interview: Anna Wanda Gogusey
Anna Wanda Gogusey is a French-born illustrator who as of this interview lived in Austin, Texas, but has since moved to Paris. Her work has appeared in Vice, Nylon, and the Paris-based Retard magazine, which she helped found. She also designs show posters. We sat down for an interview on a sunny afternoon just days before her move, and she told us about her process, her projects, and the annoying nature of immigration visas.
You go by Anna, not Wanda?
AWG: Well, Wanda’s not really my middle name at all.
AWG: Yeah, no, I just made that up because it sounded good and, you know, it flows better, and... I don’t know why. It started a long time ago. Some people just call me Wanda, they don’t even know that my name is Anna.
You sign your name Wanda.
AWG: I sign Wanda and everything, I just decided it was my drawing name because it was more interesting than Anna... But it’s been forever, it started that way when I was like 16, I think.
Do you have a preference for what people call you?
AWG: Well, my name is Anna, so if you know me you’re gonna call me Anna, you know? But yeah, people just call me Anna Wanda. It’s weird.
Was there somebody named Wanda that you thought was really cool?
AWG: I thought the name was cool, and then it turns out that there are so many Wandas that are kind of interesting, you know, like Wanda Jackson, and then in that movie Cry-Baby, Wanda is Traci Lords, that was a porn actress, and then she was a kid in the Cry- Baby movie. And, I don’t know, I just really like that name, and it works.
What brought you to Austin, and why are you leaving?
AWG: When I was in high school, I did an exchange, so I was an exchange student in Texas. They sent me like wherever, I had no choice in wherever I was going to be sent. I wanted to go to New York, you know, but, no, they sent me to Bourne, Texas, which is like an hour and a half away from here. And all my friends moved here and I moved back to France. I went to college in France. I came to visit them afterwards in Austin and I really liked it. I was just like I’m just going to stay here, and I’ve been here since then, basically.
So when you came here you weren’t planning on living here?
AWG: No, I was going to visit for three months and then I ended up living here for three years.
That’s awesome. I knew this couple who were couch-surfing, they were from Paris, and they stayed at my house. They were supposed to be here for a few days, and they ended up staying for an entire week. They cut other cities out of their trip. They were like we just want to move here.
AWG: It’s fun. It’s really nice to live here. People are really, really nice. It’s really pleasant to be outside. Even when it’s super, super hot, it’s okay. There are always things to do, and that’s what I like. I like to be really busy all the time. All the shows and everything to see all the time.
It’s not like that in Paris?
AWG: No. I was talking about that earlier. It’s like there are shows, but it’s like once every two weeks. Here it’s like five-a-week, you know, so you have to choose, and you’re like I think I’m just not going to go there tonight because they’ll come back next month. So it’s like there are so many things to do, so I just stayed here. I figured I could find some work and stuff, and it works really well because you can work for musicians and stuff here and it’s really easy. And I’m leaving because my visa is expiring, and if I extend it more I might not be able to get another one later.
AWG: Yeah, because it’s either you’re a temporary resident or you want to immigrate, you can’t do both. You can’t just be a temporary resident and then immigrate from that. You have to choose, I guess. I don’t know, that’s how it works.
AWG: Yeah, it’s difficult, but it’s okay.
So you had a three-year visa?
AWG: No, it was six months. [laughing]
So you’ve already extended it.
AWG: Yeah. So that’s how it works. You extend it a lot and then it’s like oops, I’ve been here awhile.
Well, we’ll be sad to see you leave.
AWG: I’ll come back, you know.
Let’s talk about your art, your work. You have a really distinct drawing style: blank eyes, animals, animals getting pierced by arrows. When would you say your technique really came into its own?
AWG: I don’t know, because I’ve always drawn, ever since I could hold a pen. It’s been a very long time. I went to school for graphic design, and I think that’s kind of when I decided what my drawing style was, because I studied graphic design and decided I hated it and I wanted to do everything by hand. Everything that was computer-made was just not my thing, layouts and logos and everything. And so that’s when I really decided what I wanted my drawings to look like. And that’s when I started making stuff for musicians and posters and stuff. I think the graphic design part of my education helps with my posters, of course, for my eye, but I don’t use it that much. That’s when I decided, when I was about 18 or 19.
