Nineteen Letters Long is a webcomic that launched in June of 2013, adding some brilliantly hilarious comics to the world in a graphically-pleasing way. Often arranged in a multi-panel format, creator Brian Buie uses his comic as a venue to highlight some of the oddities that we all face in life. Sometimes he delves into the human mind, exposing somewhat embarrassing thoughts. Other times, he personifies inanimate objects, providing funny insights into unexplored possibilities of what those things could be thinking if they had a conscious mind.
The true beauty of Nineteen Letters Long is how Brian continues to shed light on the things that people often take so serious. I, for one, have been a repeat offender on that front, which is why I started creating comics in the first place. I think that is why I personally love Nineteen Letters Long and the way Brian regularly reminds viewers that if we take a step back and really look at it, life’s just so silly. Read more about this incredible designer in my interview with him below:
Interview with Brian Buie, Creator of Nineteen Letters Long:
Q. Have you always been an artist and/or what got you into drawing comics?
A. I’ve always been into art. I went to art school at the Kansas City Art Institute right after high school. I’ve been all around the board. I did painting, drawing, Illustration, web design (flash websites eeeeek), and both 2-D and 3-D animation in highschool. I thought I would continue doing animation in college, but ended up moving to sculpture. I left the Art Institute to maybe take up Architecture, but ended up sticking with Graphic Design. And now that I’ve got my degree in Graphic Design, I’m illustrating comics.
Q. What inspired you to begin Nineteen Letters Long?
A. During my final semester in Design (last spring), I took up the Illustrator position at the school’s newspaper on a whim, and made 2 comics that were featured on the back page of the paper. Seeing the positive response from that (and getting to the front page of reddit for the first time) is what caused me to start Nineteen Letters Long.
Q. I started following your comics immediately after your launch on Facebook, loving the first one I saw, which was “How to tell a joke.” What have been some of your more well-received comics?
A. Let’s see, here are some of the more popular ones:
Q. For all comic artists, some comics get a better reception than others. Does the reception of a comic affect how you proceed with the content for your upcoming comics?
A. Seeing a hugely positive response to some comics and not others certainly affected me a lot at first. It was always a huge bummer when I would make a comic that I thought would do really well, and then it kind of flopped. I also started noticing that I didn’t enjoy the actual comic making process as much when I was doing it to please the internet. I’ve gotten a lot better about doing them for myself and for the sake of illustrating. It’s a lot more fun when I post the comic and I know that I enjoyed putting as much effort in to it as I could, and the response from others doesn’t change that.
Q. Your font choices and artistic elements in your comics have changed since your launch in June 2013. How has your process changed and why?
A. I think part of it has to do with getting more familiar with the programs and processes. It’s kind of funny thinking back on some of the first comics I made and how I had no idea what I was doing. I’m sure I’ll eventually look back on right now and think the same thing, but that means I’m learning! I also used to be really concerned with finding a style and sticking with it, so all of the comics would be cohesive and recognizable as mine. I took a step back after getting through my first 50 comics, and realized I wasn’t where I wanted to be, and it was because I was trying to stick to a poorly developed style. I decided that I wasn’t going to bother myself with that anymore, and just experiment as much as possible. Over time, certain things will start to stick, and I’ll eventually have some sort of style.
Q. I know the people who process my UPS orders must wonder what type of weird person I am. Does your day job at UPS help inspire some of your comics?
A. Yeah, it can sometimes. The characters that work there have definitely inspired some characters in my comics. At the very least, the mindlessness of the job has given me plenty of time to think of comic ideas. I get funny looks sometimes when I burst out laughing for no particular reason.
Q. I loved seeing the time-lapse video of the fan art you made for me. How long does your actual process average in real-time?
A. It definitely differs from one comic to the next. I’d say on average, a comic will take me 3-4 hours. Oddly enough, when I’m recording my process, it only takes me around 2 hours. I’m guessing it’s because I can’t wander over to Craigslist to look for used furniture while it’s recording.
Q. What are some comics that best sum up what Nineteen Letters Long is about:
Q. If you could create a Nineteen Letters Long animated short, what would be the one message/lesson you would want viewers to walk away with?
A. Life is funny. Everything is funny, and there’s absolutely no denying it. You’re horribly depressed? That’s hilarious! I mean really, it is. Your brain is producing chemicals that cause you to think that the world is terrible. You wanna know the best part? It makes you think that you’re depressed BECAUSE the world is terrible, WHEN IT’S REALLY THE OTHER WAY AROUND! HAHA! You just got pranked by your own brain!
Q. Who have been your biggest comic influences and why?
A. I like a lot of different comics for different reasons. I think the biggest thing that jumps out at me is the writing. It definitely makes or breaks a comic, and is something that I try and focus on the most with my own comic. Some of my favorites are:
Q. What has been the best piece of design or artistic advice that you have received? What one piece of advice would you give aspiring comic artists who are new to the world of webcomics?
A. I gotta go with the Ira Glass quote about the gap between your ability and taste:
“All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions.” ~ Ira Glass
This advice has really resonated with me. I think I’m getting better, but I’m still far from where I want to be, and that’s okay.
As for new comic artists, have fun with it. If you’re doing it for any other reason, it’s going to turn into a chore. If you’re getting bored, do something new, and get weird with it. Making it fun is the most important part, because you sure as hell aren’t going to make any money off of it and nobody is going to look at it anytime soon. Make yourself laugh and who knows, maybe some other people will laugh too.
Q. What are your future goals and/or up-and-coming projects?
A. I definitely want to print some small ‘zines soon. I’d like to try some short stories and eventually work up to a big book. I’d also like to do some animation soon.
Q. Anything else you want to add?
A. If you take a can of tuna and mix it with bar-b-que sauce and put it on a sandwich, it’s just as good as fancy meat. The big BBQ corporations don’t want you to know that though.