Indie Spotlight: Yumi Sakugawa

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Welcome to Indie Spotlight! The independent scene is filled with many writers and artists alike and we here at Comic Book Therapy wanted to explore and reach reach out to these talented people to have the opportunity to learn about their works. For our first edition we present to you Yumi Sakugawa!

 

Yumi_Intro

I am Yumi Sakugawa and I am a comic book artist and illustrator based in the Southern California. I am a regular comic / illustrator online contributor to Sadie Magazine and Wonderhowto.

Most recently, my comic zine “Mundane Fortunes for the Next Ten Billion Years and Other Stories” was selected as Notable Comics of 2012 by the Best American Comics anthology editors.

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Comic Book Therapy – Thank you very much for taking the time out to do this interview. How have you been doing?

Yumi Sakugawa – It is my pleasure! I’m finally fully recovered from a week-long cold so right now I am feeling pretty amazing.

CBT – You’re a self published comic book artist. How did you start?

Yumi – After I graduated from UCLA, I spent a year teaching English in Japan… because that’s what you do when you have just graduated from college with an art major and you have no idea what you’re going to do with yourself.  During that time, a fellow English-teaching American artist friend and I spontaneously decided to sign up for a small booth at the bi-annual Tokyo Design Festa, a giant arts and craft convention that happens in Tokyo every May and November. I didn’t have any art on hand and I definitely did not want to show up as a first-time exhibitor empty-handed–so I furiously whipped up my first self-published 30-page comic zine “Milk and Moo” just in time for the event. Note to new artists, there is nothing like a convention deadline to really force yourself to kick your own butt to get something done.

This was back in 2008, and I had no idea that a zine culture even existed. When I moved back to Los Angeles, I made serendipitous connections with fellow artists in 2010 who introduced me to the zine scene and really got me hooked to showing comic zines at zine conventions.

CBT – What projects have you completed? Currently working on?

Yumi – I’ve self-published about eight comic zines in the last four years, ranging from illustrated guides on meditation to short comic story collections. My most recent self-published comic zine was a 50-page autobiographical diary comic of my travels in Paris and Rome.

Things I’m currently working on? I’ll definitely be releasing more self-published comics about meditation and mindfulness (people seem to really like those), and more short comic story collections. And since the world always needs more self-love and creative inspiration, I’m thinking of releasing a comic zine that deals specifically with self-love and staying inspired as an artist.
I’m also working on a longer fictional comic project right now, longer than anything I have ever made. It’s kind of a secret so either a lot of people will get to read it once it’s done or I won’t finish it and no one will ever know about it. Hopefully it will be the former and not the latter.

CBT – How long have you been in the art world? What inspired you to pick up the pencil/pen and create?

Yumi – I honestly don’t know what counts as being in the art world! I was in my first group art show in 2008 that wasn’t an art school student campus gallery show, so maybe since then? As for what inspired me to pick up the pencil / pen and create, I’ve always been drawing and doodling since I was a small kid, and drawing is the perfect medium to express yourself when you’re a really painfully shy kid and you’re trrified of talking to people.

CBT – As an artist, conventions and other means of showcasing are pretty important to promote your work. Have you attended conventions? 

Yumi – Yes! I’ve attended maybe 6 different comic and zine conventions in the last few years and I really love the convention scene. For 2013, I’m really excited that I will be tabling away from the West Coast for the first time ever–at the Brooklyn Zine Fest in April and at the Toronto Comics and Arts Festival in May. Come visit my table if you think you’ll be going to either of those events!

I always make the coolest new friends and discover amazing new artists at every convention event. Seriously, I feel like there is a significantly lower percentage of douchey, pretentious creative types in the zine scene compared to other creative scenes or maybe I have just been really lucky with the people I’ve met. That, and I love having the opportunity to share my work with new people and connect in real-time with people who have seen my work previously on the internet or elsewhere.
If you are just starting out as a comic book artist, then I really recommend signing up for a table or a booth at a comic convention. Even if you don’t sell that many comics in the beginning, you get so much from the whole experience.
CBT – What is your best Convention memory?