And your style has been pretty much consistent since then?
AWG: Yeah, it changes. I go through phases where I only draw animals. Sometimes I try to go through phases where I draw houses and cars and other things, but mostly I always come back to kind of the same thing. But it evolves with whatever I’m doing.
Why animals, especially deer? It seems you have a special affinity for them.
AWG: Think about it: animals are so much cooler to look at and draw than people. You can see so many drawings of people or people with a lot of arms and stuff like that. You can create whatever animal from another animal and you can just make up a new weird species of something that would be like three different animals. It’s so much cooler, it would have fur and little patterns on it. It’s much more interesting, that’s why I like it. I like deer. They’re cute, but they’re associated with so many horrible things, like hunting, like Bambi’s mom. It’s a very cute animal, but people really like to eat deer. It’s a thing I like in my work: it’s cute but creepy. Deer are kind of like that.
It’s the perfect animal to symbolize that.
AWG: They’re cute but they’re associated with so many horrible things that it’s kind of cool.
I first came into contact with your work when I saw a poster you made for a Sun Araw show at Hotel Vegas. There was actually a deer on that one. Was that the first poster you did for Hotel Vegas?
AWG: It was the first poster I made, yeah!
I was taken by it. I noticed it.
AWG: That’s funny.
I actually stole it off the wall.
AWG: It was the first poster I made. I didn’t know how it worked at Vegas, if they would accept posters or not, or if they would make me redo something. The first poster I made for that show was a really cool octopus. I spent a lot of time on it, and Jason [McNeely] at Hotel Vegas was like “I don’t like this poster. You should just make something else.” And I was like is it going to be like this every time I make a poster for them? Is it going to be like no, we don’t like it, so just redo it. But no, it turns out that Jason doesn’t really like sea creatures.
AWG: And so I started with a sea creature and he didn’t like it, and so I had to redo it. And that’s how I did this deer. I had to do it in like two hours. I was like I don’t know what to do! Then I was like—a deer! Of course, a deer! So I tried it. He refused the first poster, but he’s never refused anything else since then because I asked him and he said he didn’t like sea creatures. And so I’ve never drawn a sea creature again.
Did you ask him why he doesn’t like sea creatures?
AWG: No, I’ve never asked. There might be some deep dark secret.
How did you start designing posters for Hotel Vegas? Did they seek you out? Were you commissioned?
AWG: Well, they used to have the same person make all the posters, Jaime [Zuverza], and then he went on tour, and then he was not really that available anymore, and so they were trying to find someone with a style to make posters again because there is Ben Tipton who makes posters, and then there’s like a couple other people, but they don’t really have a style that much, they can just make a poster out of another image or something like that. And Ben, who is my friend, was talking to Jason about it, and he was like there’s this girl, Anna, and she makes drawings, and she makes posters sometimes and she’d be good for that. And that’s why it started. I make a lot of them because I work really fast, so they usually send me something at 10 at night, and I have to turn it in at midnight.
Oh, no kidding!
AWG: Yeah, because they know I can work that fast and I’m gonna have an idea, so they just send me the worst things ever, and they’re like we need this in two hours, and I’m like okay.
How do you go about making it? Especially in such a short time?
AWG: I don’t know, seriously. I always go with my first idea, even if it’s super absurd. I just like go on the Internet and then I look at things, but it’s not even like I’m going to copy something, because I could look at a plane and then be like, oh my god, that’d be so cool to like draw a house on fire, just because I looked at a plane, you know, I have no idea how that happens. But yeah, I always do that. Like the other day, we were watching this movie Clash of the Titans at some bar, it was in the background, and I was just like, oh, I need an idea for a poster. I’m just gonna do this scene where the dude is holding this Medusa head, and the eyes are flashing and whatever. So I just did that for the show that was yesterday at Vegas. Just because you need an idea really fast, because they want the poster really fast. And it matters, you know, what it looks like, but not that much if you think about it, because the poster’s gonna be up for like a week. And so it needs to look cool, and catch your eye, so it can be anything, as long as it does that. You know? So even if it’s a super stupid idea, it’s gonna work.
So do you just draw it out in pen, and then... ?
AWG: Yeah, and I scan it, and I edit it on the computer with the colors.
