An Interview with Sonia Leong

Back at the London MCM May 2011 we were able to catch up and interview Sonia Leong from Sweatdrop Studios.

Don’t forget you can also read this interview in Issue 3 found here!

Heya everyone it’s Nik from Yatta! And today I’m here with Sonia Leong from Sweatdrop studios. How are you today Sonia?

Very well thank you

Let’s drive right in, what did you first get into drawing manga? Where did it all start?

I put my pen to paper and it just came out, the thing is i’ve always liked drawing manga in general well, people in general. The thing is manga was a really nice mix between realism and style because today the fact is manga covers so many different shapes I mean you can draw a realist person or a really cute chibi or whatever, and the driving force behind it was peoples expressions. What they were thinking, how they were feeling and what they were thinking. Which, more so then any other type of comic that i’ve found from other countries so that’s why I just naturally went for it as it’s a great form of story telling and you get a lot more context from it then other comic types.

Ok well that is really interesting. Next question, when you were at school and such did you study art at all? Or was it something you picked up in your own time which has turned into a profession?

Second option. I never studied art formally I stopped in year nine because typical kid ya know, wanting to be different from everyone so I went with a degree in politics and worked for three years in Project marketing but yeah it was initially a hobby became my business because I found I was making enough money so I quit my job.

So when did you start finding out about Sweatdrop and start getting together with them?

I got on to the convention scene and met with a few people who I got to talk too back in 2000, 2001 and then later that year, these people I talked to about comics too got together and said ‘Hey, let’s form a group!’ all about comics. So three years later I got in touch with them again because one of the members is a friend of my husband and she said ‘oh! You like to join manga!? You should join this group!’ and I was like ‘Oh my gosh! You have a group!?’ and so yeah I joined up with the group back in 2003, 2004..more 2004 I think and then yeah, never looked back really and so that’s how I got in with Sweatdrop.

So is it very successful being with Sweatdrop then ya?

Pretty much I guess, the thing that Sweatdrop isn’t an employer it’s a comic collective and independent publisher we only registered as a company about a year and a half ago but we have been going for ten years, as a group. Over the past few years we’ve gotten enough capital to keep raising the bar in terms of standards and quality of printing so now we are a full publisher. We run our own store online as well but the thing is at the end of the day Sweatdrop still our ‘fun’, it’s not a job no one is employed by Sweatdrop everyone still uses their own money. It’s getting to a point now where hopefully we have enough group funds to fund more then just a table at conventions like maybe whole events.

Then we can be like ‘Whoo we did this!’ but yeah we do this in our own free time. We have to take time off our day jobs to come to these conventions sometimes but Sweatdrop is a platform that allows us to self publish so it’s really good. I mean, I work full time as a manga artist and I work for a few publishers but I also do a lot of freelance work. However if I want a project to be entirely my own I keep it for the group and work it through Sweatdrop. The other thing is that do you sign over all your rights to a publisher and only earn a small amount of the final total or do everything yourself and keep all the profits? Where I’m so business minded I do sell a lot of books off my own back which is important as now days I have to stop and think ‘Is it worth going through a publisher?’ where I could make the money myself. So yeah, it’s cool because Sweatdrop lets you do something on a smaller scale or on a larger scale.

So you say you do a lot of freelance work. Just out of curiosity what has been your favourite over recent years?

It’s hard because well, some of them for example like ‘Manga Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet’ was probably one of my favourites as it’s been translated into nine different languages now so I’m getting royalties back ever year which is good. It’s very rare for someone to make their money back that quick so I’m very happy with that and it’s also got a lot of recognition. I still have people coming up to me today saying ‘Oh my god! I read that book! You changed my life! I got an A in English because of that book!’ so that’s very good.

That said that was one project and that is a lot just from that. I have also had artwork on the I.T Crowd on Channel 4 which was really cool beaucse Channel 4 wanted some artwork for the set and they were like ‘Can we use it for the set?’ and I was like ‘YES PLEASE!’. So it’s like impossible to choose which one is my favourite. Every job has it’s perks and has it’s problems and it’s in every comic I mean like TokyoPop it’s great, great stuff but it’s hard work however at the end of the day it all pays off.

Well that’s fantastic that you have been able to get your work into so many different media’s! Moving along, do you have any advice you would give to people who say aim to be where you are now?

Never lose sight of your vision. That is something that I always tell people because a lot of people go ‘Ya I could do that buuuttt..I don’t know.’ or something like ‘Oh it’s really hard’ or ‘It costs to much’ and the common ‘I’ll never be good enough!’. That’s because it’s really not like that, try to make a practical plan for getting there because it’s unless you make a start your never finish. That’s it really, just believe in yourself, work hard and eventually your get there.

That’s fantastic thank you for those words. Thank you very much for your time today do you have any last words at all?

Um…don’t be a d**k! That’s another useful bit of advice that’s really important. Don’t be a d**k. That’s because the fact is everybody knows everyone in this industry do not be a d**k. That’s it yeah.

That’s great thank you so much for your time. Always a pleasure and thank you so much.

Your welcome thank you.

Check out more of Sonia’s work over at her DA page here!
Check out Issue 3 here!
And join us on the forum here!


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