What Matters: Marian Bantjes On Dogs, Sushi, and the Joys of Fleeting Confidence

Posted inDesigner Interviews

Debbie Millman has an ongoing project at PRINT titled “What Matters.” This is an effort to understand the interior life of artists, designers, and creative thinkers. This facet of the project is a request of each invited respondent to answer ten identical questions and submit a nonprofessional photograph.


Marian Bantjes is a Canadian artist, designer, letterer, and writer. Her books, I Wonder and Pretty Pictures, are published by Thames & Hudson. She is a member of Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI). @bantjes


What is the thing you like doing most in the world?

Going to sleep nose-to-nose with my dog, Moser; my arm draped over his soft, warm body.

What is the first memory you have of being creative?

Drawing on walls with a crayon. I was probably three. I got in trouble for it, but not because my mother was anti-art, just because it was a rented house and she was poor. 

What is your biggest regret?

Leaving my husband when I was 26. It’s a long and complicated story, and maybe it would have happened eventually, but that’s impossible to know. It caused incredible pain to us both that lasted for many years—even, in some ways, continuing into the future. 

How have you gotten over heartbreak?

Well, see above: a) I haven’t. 

But by b) getting a dog, which was a different time and from a different kind of heartbreak. But I don’t know how I will get over Moser when he dies. I don’t think I will.

What makes you cry?

I’m crying now because of thinking about Moser dying. The weird thing is how often my mind probes that area; how often I think about his death, what it will be like, the ways it can happen, how I will feel. Then as my chest tightens and the tears well up, my mind backs off and says, “It’s OK, he’s here, he’s right beside me, alive and warm and breathing.” I don’t know why I do this. Must dab my eyes.

How long does the pride and joy of accomplishing something last for you?

At first, not long. It is usually rapidly replaced by self-criticism and then the dismissive, “yes, but that was months/years ago! Now I am shit.” 

But something in me changed in the past few years. I have come to a kind of strange peace with being no longer in the design scene. I’m not retired, but I’m also not particularly active. And when I look back on my work, I’m surprised and proud. I feel like, “That’s alright. I made my little mark, and it’s a good mark.”

Do you believe in an afterlife, and if so, what does that look like to you?

I don’t believe in an afterlife, but I don’t not believe in an afterlife. I think that God(s) and Heaven are provably false—ludicrous ideas—but while it seems that we will most likely return to the nothingness from which we came (remember existence before birth? Yeah, me neither), it’s always possible there’s some unimaginable consciousness after death.

What do you hate most about yourself?

My insecurity. My feelings of being small, backwards, unworthy, timidity, lack of confidence, and the feeling that big and important things are not for me. 

I have had times of confidence—arrogance, even—and it felt GREAT. But they were fleeting moments and often followed by a self admonishment of “Who do you think you are?” (Even immediately following the involuntary thought of “Do you know who I AM?”). Of course, without my insecurity, I would become insufferable, but…I wouldn’t know it! What bliss that would be!

What do you love most about yourself?

I genuinely think I’m really talented. I love the way I think—the analytical and the surprising leaps. It gives me great pleasure.

What is your absolute favorite meal?

That would be high-quality sushi: ocean-caught Sockeye Salmon sushi (no wasabi), a California roll with real crab, maybe a chop-chop roll (scallops chopped up with roe); preceded by an excellent shrimp Sunomono (the only time I eat the filthy shrimp animal); with a Coke; followed by a white, homemade Angel Food Cake with Royal Icing (as much as I want, which would be 2 or 3 large pieces). OK, you can hang me now.