Yumi – I think my best convention memory is the first comic and zine convention I’ve ever attended in 2010. I was crammed in one car with three other zine friends and left at 3 in the morning from Los Angeles to arrive just in time in Sacramento at around 10 A.M. to table at Indy Euphoria. I was only there for one day and I hitched a ride back to Los Angeles with another friend that same night. That convention memory is particularly special to me because that was the first time I had the chance to meet Dylan Williams, the late founder of Sparkplug Comic Books. It was at the convention when he actually bought copies of my first comic zine from me to distribute through Sparkplug and as a total newbie, I was so blown away by the possibility that complete strangers would really take a genuine interest in reading my comics. I feel so fortunate to have met him at that time and one more time before his unfortunate passing in 2011.

CBT – Things can be a bit difficult getting into the comic business. What encourages you to continue?

Yumi – I honestly don’t think much about the difficulty of getting into the comic business. Not because I naively think it won’t be difficult for me or anything like that, more so because I’m much more preoccupied on a narcissistic, mundane level with the daily difficulty of motivating myself every single day to find the time and the inspiration to move forward with my comic projects, regardless of busyness or creative blocks.

What keeps me going? Fan mail from an eleven-year-old girl. Complete strangers from countries I’ve never visited ordering my zines online. Seeing my self-published comics on display in my favorite independent bookstores. Kind messages from strangers. The painstakingly slow progress I make as an artist with every new project I finish. Being held accountable to my inner eleven-year-old who always dreamed of becoming a cartoonist.
CBT – Have you done work for other publishers?

Yumi – I’m actually working on something with another comic publisher. I can’t disclose too much information for the moment and more details will be revealed later in 2013. Stay tuned!

CBT – What do you enjoy most about doing comics?

Yumi – I think comics is the best creative medium for me to fully and honestly express myself as an artist and as a human being. Growing up, I was always torn between wanting to become a writer and wanting to become an artist; thankfully with comics, you can do both things at the same time.

CBT – With the year of rebirths and reboots, do you feel it contributes well to the comic business or takes the interest away from longtime readers?

Yumi – I’m the worst person to ask this question. I haven’t actually read any rebirth or reboot comic storylines.

CBT – Who is your favorite comic book artist? Favorite title or series that features his/her art?

Yumi – What a difficult question! I have many favorite comic book artists that changes with what I am interested in at the moment, but I always find myself revisiting again and again “Skim” illustrated by Jillian Tamaki and written by Mariko Tamaki. Coming-of-age stories with interesting female teenage protagonists are my personal catnip.

CBT – What comic book character would you find easy to relate to?

Yumi – This is a Japanese manga character, but I can relate too well with Maruko from the shoujo manga series “Chibi Maruko-Chan.” She’s lazy and disorganized, and prone to retreating to her own imaginary world a lot, just like me. (I can’t relate, however, to her immense dislike of nattou)

As for an American comic book character, this may be an extreme cliche answer but I think Charlie Brown and I would have had a lot of great coffee hang-outs. I was a pretty melancholy kid prone to over-nostalgizing my own childhood experiences in my head as they were happening in real time.

CBT – What would you consider your greatest piece to date?

Yumi – I don’t know if this would be my greatest, but I will always have a huge fondness for my first self-published comic story “Milk and Moo.” There is a wonderful magic that comes out of having no idea what you’re doing but somehow getting it done anyway.

CBT – For those who want to have a start in illustration, what advice would you share with them?

Yumi – Give the world as many opportunities as possible to see your artwork. Have a regularly updated art blog. Show your work at shows. Exhibit at conventions. Meet other artists. Make friends with artists whose skills and work ethic intimidate the shit out of you. Being an artist can be a lonely business, so find a community of artists you can join or make your own community.  Find excuses to get your illustration out there, whether it’s volunteering to illustrate for a someone’s music event flyer or challenging yourself to publishing a weekly web comic with a friend.

In the beginning, all of this may seem like shooting darts in the dark. It is all worth it for the momentum that you create for yourself that will carry you over to your next great opportunity.
CBT – Thank you very much! Is there anything you’d like for us to be on the lookout for?
Yumi – Since so many people have asked about this, I will be releasing a limited artist booklet print of my emo-comic “I Think I Am In Friend-Love with You” sometime this month (January). If you are looking for the perfect not-so-subtle gift to give to your friend-crush for Valentine’s Day, this is it.
>Click Images for Bigger Versions<
Check out the sites below to see more of Yumi’s work and updates on her projects!

Bigcartel: yumisakugawa

Facebook: www.facebook.com/yumiverse

Flickr: yumisakugawa

Twitter: @yumisakugawa

Tumblr sketch blog: acrosstheyumiverse

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