What other sorts of work have you been commissioned to do lately?
AWG: Well, so I was telling you I worked for the Fader Fort during SXSW, doing illustrations for Dell; they’re sponsored, so I just drew on the wall. That was a thing that I did recently. But other than that, I worked for Austin Zine Fest, I did a tote bag for them. And then, what else did I do? I don’t know.
Did Fader Fort contact you?
AWG: Yeah, I actually worked for them last year. I was working for Converse, doing embroidery for the custom shop—I was just sewing on shoes. And I got that because I’m friends with this one dude who did a mural for them, and they were asking him if he had names of other artists in Austin, and he came up with my name, and so that’s how I got that job. Because they don’t really wanna look for anyone, they’re just like tell us people and then we’ll come find them. So that’s what happened. So they contacted me again this year, because, you know, they’re kind of lazy, they don’t want to look for people.
And they had you just come in and draw pictures on the walls?
AWG: Yeah, I mean I actually designed things first, and then we submitted everything to Dell and then Dell said no to everything. I had a really cool E.T. thing, because you know like Dell is communicating and stuff like that. Power and whatever. And so E.T. was perfect, and they were like no, definitely not E.T. I was like come on! He’s really cool. But no, that didn’t work.
They said no to a bunch of your stuff, right?
AWG: They said no to everything. I had a really cool muscle man, you know one of those weird swimsuit type of things, and it was just like yeah, the power thing. And it would have looked awesome on the wall. But they were like no, definitely not.
AWG: I don’t know. Because it’s weird, I guess, to them? So I was allowed to draw lightning bolts and stars and computers. It looked so lame when I was done. I didn’t even take a picture. I was just like you know, whatever.
Well I’m sorry it didn’t work out as well as you might have hoped.
AWG: It’s okay. It’s like you gotta, with what I do, you gotta go through sometimes super boring work, because you’re just asked to do it, and they pay you, and you’re just like well I guess I’ll do it.
What’s your favorite commission that you’ve received?
AWG: I don’t know if I really have a favorite one. I really like making posters, so the posters are a lot of what I like to do. And I really like embroidering. So anytime someone commissions me for embroidery, that’s one of my favorite things to do. Recently I did embroidery of a panther head for one of my friends, on the back of his biker’s jacket, and that was cool, you know, it was just like I know that these people wear those jackets a lot, so I can see them sometimes and see my work on their backs and I’m like this is really awesome.
And you’ve got a tiger on your jacket.
AWG: Yeah, actually I have three or four denim jackets, just because I buy them to embroider the back, and then maybe I could sell that, but I just keep it for myself, so I just end up having a bunch of my embroidery on my back. Because it’s fun. I like to do it, it’s really relaxing, so it’s one of my favorite things to do.
Have you ever turned a commission down?
AWG: Yes. But I never turn down work, even if I’m super busy, just because you never have enough work, but I might turn down work, depending on the way the people are communicating to you. If they’re like oh, you’re on a list of people that we want but you’re in competition with other people, I’m not gonna compete with other people to work for you. It’s not like you’re some kind of crazy awesome person I want to work for. I don’t like that. And some people don’t even tell you. They’re just like oh sorry, we just got someone else to do the work, but you know, I guess we’re not paying for your sketches either. So there’s stuff like that that happens, and you’re just like really? You think this is just my hobby? So if people are a little bit difficult like that, I can turn down a commission, but I never really do it unless they’re really rude like that.
Has it happened, where you’ve turned someone down before?
AWG: It happened a couple years back, yeah. I did sketches for this company in Switzerland for whatever it was, something about plants, probably it was medicine or something like that, I don’t remember exactly. But they didn’t get back to me at all about the sketches. I was just like okay, so I just sent them an e-mail and was like okay, so what’s up with the sketches, you didn’t see them? It was a month later. And I was just like you’re actually being kind of rude, so uh, in the future you should know that if someone sends you sketches and they work for you, it would be good to give them feedback, because what you are doing is rude. So they answered, you’re still on the list to work for us, in competition with other people, but seeing the way that you’re talking to us, we took you off the list. And it’s just like—what list? How did I talk to you? I was in my own right. And it was a lady talking to me, and she was like well, I got pregnant and I had a baby and all of that, and so that’s why I didn’t answer your e-mail. And I was like well, you’re a professional, so who gives a shit if you’re pregnant or not. If you can’t do your job, you can’t do your job. And also you can just send an e-mail being like I’m busy, I’ll answer later. That takes a minute.
