Talking beef with Angela Oberhänsli-Manser, illustrator

‘‘As a child, I spent more time in the barn than the house‘‘

The second children’s booklet from the “Lea und Ben” series was published recently. The stories were illustrated by the artist and mother of five, Angela Oberhänsli-Manser from Mosnang, who answers our questions here.

Angela Oberhänsli-Manser makes final corrections to the second children’s booklet “Lea und Ben – Ausflug auf die Alp”. (Photo: Franziska Schawalder)

What is your relationship to farming and cows?

Farming is familiar to me and is very close to my heart. The second eldest of eight children, I grew up in the Wattwil Steintal, on a farm where our paternal grandparents also lived. My grandfather had eight dairy cows. As a child, I spent more time in the barn than in the house. In addition, my grandparents ran the Chrüzegg excursion restaurant for many years, which included an alp of beef and dairy cattle. When I was in fifth grade, my parents took over the restaurant and the alp. From then on, we lived as a family on Chrüzegg during the summer. As children, we were driven to kindergarten and school by our parents, and later we made the journey by moped. So my childhood took place in the midst of nature and agriculture.

How did you get into drawing? Were you born with this talent?

As it would appear, I was actually born with the talent. My mother used to paint as well, mostly peasant paintings, and my father decorated white cooperage items with carving. They now make clay goods in winter. Although I have loved drawing since I was a child, I didn't learn it officially: I developed my technique myself. As a teenager, my biggest dream was to draw characters for an animated film. I was fascinated by “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King”. But training as an animator meant I would have had to go abroad. I wasn’t ready for that – I was too attached to my family. And at the time it wasn’t an issue. In high school, I had a teacher who was enthusiastic about my drawing talent. And that was when I started drawing logos or pictures for fellow students or clubs, free of charge, of course. When it became more and more work, I started to charge for it.

What did you do after you finished school?

During my apprenticeship as a hairdresser, I continued to draw, but at the time the focus was on education. After my apprenticeship I worked at Chrüzegg with my parents, where I was able to exhibit individual pictures. Until now, however, I have never had a real exhibition. I do have a studio and a showroom at home, but at the moment I don’t have enough pictures for an exhibition because I simply don’t get to paint that often. When I do paint something, it usually sells quickly. But once the children are a bit older and I have more time to paint, I will certainly do an exhibition one day.

What do you like about the commission from Suckler Cow Switzerland?

I was very pleased to receive the commission from Suckler Cow Switzerland, as it combines many things that are important to me. Firstly, as already mentioned, agriculture and cows are close to my heart. Secondly, I love drawing children’s books and thirdly, it was my first cow cartoon assignment. The second booklet, which just came out, was also fun. At the moment, I benefit from being able to draw children’s books on the computer. This way, I can save my work at any time and continue later. That is not possible with an oil painting, for example. If the little ones need something, I can’t leave everything lying around.

The Mosnang artist painted this beautiful cow painting with acrylic paints. (Photo: provided)

What is your personal favourite picture?

I don’t really have a favourite painting. I love variety and like to move with the times, be it in techniques, styles and commissions. For example, I recently started painting with gouache colours. Gouache is a water-soluble paint made from coarsely ground pigments with the addition of chalk, and works like watercolours. I have also been thinking about painting children’s stories using gouache. 

You are a very committed family woman. How do you manage to reconcile family and career?

At the moment, I don’t have enough time for drawing. My eldest son is already 17 years old, but with four small children – all between two and seven – I often have little time for myself, let alone for drawing and painting. I mainly paint when everyone is in bed. My husband Damian supports me wherever he can, but as the manager of a construction business he is also very busy. He is not only a great father and husband, he also has a good eye for art and always gives me good ideas or suggestions for improvement. Together, we wrote and illustrated the children’s booklet “Chranzli’s Adventskranz”. 

Have you passed on your talent?

Perhaps – who knows? My two daughters Natalie and Alina love to draw, and Natalie’s drawings are really very good already. Seven-year-old Damian has an excellent spatial imagination. He looks at a tractor or an aeroplane and builds it with Lego – without a model – just like that. But he probably gets this talent from his father. The two of them even created a machine prototype together with Lego, which is currently being built based on this model. 

What other commitments do you have? 

I have been drawing joke cartoons regularly for the Elgger/Aadorfer Zeitung for five years, and in the meantime I have also had commissions for other newspapers. In addition to the children’s booklet for Suckler Cow Switzerland, I have also drawn one for the Raiffeisenbank Regio Unteres Toggenburg & Neckertal and, as already mentioned, the Advent booklet. In addition, I have published a few joke books. My commissions also include flipcharts for events or cover pictures for wedding books. A school class from the neighbouring village came by recently. I showed the children how to draw a comic character with just a few strokes. What I lack is time, not commissions. But I am consciously enjoying this family time. There will be other times. Maybe then I’ll manage not only to put together my own exhibition but also to fulfil my greatest wish: an animated film with my figures. One thing is certain: I won’t be bored! 

Dear Angela, I’ll take your word for it! Thank you very much for the interview and all the best for you – as a family woman and artist. 

(Photo: Daria Schnyder)
(Photo: Daria Schnyder)

Angela Oberhänsli-Manser (37) is the second eldest of eight siblings on the Chrüzegg and grew up in the Wattwil Steintal. Today, the artist lives in Mosnang with her husband Damian (37) and their five children Julian (17), Damian (7), Natalie (6), Alina (4) and Marc (2). She illustrated the two children’s books “Lea und Ben – Ein Kalb kommt zur Welt” and “Lea und Ben – Ausflug auf die Alp” for Suckler Cow Switzerland.