Life As a Mangaka, Part 1: Shilin Huang (Carciphona)

Japanese mangaka are internationally popular, but it is not only Japanese people who have mastered special comic or drawing skills. Many other internationally established artists have discovered the art for themselves. But how does their everyday life look like? Which dreams are they following and what kind of difficulties did they have to face?

An article series by the German online magazine Sumikai will give you some insight into the life of various international and Japanese mangaka.

We start with the Chinese illustrator Shilin Huang, who lives in Toronto. Her online manga CARCIPHONA is published by PYRAMOND in German-speaking countries. The 31-year-old grew up with anime and manga and was fascinated with illustrating. However, Huang only came up with the idea of drawing manga over time because she wanted to pursue her passion for drawing for the rest of her life.

Huang about the beginning of her career

It’s difficult to start from zero as an artist. Huang started her manga career shortly after graduating university, and was faced with the option of devoting herself to a music career or starting to draw manga. She chose the latter because she had nothing to lose.

“I wanted to give it a try and I knew that it was the best time to do it because if I failed, I could still return to my music career, without having to wonder what might have happened if I had succeeded.”

Huang knew what to expect. At the beginning it was important for her to create a portfolio in order to be able to live on full-time manga drawing in the future. This portfolio turned out to be a very time-consuming affair and was not very profitable at the beginning as the artist had only a few commissions. However, Huang received support from her parents at the time, so she was able to invest all her time in the completion of her manga volumes without being delayed by full-time job. She was really happy about her parents’ support.

However, the artist admits that her family was very worried at first because she gave up her previous life and it was uncertain whether she would earn enough money in the future for her livelihood, which would have possibly plunged her into an unhappy life. Several discussions followed with her family.

“In the end I know they were just trying to make sure I don’t do anything stupid that might lead to me being sad.“

In the end her family realized that her decision was not just impulse and passion. This artist had plans, regardless of what the result would be. According to her, her parents supported her in every possible way and were very happy about her achievements.

Today’s everyday life and goals for the future…

Huang admits, her work has not changed over the years by drawing day after day. Uncertain about what has become easier or more difficult, she thinks she has found her peace of mind by making a steady income right now as she has less to worry about how forward-looking that career will be in the future. Meanwhile, Huang has also written many books so she is able to estimate the time required for large projects more easily and to plan her yearly routine with more accuracy now. Yet Huang still mentions a small disadvantage:

“As I grow older, I get tired easier, so I can’t work for as long as I used to, maybe this can count as something becoming more difficult, haha.”

But what does the working week of the artist roughly look like? Huang explains that she does the same thing every day: she gets up, does some chores and draws the whole day, including the weekends. Usually she works on CARCIPHONA during the week.

However, Huang also takes about two days to work on something else. She wants to have diversity in her work and in her routine. In the past it would have been illustrations, but since Shilin works on the webcomic AMONGST US as well, she spends those days on it. She also spends one day a week to clean her home, buy groceries, ship orders for her online store and do other weekly tasks. Thus, her job occupies a large place in her everyday life. Some private activities may fall by the wayside.

“Sometimes I miss doing music, or wish I had more time to learn something new like tangoing or flying a plane or whatever, but in the end I decided to do this for a living because I love drawing the most, and I know no one can have everything in life, haha!”

Shilin Huang built up this career so that she can draw everyday, because that’s all she wants to do. Many people don’t believe her when she says that she is the happiest and most relaxed when she draws. They think that artists work too much and need more vacation or relaxation.

“I actually feel anxious and sad when I have to take the time out for family and friends or go on vacations as they instruct in an attempt to help me do what they think is good for me. I don’t feel like I have missed out on things or made sad sacrifices in order to be a mangaka.”

In the end, Huang is living with a passionate job, which may be stressful but happy. She decided to work on CARCIPHONA all her life and to tell this story. In order for the mangaka to do so for as long as possible, she must earn money with the project. Therefore, she decided to draw for her living.

“So I have already realized my dream, and my current goal is only to be able to continue working on this story full time until its completion.”

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