Put up an auto-reply, like I’ll be out of the office for a month or something.
AWG: Yeah, and so that’s when I’m gonna be like okay, I’m not working for you.
You said in an interview once that you don’t consider yourself an artist, that you’re an illustrator, and you work for people. Is thatt rue? You don’t consider yourself an artist?
AWG: No, I think it’s just because of the way that people that consider themselves artists act and talk about themselves, I don’t want to be associated with that really. You know, because there are so many people that are just like yeah, I’m an artist, and they’re not really artists at all, and they just use that as an excuse to be weird, or, you know, I think it’s just so dumb how people call themselves stuff. Like people who got a camera and they’re a photographer instantly. That’s dumb, you know, and so I don’t want to be part of that, so I’d rather say I’m an illustrator, which is what I am. I barely ever work for myself; I do it when I have time. But I actually have trouble sometimes when people are like can you do an exhibition with us? I’m just like I have no stuff to put up—
AWG: I don’t have time, it’s like all my time goes to making stuff for people, and then when I’m not doing that I want to do something else, I guess, so I do very little for myself anymore, which sucks. I wish I did more.
I’m sorry to hear that. But you do sometimes do projects on your own—for example, you do collage work, and you said that you do that for yourself, you don’t do commissioned work.
AWG: That’s why I’ve been working on the same project for two years and I’m not done with it yet.
What is the project?
AWG: It’s this little sketchbook that I have that has a lot of pages in it, and I want to do only collages with those pictures. They are family pictures. It’s just because, you know, we don’t have photo albums anymore really, because everything is digital, and so all those pictures are in boxes, it’s all old pictures of my family, my stepdad’s family, and no one ever looks at them. And so I figured if I make them into a piece of art, then you look at them all the time, because it’s a piece of art. And so I started that awhile ago, but it takes me a little bit of time to think about what I’m going to do, and I have a lot of them, so I’m not done yet. But when I’m done, that’s going to be some sort of zine. I want to choose the best ones and put them into a zine so I can sell that, so that I make something out of it.
So it’s still not just for yourself, because you’re trying to sell it.
AWG: It’s kind of what happens when the one thing you like to do is also your job. You end up thinking in terms of making money every single time you do something, because that’s your job. So that’s kind of the dumb side of doing something you really like.
What inspires you especially to do personal projects like that?
AWG: I don’t know. Music. I listen to a lot of music, and then I’m listening to stuff and there’s this one lyric and I think it sounds cool and I think it’s a good idea. Or—it sounds dumb, but—poetry. I don’t read poetry that much, but I have poetry books that I just open randomly at pages, and same thing as lyrics, I just look at it, read the words, and it makes me think of something else. So stuff like that, a lot of words, basically. Not really anything visual, I don’t really try to take ideas from movies too much.
Except Clash of the Titans.
AWG: Yeah, well, sometimes, you know, it’s something that’s funny, and so it works. But yeah, I’m completely lying, because I do that a lot. I try not to, but it just comes like that. Yeah, it’s like Clash of the Titans, and I did this one thing with a teenage werewolf the other day, so there’s that. But mostly music and then just things, you know, like pop culture things. Miley Cyrus or Lindsay Lohan are personal inspirations of mine.
You mean Teen Wolf, the movie? Is that the one you’re talking about?
AWG: Is it Teen Wolf or Teenage Werewolf ? I don’t remember—
I only know Teen Wolf.
AWG: With Michael C.—what’s his name?
Michael J. Fox?
AWG: Michael J. Fox. I’m like Michael C. Hall, or Michael J. Fox, and you’re like— yeah. So it’s Teen Wolf ?
I haven’t seen it.
AWG: It’s really funny, he’s really hairy and he’s always wearing basketball things, but it was for this show for a band called Basketball Shorts, and then another band called Ghost Wolves, and I’m just like—easy! Wolf and shorts, and it’s perfect.
You recently put out a zine called You’re a Pain in the Ass, with Roca Balboa.
