Here’s your chance to get behind the scenes with fanartists who bring your favorite young adult books to life.
Nika of Nika Comics lives in New York City and has a full-time job into marketing. But her spare energy goes into writing her webcomic Love Debut!, about two teens who fall in love through music, and into illustrating YA fanart.
“There are so many great books out there, but for the sake of space, I won’t [name]them all,” said Nika. “Recent favorites have been the Throne in Glass series by Sarah J. Mass, The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas, and The Demon King series by Cinda Williams Chima. All-time favorite authors – in no particular order – are J.K. Rowling, Diana Wynne Jones, Tamora Pierce, Holly Black, and Vivian Vande Velde.”
What is it about the authors’ writing that inspired your art?
The characters. Sometimes the author writes a character that I find instantly compelling, for one reason or another, and I know exactly how I want to express them. Other times, I use the process of illustrating the characters to work through my questions about their motivations, their hopes and desires. It becomes a sort of exploration, playing around with different concepts until I find one that clicks. That’s when things get really exciting for me.
Are there any other influences you included in your art?
Besides the obvious Japanese influence in certain of my drawings, I imagine my art reflects the illustrations, films, and webcomics I’ve consumed over the years.
What was the best reaction you’ve received?
Oh, man. I had a major fangirl moment earlier this year when Holly Black responded to one of my posts about The Coldest Girl in Coldtown and reblogged it on her Tumblr. That was my first time ever interacting with an author whose work I love. Generally, though, it’s feedback from fellow fans that absolutely makes posting my work online worthwhile. There’s a real sense of being in this together.
What’s your process?
Once I’ve figured what I want to draw, I work on nailing down the composition. I roughly block out what I want in the drawing, then go in with finer lines to get down the details. For my more anime-inspired looks, I then cell-shade on a separate layer in whatever drawing program I happen to be using. For my digital paintings, it’s, um, a little more haphazard, shall we say. You can actually see some process shots on my Tumblr.
Do you have any tools you like to work with?
I mostly keep it digital, having recently switched from Adobe Photoshop to Manga Studio. That said, I do like to keep an old-fashioned spiral-bound sketchbook handy. Pencils and markers are great for loosening up the hand and working through new ideas.
What encouraged you to share your fanart?
Growing up had a lot to do with it. I don’t know why, but I used to feel an enormous pressure to portray characters faithfully, and that made me incredibly shy about any fan art I drew. My earliest stuff is hidden away in sketchbooks that have not seen the light of day in years. What finally changed it for me was re-reading the Harry Potter series after the seventh book came out. I had such a fit of nostalgia, and so many questions about Lily and Snape’s relationship, that I took to the canvas to work them out, just as I was doing for my own characters. I posted the finished piece up online, and the reaction was so overwhelmingly positive that it made me completely re-think my relationship with fan art. These days, I only wish I had more time so I could draw more of it!
What piece are you most proud of?
I’d have to say the digital painting of Narcissa and Draco. I’m drawn to intense, dramatic moments, and I loved being able to focus on the relationship between mother and son. They’re so flawed, so foolish, so human. The piece is far from perfect, but aside from a few minor things, it came out far better than I imagined. Painting for me is rather unpredictable; I either get it right in the first few tries, or I spend hours upon hours trying to get something respectable on the canvas. In this case, it was the former. Clearly I don’t paint enough.
Do you have anything fun that you’re working on or would like to do someday?
My dream is to create the kinds of stories that inspire me today. My webcomic Love Debut! is my main baby right now. As much work as it is, I’m certainly having fun doing it. I started reading a lot of manga in high school, and as much as I loved the genre of high school romance, I felt it rarely hit all its marks with me. That’s when I started thinking about doing my own version; now, almost 5 years later, I’m finally in a position where I feel I can pull it off.
What kind of advice or insight would you give to other artists?
You don’t have to be a full-time, professional artist to be serious about making art. Give yourself a routine and push yourself to stick to it. Find others who share your passion, who will encourage you and challenge you. And be patient with yourself. Eventually the hours/weeks/years you put into developing your craft will pay off. It’s not always going to be easy. Sometimes it’s going to feel downright impossible. And if it does, it’s perfectly okay to take a break and try something else, because ultimately, you are doing this for you. If you and art are meant to be, you’ll find each other again. I promise.