Sonia Leong

Introducing Sonia Leong, featured artist from Manga Fantasy Special (96).

How long have you been illustrating and what made you start?
I've been a professional illustrator since 2004, but drawing for fun since I was only 2 years old! I like telling stories with my artwork and I like clean line work so I gravitated towards comic strips and Manga. I really began stepping it up when I was introduced to Shoujo style Manga, realising that comics didn't have to be slapstick, but could look absolutely beautiful.

Where do you get your inspiration?
I enjoy listening to all types of music: heavy metal, cute J-pop, classical opera, electronica - they all make me imagine different scenarios, characters and landscapes. When I'm developing a project and designing characters, I often put together a playlist to help me get into their motivations and help me get the atmosphere right.

Where is your favourite place to illustrate?
I do most of my drawing in my trusty Ikea Poang armchair, with an antique Edwardian armchair next to me holding my tablet computer and drawing board. Part of how I keep my drawing muscles safe is to change up how I sit and use different mediums so my hand and wrist isn't always in the same position. I love Scotland, I go up into the Cairngorms every other year and I adore the landscapes in the wintertime. Seeing the pine forests, black crags and snowy peaks, feeling the stillness and quiet when you're surrounded by snow. I can't help but take a lot of photos and use them as references for the backgrounds of many of my fantasy illustrations.

What are your illustrating/colouring material essentials?
I use a mechanical pencil, and non-repro leads in bright pinks and blues. I draw on either cartridge paper or bristol board. Then I typically ink with fineliners from 0.05 width to 1.0, brush pens, mechanical pencil with black 0.3 leads. or digitally. I colour in many styles digitally, but I love using traditional media, mostly markers, coloured pencils and watercolour.

What’s the piece of work that you’re most proud of or enjoyed doing the most?
My latest fully-illustrated fantasy light novel A Spell Of Scarlet. Drawing one detailed picture can be hard, but any comic book artist will tell you, it takes ten times as much patience and determination to draw an entire graphic novel or book with over a hundred illustrated pages, all with the same characters and maintaining consistency throughout. This book is part of a series and I love the world and characters I created so, so much.

Artist's tip

Aim for high contrast whenever possible. Don't just fill in whole areas with a flat colour. Deep colours go into shadow, then blend out even until it goes white, never forget you have the white of the paper to use as well. Then try layering colours over each other, particularly effective with different coloured pencils, or using them on top of markers.

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