AWG: Yeah, she’s one of my college friends.
How did that project come about?
AWG: Okay, so she, this girl, Roca—her name is Caroline, so it’s like Caro, Roca, you know, and she’s really into Rocky Balboa—but she came to visit me in Austin for a month. So it was like okay, you’re gonna stay a month, but we gotta do something together, we gotta make something, because it would be too bad to be together again and not even work on something. And yeah, I don’t know. We didn’t find an idea of what to do, we were just like drinking every day and going out and whatever, so it was just like you wake up at three in the afternoon and we’re just like oh, I guess we’ll work tomorrow. And I don’t know, at this time she was having a lot of trouble with guys, and this one dude was just really mean to her... And there was this one guy in Austin that she really liked but she couldn’t talk to him because she was so intimidated and everything. And I was just going through total bullshit, too, and I was just like this is not okay, dudes are not okay, we should do something about this. And so we sat down and we made a list of things that we didn’t like about guys, and when you date guys and there are just things that happen, just like—how does that happen? Why are you such an asshole? So we made a list and we just cut it in half and decided to draw one page for each of them. And so some of them are just stupid, like I don’t like guys with silly underwear, they just take off their pants and you’re like—what is this! But some of them are kind of personal stories.
It’s very personal. And in the special thanks section in the back you put all their names.
AWG: Yeah, we did.
What inspired you to do that?
AWG: Because it was for them to see.
You wanted them to know?
AWG: I wanted them to know, yeah, I wanted them to recognize themselves, so there are actually a couple of the guys on the pages that it’s their portraits, it’s their faces, so it’s really easy to find them. And it’s really funny because one of those guys only now just saw himself, and I was like I thought you saw that a million years ago, and it was kind of funny because he was acting all cool about it, but I felt that deep down he was kind of a little bit offended.
What sort of reaction did you get from them?
AWG: Well, that one guy was just like that’s cool, no one ever drew me before. I was like I drew you with your head cut off, you know. So it’s not like I’m being nice, you know, it’s not nice. And then, there’s one—actually there’s one guy that Roca really liked, I don’t know if he ever saw himself because it’s the last page, and he’s drawn as like the Venus of Botticelli, and he’s all cute and with his hair flowing, and I don’t know if he ever saw himself because that would be really funny. But it’s definitely intended for people to see it, because it’s like oh yeah, you were a douchebag, I want you to know.
Tell me about the line you draw between personal and private. I mean, with the zine, and you have a tumblr page that you put most of your work on, is there anything that you feel you don’t want to share with people?
AWG: I actually don’t share that much. It feels like it’s really personal, I guess. You’re a Pain in the Ass was a really personal project, but then again, it’s not something that I would not tell to anyone. I like telling embarrassing stories about myself because it’s funny, and I might as well laugh about it with other people than just think about it and cry in my room at night. So I have no problem with that, but it’s only if it’s embarrassing and funny I’m going to say it. If it’s just personal, just personal and not even interesting to other people, I don’t see why I would talk about it. I only talk about it if I find that other people are going to find it funny and interesting. So that’s where the line is. I’m not just going to talk about my life. Because that’s just— who cares about that, you know? It’s only interesting if there is something to it, that it can bring to other people, you know, our stories with guys. It’s like yeah, we did this, so anyone can tell—whoever they’re dating—that this is bullshit. So that was the whole point, it was so we would tell other people that it’s okay to criticize things, because sometimes you need to talk about it, you know? So that’s the only reason why I would do something personal.
Let’s talk about Retard magazine. That’s an online-only project, right?
AWG: Yeah. Actually, we just finished the paper version and it’s coming out next week. It’s awesome.
AWG: Yeah, so I’m going back to France on Monday. On Thursday I have the opening of a personal exhibition, and on Saturday we have the opening of the Retard exhibition. So a week from now we have the opening of Retard and it’s all of the illustrators and photographers that work with us, and it’s kind of in a nice place and everything, and for that we decided to do a paper version. So we asked people to draw an original illustration just for that. It’s called All By Myself, for the whole do-it-yourself thing. Also, Celine Dion—do you know who Celine Dion is?
Celine Dion? Yeah, of course.
