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Check Out Anna Sellheim’s Story

Today we’d like to introduce you to Anna Sellheim. 

Hi Anna, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I’ve been drawing my entire life. I started using art and comics as a coping mechanism for PTSD and undiagnosed rapid cycle bipolar disorder in elementary school. To this day, my creative practice is my most important form of self-care. I am from Washington DC, so I was lucky enough able to attend Duke Ellington School of the Arts. Duke Ellington is the second-best art magnet high school in the country. I studied visual art 4 hours a day in addition to a normal high school curriculum. I also started doing comics in my free time in my sketchbooks. 

I dropped in and out of fine art programs in college. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life, so I had no idea what to get my degree in. I went to 5 different colleges and was matriculated in 3 of them. I’d go to a college, miss studying art, and get into a fine art program. I would then realize I didn’t want a BFA so I’d drop out of school again. I ended up with a liberal studies BA from SUNY Purchase. I hit a creative art block in my last few years of college. I still made art obsessively, but I hated everything I did. Looking at my sketchbooks from late college and my early 20s, my art was actually pretty good. I was just unconsciously simplifying my style, which I saw as lacking at the time. 

I got a reception job at a physical therapy office in my mid-20s, I LOVED it. I drew a lot during downtime between dealing with patients. However, I realized I needed more to have a fulfilling life. I joined Square City Comics, a casual comics collective in DC. I eventually became an organizer. My father died in 2013 and I was given an inheritance, so I used it to attend the Center for Cartoon Studies, where I received my MFA in 2016. 

I hated the last year of my MFA program. This was partly because I broke my drawing hand in the last semester of college. I have a bone disease called Osteogenisis Imperfecta aka brittle bone disease. Despite this, going to CCS was the best thing I ever did for myself. I was able to graduate with a substantial thesis. When I started making comics seriously, my art was no longer solely a form of self-expression. It also became a form of communication and helped me build a community of friends and family. Most of my friends are people I have met through my work one way or another. That community is the most important thing in my life, I am thankful for it every day. 

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Art has not been a smooth road. I don’t think anything is ever a smooth road in life, really. I became interested in art because it helped me process trauma and kill time (I broke both of my legs in elementary school- one in kindergarten and the other in first grade, so I spent recess drawing A LOT). I am super sensitive, so learning how to take critique and instruction in high school classes was difficult. I dropped in and out of BFA programs because I would be in a school for a general degree, be pressured by my teachers to get into the fine arts program when they saw my art, and then I would realize once I was attending fine arts classes I didn’t want a BFA and drop out. I also went through a very bad art block in my early 20s. When you look through my sketchbooks, they are just full of loneliness, insecurity, and doubt. Things only became smooth when I discovered Square City in 2012 and started taking comics seriously. 

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
I primarily make comics, but I also do illustrative work. My comics tend to be about progressive politics or mental health. I do both autobio and fiction comics. The thing I treasure most about having a creative practice is the family, friends, and community of fans my work has brought me. So many people- my boyfriend and many of my best friends- all approached me after seeing my work. They both appreciated my work and were able to see that I was accessible as an artist and as a person. They reached out and we built a relationship. If you like my art, you are going to like me. We’re one and the same. 

In terms of things in have to name when applying for residencies, grants, and gallery shows: I have been published by the Nib, Oni Press, and Graphic Medicine Journals. I have been interviewed by the Washington Jewish Week and its Baltimore counterpart, the Baltimore Jewish Times. I’ve shown my work at galleries around the DC and Baltimore area. I won 3rd Place for Dancing Ladies at METHODICAL: Juried Member Exhibition at the Pyramid Atlantic, showed at BY THE PEOPLE in Georgetown, Washington DC, and won the DC Art Book Fair Scholar Table in 2017. 

Can you talk to us a bit about happiness and what makes you happy?
My boyfriend, my dog, my friends, my mom, my creative practice, podcasting with a close friend, getting to live in Baltimore, having access to good medical care (One of the world’s top medical institutions for Osteogenesis Imperfecta is a 7 min drive from my apartment! Also, I have great physical therapists and mental health doctors, etc.), being able to afford my car… man, I’m not sure what else. 

When I would watch the Animaniacs and Looney Toons as a kid, they would make jokes about the, supposedly, big philosophical question “What’s the meaning of life?” I’d think “it’s people I love… duh! How is that a big mystery???” And I know I’m 100000% right about it! 

There was a really interesting Slate article years ago that I think about regularly. They were interviewing people that were in hospice on their deathbed. The sentiment of regretting not spending more time with loved ones vs. doing XYZ came up a lot. I am lucky that if I died tomorrow, I’d have zero regrets because I know what to prioritize. 

Also, any artist that says their top priority is to build a legacy is fucking idiot. Oh, you spent all your time making art at the expense of enjoying (or possibly hurting) other people? Cool, when you die you won’t be able to enjoy your legacy, so who cares??? 

Pricing:

  • My work tends to run from $2-$45 except for some larger fine art pieces.

Contact Info:

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