by Ananya Vahal
Emmy award winning illustrator Dawud Anyabwile is visiting SCAD Atlanta on Tuesday, April 12 at 11a.m. at 1600 Peachtree in room 389 to share his knowledge and experience with SCAD students. I had the opportunity to sit down with him last week in the corner of a busy Midtown Panera Bread to talk about his latest work in the “Brotherman Comic” series and his experience in the industry.
Anyabwile and his brother Guy A. Sims created the “Brotherman Comic” series in the 1990’s and self-published the work during a time when black comic book characters were almost non-existent. In January 2016, they published their newest Brotherman comic which was one of three comics in the series. According to Anyabwile, this comic was “twenty years in the making [but] the actual production time was a year.” Anyabwile finished the entire comic in less than a year between April 2015 and December 2015, but he admitted it was no easy task. “To crank that out in a year, that was rough,” he said.
Anyabwile’s humility was apparent as he barely spent any time discussing his accolades, which include an Emmy and working with major television stations such as Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and Turner Studios. He has worked on cartoons that many of us grew up watching like “The Wild Thornberry’s” and “Rugrats.” Instead, Anyabwile discussed his vision in the industry and what he plans to do with his position as an influential artist in the field.
Anyabwile and his brother created the “Brotherman Comic” series with the purpose of bringing more diversity to the comic book world and to be able to tell untold stories about their culture and experience of growing up African-American in the United States. Anyabwile said, “When [we] pull[ed] from culture, we were really telling our story from a perspective that we didn’t think we [saw] in comics.” He wanted to tell stories that differed from the usual superhero stories that have always been popular in comics. He said,“[Brotherman Comics are] not really built on the superhero genre, even though it touches on that. When people read it they say it was more like a drama than a superhero story.”
In addition to diversity in comics, Anyabwile is passionate about providing education and job opportunities for the youth. His vision includes a production studio combined with an education center for teaching young artists. He wants to build his own merchandise so that he can create jobs for young people to learn important skills. He said, “What it does is, if we’re doing silk screening, or heat press, or digital printing [and] we’re hiring youth between the ages of 16-24 so now they have jobs but they’re working with intellectual properties that are well known.”
Anaybwile also wants to help educate young artists about the business side of the art world. Anyabwile said, “I know some talented artists that are working at the supermarket and they don’t know what to do with their art and they’re always looking for somebody to discover them as opposed to getting out there and making it happen.” He thinks artists need more direction in their fields when it comes to selling their work. He also mentioned many art students who come out with artistic skills but lack entrepreneurial skills. “Some of [the students] come out of institutions where they’re well equipped technically, but they don’t know what to do with it,” he said. He had to learn the business side of art on his own with the help of his father, and he wants to share that knowledge with young artists who are so focused on producing art that they don’t take the time to learn how to make money from the art.
Anyabwile also began the “Drawing from the Soul” workshops to encourage artistic youth to express themselves and tell their own stories. He said, “We also find out there are so many great artists out here, how are we going to build our own thing? When you build your own thing you may not have to be the best artist, you just create something that’s unique.” Anyabwile believes being unique and telling your story is much more important in art than being the best technically. He encourages young artists to focus more on being themselves instead of worrying about being perfect. In many ways his vision for the future of comics and art in general is much more important than his accolades. He said, “What we’re doing is bigger than us. We’re trying to build something that creates opportunity.”
Make sure you come and see him speak on April 12th. You can find more information about Dawud Anyabwile at www.anyabwile.com. You can find more information about “Brotherman Comics” at www.brothermancomics.com.