Annie Dwyer:
Combining a Love of Writing With Visual Arts to Tell Stories

When did you first know you were an artist?
I think I always thought of myself as an artist as well as a writer. As a little kid, I wrote and illustrated books; I was pretty prolific. As a teenager, I wandered away from writing and studied drawing and painting. Though words still found their way into my work and I loved storytelling, I thought I had to choose. I didn’t consider how I could combine both loves to tell stories (through animation, comics and graphic novels) until an embarrassingly late age. 

Favorite medium(s) you use to make art?
For a long time, I used the same materials – Black UniBall micro pens, Tombow black brush markers, pencils and cheap printer paper. I drew by hand, then scanned my work into the computer and used Photoshop to color. Lately, I’ve been using Procreate and Adobe Fresco on an iPad, which has changed the way I work. I still do a few rough sketches first but the bulk of my work is done digitally. 

What are the most interesting new trends in your field? Is your work changing as a result?
So many animators, illustrators, cartoonists, and graphic novelists have switched to using Procreate on the iPad. It has been a game-changer. The ability to draw directly onto the screen and work in layers has simplified the process. It’s also so convenient that the iPad is portable, allowing me to work anywhere very easily. I used to think my work was too tight, too controlled, and this has allowed me to loosen up a little more. The animation features are also really simple, which has allowed me to learn and start creating animation in addition to illustration and comics. One other plus is that I’m wasting far less paper, which makes my work more sustainable than it used to be.

Talk about your creative process – where/when do you get most of your ideas and how do you know a piece is ‘finished’?
I carry a sketchbook with me everywhere I go. I jot ideas down whenever they come to me. Sometimes I don’t have time to fully develop my ideas so the sketchbook serves as a reminder and inspiration later. My ideas often come from daily life, from places I’ve gone, something I’ve read or watched, or from moments with my family. I’m incredibly curious about everything, so whenever something interests me, I tend to research it and take notes, which I later want to share in some way. When I’m ready to turn an idea into a comic or animation, I do a really rough storyboard. The sketches are terrible, but they give me an idea of the flow and where I need to make edits. Once I feel like I’ve worked out the kinks, I start making better sketches for each panel or frame. I often do visual research to help figure out how I’d like to show the angles, perspective or other details. Once I’m happy with the sketch, I draw a final version in ink or on the iPad and color it digitally. When I look at all of the work in sequence and it flows, I know I’m done. Sometimes I decide it needs one more (or one less) panel. I’m a little less exacting with sharing mini-comics online because I’m trying to overcome perfectionism; I see it more as a practice of sharing from my sketchbook. 

Do you also teach or are you strictly a creative artist? Who was your most influential mentor and why?
Last fall, I taught for MAD for the first time, teaching a session of Youth Art Studio with middle school kids at The D.R.A.W. I used to be the Art Director for YMCA afterschool and summer camp programs and taught a variety of arts and crafts, everything from drawing and painting to papier mache and sewing. I have also taught drawing, character design, and graphic storytelling for local schools, libraries and youth programs.

I am largely self-taught but have found a lot of inspiration from other artists. Lynda Barry and Maira Kalman, in particular, have been tremendous influences. They have combined art and writing in ways that are so interesting, which encouraged me to do it too.

What are you working on now?
I’m working on a book proposal for a graphic memoir. I’m also hoping to try to make mini-comics more regularly and turn some of them into zines.

How has being in Kingston enhanced/inspired your work? What do you like best about living in Kingston/being involved with MAD? How long have you been here?
I’ve lived in Kingston for 15 years. I lived in the Rondout most of that time and recently moved uptown, which has been really stimulating. I love being able to walk around and get inspired by the murals, the history, and the architectural details, but also be a short drive from some of the most beautiful places to hike and relax.

I loved my experience teaching for Youth Art Studio – I often learn as much from the students as they do from me! I really enjoy watching them work through the creative process. It’s always inspiring to see what they come up with.

Originally from upstate New York, Annie Dwyer is an illustrator, cartoonist, writer and mom of three in Kingston. She studied Studio Art at Skidmore College but is mostly self-taught in her illustration, comics and animation techniques. For a number of years, she illustrated columns for Chronogram and Organic Hudson Valley. She also illustrated two children’s books for Xist Publishing: If A Dog Could Wear a Hat and There’s A Dog on the Dining Room Table. You can check her work out at

Upcoming classes

Fantastic Drawing
This class focuses on mixed media and construction.
Youth Art Studio at The D.R.A.W.
February 13 through April 2, 2020

Annie and two other teaching artists will conduct a three-week project for middle school students centered on media arts and visual communication. Check The D.R.A.W. website for details soon.

Youth Art Lab at The Kingston Library
Summer 2020

Where to find me online: