One of the fastest growing parts of the event at all of the MCM Comic Con events is that of the Comic Village, a place where comics meet in cavalcade of colour and creativity. One of the reasons for this recent growth is the explosion of indie comic book writers and artists who are attending the event to sell/exhibit their work.
One such artist is the talented Sarah Childs. MCM Buzz spoke to her about how she became an artist, her favourite MCM Comic Con memory and her manga series The Chronicles of Gyzra, the latest of which she will be selling this weekend.
MCM Buzz: How did you first discover you could draw?
Sarah: I’ve always loved drawing and I can’t remember a time before it. I just loved the ability to create my own worlds and characters. I think that inspiration came from being a fan of video games and wanting to create my own. In school everyone seemed to love asking me to draw Pokémon and Sonic characters and that just made me want to create more stories, no longer just for me, but for everyone to enjoy. From there it went from simple playing to studying new techniques and materials. Still to this day I have so much to learn, but I love every second of it.
MCM Buzz: What made you decide to start your own manga?
Sarah: My dad spent several years working in Japan and introduced my family to JRPGs, manga, anime and the beautiful movies of Hayao Miyazaki. At the same time I loved watching Pokémon, Yu-Gi-Oh and Dragon Ball Z and started copying them. I love the art style and when I got my first manga novel I was instantly addicted to the beautiful flowing and detailed artwork. There is something special about manga, the way the pages don’t have to stick to their panels, the words flowing around the images, and the inviting, expressive characters. I knew I wanted to tell my own stories, but as soon as I discovered manga I realised that this was the form I wanted to tell them in.
MCM Buzz: Who would you say are some of the people who inspire your work?
Sarah: Yoshitaka Amano’s artwork from Final Fantasy will always be a huge inspiration to me. One of the earliest drawings I have kept was a sketch I made of Ifrit from Final Fantasy X. I used to copy the drawings from the official guides and so I learnt so much from studying his art. Also, the beautiful works of Wenqing Yan, also known as Yuumei, melt my heart. Her artwork inspires me to keep improving, to me she is what an artist should be; someone who can take raw emotion, combine it with compelling story and tell you everything you need to know in one image. There are so many other artists that inspire me too: all the comic artists from theBLVD Studio, Kei (a vocaloid artist), Kim Hyung-tae, and also a lot of artists that visit our wonderful Comic Village at MCM.
MCM Buzz: What is the process you use for creating your work?
Sarah: Planning is very important to me and I love to create intricate detailed worlds and characters. Because of this I spend a lot of time designing the world first. This can involve anything from maps to monster designs. After this I write the main plot points. Usually there is something in my life or in a dream that has sparked the inspiration for the story so I start at this point and try to figure out how the characters would react to each event. Once I have a list of key events I will flesh it out in a script type format, detailing what certain characters will say or do. After this I will take key scenes and thumbnail them. This is where a scene is drawn in lots of little rectangles representing the pages, before drawing them full size so that I can make sure the pages flow together and make sense.
Once it comes to actually creating the manga I first start by drawing all 200 pages as quick pencil sketches using stick figures and symbols to represent characters. I read through the story, edit and then draw the pages in detail; first starting with pencil, then pen outlines, then I fill in the outlines with tone and texture and finally I colour over with markers to act as screen tones adding a sparkle here and there with a white gel pen. This is then scanned, edited in PhotoShop and words are added. Finally, I send off the pages to the printer and await the day when a big box of books arrives on my doorstep!
MCM Buzz: How long does it take you to go from idea to a finished piece of art?
Sarah: For the pages of my book it takes between two and eight hours of work depending on the complexity and detail of the art needed. For my much larger commissions (for example drawing a client and their Pokémon team in a flood lit stadium) it can take much longer, roughly a month including designing. I prefer to work in smaller bursts though, by getting my artwork complete in a couple days.
MCM Buzz: What would you say is the most challenging part about being an artist?
Sarah: Believing in yourself and not being afraid to show your work to the world. It can be hard when you receive hurtful comments and sometimes you want to run away from it. When someone is harsh about something that you poured your heart into it can be upsetting. My advice to any artists dealing with this is to try and learn from the criticism. If someone is being mean, remember that you don’t draw for them, you are drawing for yourself, so don’t worry too much about it. However, if someone really seems like they are trying to help, you have to listen to them because they might see something that you don’t. You can decide for yourself whether it is a valid criticism, but I would recommend always trying out what people suggest, you might enjoy the change.
MCM Buzz: On the flip side what would you say you enjoy most about being an artist?
