Q&A with Monstress Artist Sana Takeda

Monstress cover 1

The artwork for the comic series Monstress is stunning. I immediately had to find out more about the person who drew them. Sana Takeda is the artist behind the beautiful images in Monstress, which she works on with the series’ writer Marjorie Liu. I was thrilled when Takeda took the time to answer some questions about her process, her challenges as an artist, and her influences.

What are your inspirations for the intricate machinery, gorgeous costumes, and sweeping scenery of Monstress?

When we started this project, Marjorie told me, “Let’s set the design of Monstress to Art Deco style.” So, I have been making the whole view in Art Deco style with my feeling added as an Asian person.

As for costumes, I tried to make them by adding my taste to the images Marjorie describes in the script. I love the designs by Erte, a French designer, and Kasho Takabatake, a Japanese illustrator. So some influences from them might be seen in costumes of Monstress.

Kasho Monstress

Kasho Takabatake

What do you enjoy drawing the most in Monstress?

I enjoy drawing each character’s different personality in facial expressions and gestures. Monstress has diverse characters who are uniquely attractive. I love them and their personalities. Imagining and drawing them as if they were in the real world is interesting and exciting for me.

Oh! And I really enjoy drawing comical scenes between Kippa, a little fox girl, and Ren, a cat, too.

Maika’s character is both vulnerable and powerful in a way that makes her feel very complex. What do you find most interesting about capturing that complexity?

I have never felt that Maika’s character is especially complex. Because usually I think we all have many different faces and also characters in ourselves. The most interesting point about her for me is that different aspects of herself are very imbalanced.

I enjoy drawing while imagining how she will make those compromises and what kind of new aspects she will add to her personality in the future.

What part of the comics drawing process do you enjoy the most? What part of the process do you find most challenging?

I enjoy reading the script, imagining scenes, and making the layout the most. What I find most challenging is finishing them up. So around 95% of the whole drawing process is challenging for me every time.

Oh yes – I also enjoy drawing facial expressions, gestures, and action scenes.

monstress 2

Sana Takeda

What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a working artist?

The biggest challenge for me is the Monstress project so far. Because it is the first original comic series for me.

Of course every work I have been involved in there were commitments and risks, but my commitment and risk are something completely different with this project. I felt that Marjorie tried to challenge something especially new, so I wanted to meet her expectation with all I have. Also, as she already has many fans, I thought I couldn’t disappoint their expectations, or my fans’ expectations, too.

I’m drawing the artwork in Monstress as if I was a complete beginner every moment, reassuring what once I used to cherish, love, hate, or feel comfortable/uncomfortable with, and so on…I’m ready to enjoy any challenging situation coming up.

What was an important turning point in your life as an artist?

The first turning point is when I had intended to illustrate and make characters for kids after I quit SEGA, a game company. But unfortunately, I had to stop the project and find other work for my living.

Kids Monstress

Sana Takeda

I got a project for Korean online game illustration from a friend, but it was very challenging for me… because I had the challenge of a new art style which I wasn’t good at. But it became a good turning point for my life as I thought challenging weak points of mine is not a bad attempt. 

The second turning point is when C.B. Cebulski of Marvel invited me to work in the American comic industry. I was just lucky. But now I really appreciate the chance that he gave to me.

The ongoing Monstress series can be the third turning point for my life, I think.

What other artists have been important influences for you?

Maybe the significant influence is Japanese illustrator, Gojin Ishihara. My hometown was very remote in the countryside and didn’t have a place where I could find Manga or something for kids. So when I was a child, I used to go to the super small library in the town and read the same detective novels again and again, which included illustrations by Ishihara.

gojin Monstress

Gojin Ishihara

Also, as I grew up, I encountered Manga and Anime before “Evangelion” (1970s-1990s), and they influenced my art significantly. Recently, I no longer see Manga and Anime, though…

Are there any other art forms that you get inspiration from for your work?

So many that I can’t think of any specific ones… But as for the art of Monstress, I got some inspiration from Japanese Ukiyoe art by Kuniyoshi Utagawa and Yokai art of Shigeru Mizuki.

Also, when we started this project, Marjorie gave me her ideas with some Art Deco and nostalgic images and photos. I’m putting them all together in my drawing.

What do you love to geek out about?

Practicing martial arts, because I want to learn more about the human senses, and reading essays and diaries, because I want to learn how our forerunners put what they sensed into words.

Monstress issue #6 will be released on May 25, and issues #1-#5 are available from Image Comics. To see more of Sana Takeda’s art, visit her website www.sanatakeda.com.

//Images courtesy of Sana Takeda.

Kate Gorman is editor of Art & Literature on Paper Droids. She is also the author of the speculative fiction novel ON THE ICE, the screenplay and creative how-to collection INT-EXT, and the locative fiction audio walk series GREENWAY QUARTET.