Illustrious Illustrations: Ariel Schrag’s Cartoons

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Ariel Schrag is a cartoonist who draws autobiographical graphic novels chock full of wide-eyed  versions of the people in her life. Her book Potential, which chronicles Ariel's (drama filled!) junior year at Berkeley High School, is being developed into a major motion picture. Also a TV writer, Ariel is currently staffed on the jeans-and-tees-centric HBO show How To Make It In America and penned scripts for Seasons 3 and 4 of The L Word. Ariel also writes an epically hilarious web comic with her friend, comedy dude Kevin Seccia, called Ariel and Kevin Invade Everything.

What's your background?

I’ve been drawing since foreverish, but in high school I got really serious about being a cartoonist. I wrote my first comic, Awkward, about my freshman year of high school during the summer after that year and then photocopied it and sold it around school. I decided I should write a comic about every year of high school and it became this epic project I was obsessed with that ended up taking 10 years to finally finish. The series is 737 pages in all.

Your comics are autobiographical, using characters from your life. Anyone ever get mad about the way you portrayed/drew them?

Well, it was definitely complicated. In short, yes, people got mad. Very mad. But for unexpected reasons. This one girl who is barely in the comic, like she just appears in a few background scenes, got really upset because she claims I drew her “fat.” She is not “fat” and I swear to god she is not drawn any different from any of the other characters. But that was her gripe. Never mind that I drew her getting wasted and me trying to make out with her girlfriend. It’s the physical details that really get to people and I’m the same way. My friend Gabrielle Bell draws autobiographical comics that I sometimes appear in as a character and I’m always like: “STOP DRAWING ME WEARING GLASSES I DON’T CARE IF EVERYTIME YOU SEE ME I’M WEARING GLASSES I DON’T WANT TO BE WEARING GLASSES.” The thing is though, that if given a choice most people would rather see any depiction of themselves, flattering or not, than no depiction at all. I mean, is there anything more fascinating than seeing someone else’s creative representation of yourself? I don’t think so.

What's your dream collaboration?

My dream collaboration is that me, Gabrielle Bell, Chris Ware, Adrian Tomine, Dan Clowes, Joe Matt, and Lynda Barry all have some crazy, debaucherous, mystery-solving, life-altering day together, then each write a comic about our individual experiences of that day, and then publish all the stories in one big book.

You recently designed a tattoo. How did that process work?

The last tattoo I designed was a Tegan and Sara tattoo, which was great since I love Tegan and Sara. The girl who commissioned it wanted the tattoo to reflect several of their songs. She gave me a rough description of what she wanted and I sent her several sketches until we landed on the design she liked.