Sarah: The best thing is how fun it is. Meeting so many wonderful people, both artists and fans is just amazing. Knowing that you make your living from what you love to do is just unbelievably amazing too. Yes, there are stresses, and there’s a lot of work you have to do, but I wake up everyday happy with my job and looking forward to what new exciting projects I have planned. The absolute best part though, is when you hand your artwork over to a customer and you see their face light up with happiness. That smile makes my day.
Sarah: The Chronicles of Gyzra is an action, adventure trilogy. One night a strange, black rain falls on the village of New Eden, transforming the forest animals into ferocious monsters. We follow the journey of Eiki, a blue haired, adventurous young man, as he fights to protect his village and little sister, Mikana, from the contagion of the black rain. Follow Eiki into the crystal forest to discover the dark truth behind the black rain and its mysterious controller, Gyzra. The artwork is highly detailed with vast forest landscapes and powerful, magical fight scenes, all drawn traditionally by hand.
MCM Buzz: How did you come up with the idea for the series?
Sarah: I was about 13 years old when I first watched Princess Mononoke and the film filled me with inspiration. The following few nights I dreamt of a stunning, crystal forest plagued by an inky, black rain that was creating gruesome monsters in the depths of the trees. I couldn’t shake the dream and started scribbling little notes about it, drawing what I had seen and creating little stories for my mysterious world. In 2010, aged 17, I trialed a mini comic at MCM to see if others would be as fascinated as me with this world and the reaction was wonderful. Now, aged 21, I have two 200 page graphic novels about that world.
MCM Buzz: You are releasing the second volume of the The Chronicles of Gyzra Book 2: Wisdom and Strength at MCM London Comic Con this October. What can fans expect from the graphic novel?
Sarah: The first book, Courage and Hope, introduced us to the beautiful yet harsh world of The Chronicles of Gyzra. In volume 2, Wisdom and Strength, we delve into the darker depths of this world and start to uncover the hidden truth behind why our heroes are here as we begin the treacherous journey to destroy the evil that is Gyzra.
MCM Buzz: What made you first decide to attend MCM London Comic Con?
Sarah: Anime, video games, cosplay and meeting some of my favourite voice actors and actresses. My friends and I couldn’t wait to visit, and when we walked into the hall for the first time it was like walking into a dream. That was about six years ago and I still visit every year, but now my favorite part is meeting all the other visitors!
MCM Buzz: How would you describe the experience of attending MCM London Comic Con as an artist as opposed to a fan?
Sarah: It’s very strange at first! Seeing the hall start as a giant shell and evolve into a bustling event is very exciting. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to visit the shows anymore, but I still love seeing all the cosplayers. My favourite thing about MCM is the great atmosphere and how you can be anything or anyone at the show and no one cares. It’s a celebration of our mutual love of everything from sci-fi to anime and that always feels special.
MCM Buzz: What has been your favourite MCM Comic Con moment?
Sarah: The first convention I sold at was amazing because everything was new and exciting. It was the first time that I had sold my artwork and it filled me with confidence. I was very shy at the time and the confidence that the event gave me showed me how to come out of my shell. I met so many amazing artists, including Bernard Chang, who my table was opposite. He was incredibly encouraging and gave me so much advice as well as signing and gifting me some of his art books. Having the opportunity to talk to other artists has been one of the best things for me in improving my artwork and every meeting with these people, who I admire and respect, will stay with me forever.
MCM Buzz: You describe yourself as an avid gamer. If you could create a piece of manga based on any video game character, who would it be, why and what would the story be?
Sarah: Now that’s a hard question! My heart is torn between The Legend of Zelda or .Hack//, two worlds which I am absolutely obsessed with. I think that there is a lot of potential in creating a story about Dark Link. I’d love to combine his story with the Twilight realm from Twilight Princess as we didn’t really get to explore it much. Perhaps there could be an alternate time line where Dark Link is trying to get to the Twilight Realm and jumping through different dimensions and games/time lines. He has to complete tasks in each game whilst the Link of that world is in the background. He learns, by being defeated by Link in Ocarina of Time, that losing one battle doesn’t stop you from getting to where you need to be. At the end of the manga he finally arrives at the Twilight Realm where he can stay and live with other creatures that understand what it is like to live as shadows. Maybe even a little love story with Midna; I miss her, she was a wonderful character.
MCM Buzz: Where can attendees find you at MCM London Comic Con?
Sarah: I will be in Comic Village Friday to Sunday. I will have a double table called Gyzra Ink which you will be able to find in the official MCM guide book online or at the show, or you can follow my Twitter @gyzra and facebook.com/Gyzra to see updates. For any other information or if anyone wants to contact me visit my website www.gyzra.com. I look forward to meeting lots of new people!