I’ve been drawing comics since I was 12. I’m now 29. In the past 17 years I’ve done webcomics, collaborations, fancomics, songcomics, and am now creating Tarot and oracle decks. It’s been a long, interesting journey.
Here’s the short version.
I’ve been interested in comics for my whole life – I sort of learned to read on them – but it was really a 2002 Washington Post article that got me started in earnest. “Manga Mania: Cartoonists Eye America” could have been a warning to America of the incoming manga invasion, but to me, it was the crack in the door that let me get my toe in. (Please feel free to read the article – it’s really brief, and free to read from their archives.) Despite not knowing much about manga, I decided to become a manga artist. I knew I loved Japanese-style cartoons, I knew I loved comic books, and I was already a writer.
All that was left was to, y’know, learn to freakin’ draw.
A good portion in my generation got really obsessed with manga and anime in that post-Pokemon invasion, and many of us decided to become manga artists. (The terminology of “mangaka,” I realize, is charged with issues – from cultural appropriation to manga purist ideology – so I choose to simply refer to myself and other Westerners who draw manga-style comics as “manga artists.”) I remember meeting a small circle of manga artists, when I was about 13, who were drawing a Sakura/Tomoyo shojo-ai (girls’ love) fan-comic based on the Cardcaptor Sakura characters. That was my first in-person exposure to manga artists. I was blown away by their commitment and passion, and that just fueled my own commitment and passion.
Despite suffering from severe, debilitating mental illness, I continued to draw throughout my adolescence. I studied – first whatever images I could find browsing on Amazon.com, then deviantart.com, then, once I’d gotten my courage up, buying Alice 19th at Borders. (For about a year, I worked part-time at Borders, before they closed. I just about broke even buying manga.) I never really strayed far from shojo comics, especially Yuu Watase, CLAMP, and Arina Tanemura, but I did – and still do – occasionally read some shonen, some Western graphic novels, and even some furry/anthro stories.
I won’t say I’ve had unwavering commitment through my path, because there have certainly been times that I wavered. Hell, there have been times that I stopped drawing, for sometimes months at a time. When I was very, very ill, I didn’t draw at all for a while. I couldn’t. I couldn’t focus enough, and I was far too sensitive to share anything I drew with anyone, and I was too busy just hurting and self-destructing. But when I started recovering, art was my anchor. I always drew a ton whenever I was in the hospital, and while I don’t look much at those files anymore, I keep them. Maybe someday I’ll share them. Maybe not. The important thing is that I Kept. Freakin’. Drawing.
And today? Today I’m proud of who I am – and I’m drawing, of course. All the time. Even if I’m in a class or workshop all day, I’m doodling in the margins of a notebook, or I draw while I’m on the bus. I draw at home, at bus stops, on the bus, on the train, while waiting for appointments, while working, while in classes. I get teased for the amount of stuff I carry in my backpack, because I insist on always having a pencil case and a big sketchbook with me PLUS whatever current comic stuff I’m working on – at nearly all times! Hence the backpack you’ll see me with, if you should see me in person.