Sana Takeda – Online Locus

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What was your introduction to the field of comics? What were your influences? Is there one or more artists in particular that attracted you?

You know a lot of talented artists in the field of comics. At first I thought, “There is no place for me in this job. It was clear that even though I spent hundreds of years, I could never catch up with these talented artists. I almost gave up on finding my career in the comic book industry. But luckily some of my sketches were found by a Marvel editor. I still don’t understand why it happened. Maybe I just got lucky.

Like I said, I didn’t have a particular skill in drawing, but I was always like, ‘What if I could find a niche that accepts me?’ If I could find and challenge that niche with what I already have, there should be room for me. What I already have is the perspective I had growing up – Japanese culture, wonderful nature and various other things. I wanted to see and create something new and irreplaceable.

When you illustrate Monstress, with author Marjorie Liu, you are part casting director, set designer, costume designer, world creator, collaborator and imaginative guide. Were there any particularly difficult aspects, or how did the project change you as an artist?

Illustrating Monstress is very difficult for me, but I really like anything under pressure.

You know Marjorie is a genius, and her imagination weaves an amazing story, so I have to take every word carefully. I try to capture everything she says, even the part she doesn’t say.

Our dialogue between words and art has always been a living being. Her words give birth to my new art, and I hope my art also gives birth to her new words. I’m still excited (and a little anxious) because I have no idea where we’ll end up with this unique dialogue.

In addition, in Monstress, many characters find it difficult to live. Maybe like some of us today. Some readers may feel that these characters are talking to them and listening to them as well. It’s a very beautiful dialogue, isn’t it?

When I create characters, I do it from the inside out, listening carefully to their quotes. I think creating from the outside is boring. For me the most important thing is the inner person and the creation from within. It’s a dialogue between the characters and myself. My favorite moment is when various dialogues can support many possibilities and create beautiful products beyond my expectations.

What projects are you working on outside of Monstress?

I can’t say it yet, but I will be announcing some wonderful new project in the near future, and hope you like it.

Do you sketch from life or do you mostly work in your head before you put them on the page?

To create quality art, I try to widen the drawers of my mind all the time. For this, I like to listen attentively to a variety of people and develop my imagination. Listening is one of the most important things in creation. Deep listening and the polishing of the imagination take us beyond our expectations.

Are you excited or concerned about the impact digital media and digital books could have on traditional craftsmanship and the role of the artist? How do you use digital media in your own workflow?

My work is completely digital. I am in Japan, far from the United States, so digital tools and media help me a lot in my job. I can’t imagine my job without them.

But in fact, as a reader, I like and prefer traditional paper books, because paper books give my senses a lot of good feelings. I also like used books with notes written by previous owners. I like to imagine what others have imagined.

I think digital and analog should coexist, depending on the situation.

How do you keep things fresh for yourself, learn new techniques, and improve your craft? Have there been any recent changes or discoveries in your artistic process, or do you feel settled?

Learning new techniques is important, but I think the most important thing is to hone our imaginative power rather than learning certain techniques, and that the imagination should come from our own roots.

By getting involved in various projects over the past two decades, I have learned the importance of my own roots for creation.

When we borrow a foreign traditional design, we tend to just imitate the design, but some people love it and cherish this tradition, so I want to honor them. If I just imitate something it dishonours them, so I try to use my roots instead and create completely new designs by combining traditional foreign design and my own culture.

Combining our own roots and meeting beyond your expectations can create something powerful. Whatever we start, we can never rise without our own roots.

I hope I can continue to change myself through many encounters with my own roots.


Sana Takeda is a Japanese comic book illustrator and designer, winner of a Hugo and Eisner Award. After working as a designer at Sega Corp., she became a freelance writer. While drawing for Marvel, she also creates illustrations for children’s games and books. Her representative work is the Monstress comic book series, starring Marjorie Liu.


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