the kid who poops in the pool. Has being a parent changed
the way you make comics?
ND: I have a more regular schedule, because I have to have childcare on days I work, but the basics of it have remained the same. I used to work whenever I wanted, but now I do on a very set schedule and fill the rest of my days doing other stuff. It’s a lot more compartmentalized than it was before, but I kind of like it better like this. When I’m done, I’m done, you know?
PM: Other than comics, how else are you biding your time these days? I
know you have collaborated with your husband, who does Toothpaste for
Dinner, on other projects, as well as putting out some kick ass
ND: Drew and I work in each other’s company, not really full-on collaboration… Too many cooks spoil the soup and all that. Even on Married to the Sea, the comics I’ve done were all me, and the ones he does, he does totally on his own.
The comics always take up most of my time. I just designed a bunch of new shirts at www.sharingmachine.com that took up a lot of time recently. I’ve been doing commissioned pieces, personal pieces that are sold through the Sharing Machine site as well as some corporate
commissions. I’ve also been trying to work on hobby-type stuff on the side, casting resin and stuff like that. Just doing my thing, pretty much!
PM: What great work can we look forward to from you in the not-too-distant future?
ND: I’m going to keep updating my site every single day, but other projects I like to play a little closely. Y’all like surprises more, anyway.
You can find more of Natalie’s comics, shirts, and other goodies on her site, NatalieDee.com