In Studio With Illustrator Noel “Scotch” Anderson

Whether he’s creating a comic book, portraying politicians as mudslinging brats in the local paper or creating a piece for a gallery show, Noel “Scotch” Anderson has a trademark style. His work is cartoony and colorful and chock full of pop culture references, super busty babes and zingy wit.

The Hawley, Minnesota illustrator has built a career that’s as multi-faceted as he is. When I first met Scotch, I was in high school and he was in a band. (I still have that “Punky Boobster” CD around here somewhere…) Then his friend married my friend and we were in the wedding. Then we worked together at Rock 102, where I sold radio advertising and he was the morning show dude. He’s a prolific artist and a devoted family man with a wife and two kids. And he still has the biggest hair in the biz.

He’s a regular contributor to magazines like “Cracked”, “Thwack” “Jokester” and “Hustler”. He has a regular gig skewering headlines with “The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead” and a day job at Rock 102, but he also publishes a low-tech art zine and puts his own brand of cartoony madness out into the world on

Here’s Scotch. To know him is to love him.


How do you describe your work to someone who has never seen it before?
I like to keep things pretty light and cartoony. Of course, I am somewhat limited in my technical ability. I’m not a draftsman by any means, so no matter what I draw it tends to look like a cartoon.

I really like that colorful aesthetic that’s sandwiched somewhere between old Warner Brothers’ animation, “Mad” magazine, and the underground comics of the sixties and seventies.

Whether I’m drawing a sequential comic story, doing a portrait for someone, or creating a painting, it has to have a playful sense of humor about it. It’s important to me that the art is fun, to create and to look at.”


How long have you been creating?
“I’ve been drawing comics since I was a kid. Unfortunately, I think most people who really felt a spark and enjoyed creating when they were young end up losing it somewhere along the way; either because people stopped encouraging them or they started to feel that self-doubt that they’re not that good at it.

Perhaps I was delusional enough during those years when I could have hung it up to think that maybe someday I’d be wowing the masses with my scratchy cartoon drawings. Either way, it’s something I couldn’t stop doing now or I’d go nuts.”

What inspires you?
“When I see a documentary on innovative, creative people who’ve made the world a more interesting place by creating cool stuff that i get to look at, guys like Robert Crumb or Robert Williams. These guys are so prolific and really that’s what being an artist is all about — making stuff.

Some people over-think things to death when really they should just get off of their keister and make something. I’m also inspired a great deal by campy b-movies, humor magazines and “Archie” comics.”


What’s your favorite recent project?
“Starting “ART RIOT” magazine with Beau Fraase was a big accomplishment. We felt there was really a need for an underground art magazine in Fargo and so we knuckled down and found some other like-minded artists and made it happen.

I had always wanted to do something that had the feel of a DIY punk zine and noticed I hadn’t seen anything like that around Fargo in years. Turns out Beau felt the same way and once we started working together on it we realized we had the same vision.

Also I did a full-length comic book adaptation of the movie “Spider Babe” for a label called Seduction Cinema.” (Editor’s note: The adaptation was distributed in 2013.)

Scotch in his Hawley, Minnesota studio.

What does your studio space look like?
“We have a basement in our house that’s partially finished. My desk and art necessities are down there and that is where I work, surrounded by framed movie posters for straight-to-vhs 80’s classics like “Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers” and “Slavegirls from Beyond Infinity”.

I have shelves lined with action figures and prop replicas from movies like “Evil Bong”, “Puppet Master”, and “Gingerdead Man”. I also have bookshelves filled to the brim with comic books and old “Cracked” magazines that I tend to reference a lot when I’m working. Seems the more pop culture garbage I have to look at the more I feel the need to create and put out my own special brand of debauchery into the world.”


What’s your creative process like?
“I try not to take to much time to think and plan anything before plunging into it. I like that creativity to happen in the moment and it seems that too much forethought will cause me to second guess those initial impulses. I just sort of put my head down and go for it. I enjoy the creative process but the payoff is that end result and I know I can get to that finished piece if I don’t do the leg work.

Doing the “Scotch Draws Today’s Headlines for The Forum” comic requires me to think very fast, come up with a punchline or a gag and then execute it and deliver it so I can make deadline. They’re not all gems but it’s taught me to work fast and be confident that I’m capable of churning out quality, regular, work.”

What’s necessary to live a creative life?
“I think you need to be willing to take an idea you have and go forward with it without caring what others think. I’ve filled sketchbooks with pointless drawings, covered canvases with goofy characters with bulging eyeballs, etc. and when I’m asked ‘What is this thing you’re working on and what is it for?’, the majority of the time I have to admit it’s not for anything. It’s just for me because it’s something I wanted to see.

What’s rewarding is when it turns out that someone else wants to see the same thing. If you just sit around and wait until someone gives you an assignment or offers to pay you to draw something, it seems to me you’re wasting an awful lot of time that could be spent creating something enjoyable and awesome and groovy.”

Why do you think it’s important to support local artists?
“It seems that people don’t place that much value on art these days because they think that it’s something they should just be able to get for free. An original work of art by a local artist communicates to you in a way that a picture you download and print off of the internet can’t.

We have a really talented arts community in Fargo and if you can show young people that that’s something to be valued, they may take interest in it themselves and contribute something to the culture. I think that’s a lot more important than them being raised thinking that vapid, soulless, celebrities like the Kardashians, who contribute absolutely nothing of artistic value, are to be emulated.”


What’s your favorite part of what you do?
“I love the immediacy of cartooning for “The Forum”. I never dreamed that I would be turning around a headline into a comic gag over the course of three to four hours in an evening. To see it published in the paper the very next morning is very satisfying. The pressure is pretty high to deliver and yet the fact that such a large number of people see it within the next few hours really makes it worth it. I also really enjoyed the years that I was a regular contributor to “Cracked” magazine.

Working in radio has afforded me some really fantastic opportunities and I figured I owed it to myself to make those connections and see what I could do with them. Some have paid off and some haven’t, but the ones that did never would have if I hadn’t stuck my neck out there and at least tried. Sometimes you end up looking ridiculous, but who cares? Nothing wrong with giving people an excuse to laugh.”


What’s your definition of the good life? 
“The good life is getting copies of something I just had published (let’s say it’s a comic book) delivered to me in the mail. Taking it out of that box and peeling off that plastic wrap to look at it in its printed form for the first time.

I love imagining what someone who has never seen it before might be thinking to themselves when they see it. Maybe they’re thinking, ‘Oh, that’s sort of cute’ or maybe they’re thinking, ‘Good lord! Was this drawn by some sort of a psychopath with a warped mind?!’

Either way, I enjoy the fact that it’s making some sort of an impression on someone. The good life for me is knowing that my art is getting seen and that quite possibly it is putting a smile on somebody’s face, if even for just a few seconds.”

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