An Interview with Artist Yishan Li
Today we welcome the lovely and talented Yishan Li, manga artist extraordinaire, to the Insider series. She has many published credits to her name, both in the U.S. and internationally. Some of them available at SMCL include artwork for fantasy author Naomi Novik’s manga debut, Will Super Villains Be On The Final? and artwork for author Lisi Harrison’s manga adaptation of The Clique. She also has worked on numerous how-to guides such as Mastering The Art Of Manga: Learn To Draw Manga Step By Step With Over 1000 Illustrations (with Tim Seelig), and Massive Manga: Techniques for Drawing, Inking and Colouring.
Who Are You and Where Are You From?
"I'm Yishan Li and I am Chinese and British. I was born in Tianjin, China and then moved to the UK in 2003. In 2010, I moved back to Shanghai, China. I have no idea where I am going to next."
How Long Have You Been a Fan of Manga?
"Since I was in middle school. First thing I read was Sailor Moon, then I carried on reading all kinds of stuff since then. I was short on money as a kid, so I used to team up with classmates to buy a series together."
What Inspired You to Make Manga?
"I always loved drawing. So when my best friend at middle school fell in love with manga too, she actually forced me to start drawing the pretty characters. I found I actually could draw them; then we started to think about stories of our own. I can't remember much about what we actually made, but surely that was taking up most of my time those days."
How Did You Get Your Start?
"Professionally, I started when I was at university. I came across a professional studio making manga in my city. I was really excited and joined them straight away. Then I published a few short stories in China."
Who Are Your Main Influences?
"I have some early influences such as Rumiko Takahashi and Chieko Hosokawa. These days I tend to screen grab anything I think is beautiful, whether it be manga, comics, paintings or adverts—I put them in a folder in my computer and keep the inspirations."
What Has It Been Like Working with a Notable Author, Such as Naomi Novik?
"Naomi is a really, really nice woman. She sent me a few pages each time, especially at the start, to make sure her script is good for manga. I really appreciated her extra effort."
How Important Is It for You to Consume Outside of Your Creative Medium and Established Genres?
"Although most of the things I draw are girly and romantic, I actually read quite the opposite things. I love boyish or geeky thrillers, sci-fi movies and books."
What Do You Think Makes Comics So Unique and Valuable?
"It's a combination of literature and art. In comics, the art lures you into the literature."
What Do Libraries Mean to You?
"The library means a quiet time that I can relax and turn my phone off."
(NOTE: Read Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power Of Introverts In A World That Can't Stop Talking, to learn more about the positive effects of quiet and solitude when it comes to creativity and productivity in our busy, busy world.)
What Do You Think is the Future of Books? Do You Have an Attachment to Paper Books in the Digital Age?
"For sure. I love the smell of ink. But meanwhile, I do want to see people using the Internet and eBooks more, simply for environmental reasons. As long as people are reading, I don't care which device they use. In the end, it's the content that counts."
(NOTE: Don’t forget, we have eBooks available for those who prefer them to traditional paper books.)
Do You Have Any Advice for Aspiring Artists?
"Draw a lot and go to as many conventions as possible. Talk to fellow artists and publishers. It takes a long time to improve your drawing, so be patient."
(NOTE: Yishan’s first point concerns networking and yes, it is an important skill to work on especially if you are trying to break into an industry like comic book publishing. Check out Diane Darling’s The Networking Survival Guide: Practical Advice To Help You Gain Confidence, Approach People, And Get The Success You Want for great advice and tips.)
You can follow the ever-busy Yishan Li on her webpage, which features her projects, art gallery samples, and upcoming convention schedule.
Intern Anthony Andora encourages everyone with comic book dreams to keep on practicing!