We were delighted to interview Sanaz, architect, and cartoonist behind the funny and oh-so-relatable @momentoons. Read the interview to learn about Sanaz’s interesting perspectives and the philosophy behind her cartoon character.
Who did you want to be when you were a child?
I wanted to be a dentist… But I became an architect!
What are some of the choices you’ve made that made you who you are?
I always choose the toughest challenge of any set of options. Which is the chicken or the egg, who I am or my attraction to challenge? I’m not sure… What I do know is that they are inextricably bound together.
What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
A “perfect day,” if such thing exists, is when I can bring forth something good from the day’s imperfections. Momentoons is an obvious example: I draw how my weaknesses, challenges, insecurities, and flaws make me laugh. The absolute best days of my life — each of them imperfect — came together spontaneously.
What role does social media play in your life?
I am a private person, so being on social media was a scary prospect. One day, in a state of exhausted frustration, I drew a little cartoon about the feeling I was experiencing. It gave my overheated brain a break, and let me giggle at myself. I shared that first Momentoon on Instagram, and haven’t stopped since. Now I’m on Instagram every day.
If you could wake up tomorrow having gained any one quality or ability, what would it be?
I’d lose one instead: overthinking. I struggle with this constantly, I think way too much and most times, I talk myself out of what I originally have in mind (don’t commit me to this one, I’d like to think about it some more).
What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
Moving to a new country and adapting to a different culture and language without any family or support. Talk about challenging!
Tell us about Momentoons. How did you come up with the idea? Did anyone, in particular, serve as inspiration for your character?
Momentoons grew out simple cartoons I’d draw to relieve the pressures of writing, rewriting, and rewriting my masters’ thesis. Drawing is a pleasure, an escape for me, whereas writing and speaking tend to drain me of my energy. When friends and strangers began reacting, liking, sharing, commenting, and following, I knew I’d struck a chord, and that I had to go on.
My Momentoons character is male even though his creator is female. He just popped out that way, but I think it was a way to universalize the doubts and fears. It’s not so much about being male or female as it is about being human.
How does being an architect influence your artistic vision?
Architects are trained to look at things from many different perspectives. With Momentoons, I strive to draw mundane experiences from a surprising point of view. Sometimes, that shift in perspective resonates, sometimes, I miss the mark.
What’s your definition of mindfulness? What is the first step to becoming mindful in your day-to-day life?
To me, mindfulness means being in the present, savoring the current moment, which is the only one we ever actually have.
I need to be more mindful because instead of enjoying what I have now or dreaming about the future, my thoughts always go to the worst case scenarios.
Is there something that you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
I want to write a graphic novel based on my life. If I can stop overthinking and talking myself out of it, I might actually write it.
What is your no-fail go-to when you need inspiration or to get out of a creative rut?
Noticing regular, daily life. Friends, family members and I are always getting ourselves into awkward or ironic or silly situations. As an avid people watcher, I see strangers (metaphorically) stepping in these situations all the time, too. With Momentoons, I draw the inner experience of finding yourself in a ridiculous situation.
If you could invite anyone in the world to dinner, who would it be?
Richard Buckminster “Bucky” Fuller, the American architect, systems theorist, author, designer, inventor, and futurist. I love how he solved design problems for humans by understanding humanity. Despite his genius, his humble approach to life is a good lesson for all of us. I believe our world needs more empathy, and in that sense, he is a great example of a leader. We need more designers like him who understand empathy and use their creativity for the benefit of humanity.
I love that he said this:
“I am now close to 88 and I am confident that the only thing important about me is that I am an average, healthy human. I am also a living case history of a thoroughly documented, half-century, search-and-research project designed to discover what, if anything, an unknown, moneyless individual with a dependent wife and newborn child might be able to do effectively on behalf of all humanity that could not be accomplished by great nations, great religions or private enterprise, no matter how rich or powerfully armed.”
I think I’d feel awkward if I had dinner with him, though (which at least would give me more material for Momentoons).
In moments of self-doubt or adversity, how do you build yourself back up?
I overcome self-doubt by remembering I’m accountable to and responsible for others. I think, “They rely on me. I have to make this work the best way possible.” It forces my mind off self-doubt and onto the task at hand.
A book or a film that transformed your life?
“Never let me go” by Kazuo Ishiguro blew my mind. It’s a beautiful love story and mystery. It also surgically explores arrogance and how society mistreats people who are different and vulnerable.
What does the world need more of? Less of?
I believe we need more empathy. The value we place on the community should transcend individuality. Look, it’s a fact: everyone’s well-being depends on the well-being of others around; we are all connected. And while social media has broadened our web of connections, people seem more socially isolated than ever. Living in a community isn’t easy, but if we’re going to solve complex world problems together, we have to make that effort. There’s no guarantee it’ll work, but I think it’s the only way.