AWG: Okay, you know she covered that song “All By Myself,” which is ridiculous, so we really like her, too. So yeah, we actually have a paper version now, so it’s not only online. But it was mostly online.
So you have a personal exhibition in Paris on Thursday, and then the magazine exhibition on Saturday?
How did you set up a personal exhibition while you were here in Austin?
AWG: Oh, you know, I just like do things everywhere. No, it’s this place that works— we work with Retard magazine with them to organize shows there, and I draw illustrations for their monthly music mix that they put up every month. So I’ve been doing that, so I’ve been in contact with them still, and then they were just like we want to organize an exhibition with you, and I was just like okay, we can do that! But it’s only going to be show posters because it’s really easy for me, I just have to go print them and bring them over. Otherwise, you know, with drawings you have to have frames, and it takes time. I mean, I get there on [April] 1st, I have two days to set it up.
That’s awesome, though. So it’s all Hotel Vegas posters?
AWG: Yeah, mostly Hotel Vegas. I have some shows in France that I drew for, and I have a couple other posters that I did in town for Red 7 and Mohawk.
Cool, I haven’t seen those.
AWG: Well they’re all through Hotel Vegas anyway, but it’s there, so it’s a different thing.
I have to ask: In French, “retard” means to delay, or to slow down. Is that the correct way to read the title of your magazine?
AWG: Actually, yeah. So it’s a French magazine, it’s all in French, and we just chose retard because—it means “late.” And so, when we started it, we—all the girls that started it—we’re only girls, and so we wanted something girly, but not too girly. So “late” is really good for that because girls are notorious to be late. Because you have to put on makeup or whatever. And then girls freak out if their period is late—stuff like that. “Late” is a very girl thing. And so we were just like, this is perfect. And the fact that it means “retard” in English is even better, because it puts another layer, another meaning. That makes it even funnier.
Does the magazine try to be offensive in its content?
AWG: Not really, no. We’re not trying to be offensive, but we don’t censor things that are offensive. It’s like—you can’t read it, it’s too bad, I wanted to translate it to English— but we encourage people to write in a very familiar way, you know, like write as you talk, talk about whatever you want to talk. We do refuse some articles sometimes because it’s not interesting, but most of the time we publish every one, and yeah, it’s like you talk about whatever you want. So we had some very, very funny stories—like this one time, there was this girl that was talking about how she lost her tampon inside of herself, and she went to the hospital for that. And she found out that she actually didn’t lose it, she just forgot she took it out. But yeah, it’s like we get things like that, and then we had this one dude who wrote this very long series about World War II, and historical events during that, it got a lot of following for that. So we got like everything we cannot talk about. We don’t censor things that would be offensive, but we don’t try to be offensive. It’s just like we’re really open to whatever.
Is it mostly personal essays then?
AWG: Yeah, I would say yes. We don’t really necessarily want to get that too much, but that’s what we get, mostly. Because it’s true that people, through talking about themselves, end up talking about topics that are actually kind of interesting. So it works. It’s more a question of like oh, the other day I was going out and doing this, and then I stumbled upon whatever, and then they talk about that, and then they come back to themselves. So it’s like you end up talking about something. I wrote an article once about why Austin was such a shitty city. But it was in response to this one girl that came to Austin and visited and wrote about how awesome it was. And I was like don’t do that, then like a million people will move here, and then it’s less cool. And so I wrote this one, it’s actually kind of a joke, about everything that’s shitty in Austin, just so that people would read it and be like oh Austin’s actually not that cool, I’m not gonna go there.
What did you say?
AWG: I just found everything that was just not working. Like traffic, too much traffic. People from LA come here too often. You know, it’s just dumb things, but if you put them all together it sounds like I hate Austin. Which is because I didn’t talk about anything that was cool, you know?
But you don’t actually hate Austin.
AWG: No, I love Austin. I mean, I’ve been here forever. But it’s just like I don’t want to tell people I love Austin, otherwise everyone moves here. And I don’t want more French people to move here, because I don’t want it to be France Two, you know? When you go to Berlin, there are so many French people in Berlin, it’s just like why am I even in another country? I’m surrounded by French people.
Interview by Sean Redmond.
Photography by Ali Copeland.
All artwork untitled, 2013-2014.