Shirley Xu: Where did you get the inspiration for your comic?
Cristiana Leone: Sunken‘s story is quite… weird, but funny.
I went to Dolomiti Mountains for the first time in April 2014. It was the very first time in my life I was visiting High Mountains! And I fell deeply in love with them at first sight. I loved everything there. EVERYTHING. And so deeply that, with my partner, we returned there 3 times in 18 months despite the distance and the long drive to face.
Anyway, I immediately told to my partner “THIS is the place where I want to live…! Why don’t we move here?” But the problem is that we both were born and always lived on the sea, and my partner is a surfer. He loves the sea and he just can’t live without the waves…
So, fantasizing, I thought that it would be so cool if sea would have arrived just under the mountains… That would have been the perfect solution for us!
About one year after this crazy idea, one day, with no intention, I randomly sketched a new character on my scrapbook. He had strange features: fish scales, fins, pointed ears and a melancholy look. I had a kind of flash of inspiration and almost everything was clear in my mind. Herm, the main character, was just born and Sunken‘s world and setting begun to buzz in my head.
SX: How long did it take you to develop your characters/environment? Did you plan them thoroughly, or do you make up their traits as you go?
CL: As soon as I started to develop Sunken‘s plot, the setting, and environment, the other main characters started to spring up in my mind very easily. I could figure out them and their features very easily… It is like they’re already alive somewhere and I only need to “take them out.”
SX: Would you say that you have been drawing for a long time? What is your advice to people who would like to develop their artistic skill?
CL: Well, yes… and no. I’ve been drawing since childhood, but only in the spare time, for fun. I never had any purpose to make it a profession… So, for too many years I’ve left art aside, without understanding that the malaise and dissatisfaction I had inside was caused exactly by this detachment. Then, 5 years ago, after a very difficult moment in my life, I realized that drawing is my passion and my life and that I can’t live without it. Unfortunately I’ve understood this quite late but now I don’t want to make this mistake again, ‘cause now I know that drawing is what makes me feel alive and gives meaning and fulfillment to my life. So I left my job and decided to stake everything on drawing and I put all myself into studying and practicing, and try to always get out of my comfort zone, to explore new techniques and challenge myself. So with patience, dedication and perseverance, I’ve been able to do of this passion a job. And I am so very happy about that!
So what I can say to other people is to never give up, and give all of themselves to follow their dream and their passion. To not get discouraged if they need to improve or to do lots of exercise or practicing. Exercise and patience always pays.
SX: What keeps you motivated to keep writing?
CL: I can not call myself a writer or an author itself. I’m just a dreamer, with lots of imagination and so many fanciful stories in my head. So putting on paper the stories simply comes from the need of recounting. And it is the story itself, the desire to see my characters come to life, to inspire and motivate me.
Of course knowing that the story and characters could be interesting and could meet public’s favor is a great incentive!
SX: How would you describe your fanbase, and how did it develop?
CL: I LOVE them! I have a small but passionate fanbase, to which I am very affectionate and devoted. Many of them come from DeviantArt (the social where I started to share my artworks, and where I am active for some years now) and some of them decided to follow me in this crazy adventure in this underwater world! I’m really lucky and blessed to have so affectionate followers and I’m very grateful for their continued support! Every single comment, like, share, means the world to me!
SX: Does writing a webcomic get harder or easier as you go?
CL: Well, I’d say easier. The difficult part was starting (and find the courage to do it!) Then, when you start, as long as you proceed you become faster, more efficient, because you already know what to do and how you do it.
SX: What are the biggest obstacles to your writing?
CL: Myself. Unfortunately I get discouraged very easily and this makes me very erratic, inconstant… I never get to complete my own personal projects. I’m always afraid of not being up, not being able to accomplish things as I see them in my mind, and this always ends up blocking me. I do hope, though, that this time is different, because this project means a lot to me.
Another big obstacle is time. Sunken is a personal side project I do in my spare free time, but as a freelancer, free time is very limited and it is very hard sometimes to respect the schedule of one new page per week…!
SX: Who/what are your inspirations, and why do they inspire you?
CL: Well, they’d be so many to mention that I don’t even know where to begin… Let’s say I’m a lover of art and from childhood I remained enchanted leafing through my mother’s books of art history. Among the many I love, without any doubt some of my favorites are Leonardo, Caravaggio, Munch, Klimt, Van Gogh, Escher, while for comics and illustration surely Manara, Moebius, Miyazaki, Otomo, Nightow.
Among my favorite comics I can definitely mention Trigun, Watchmen, V for Vendetta, Akira, Alita and many others!
I also get inspiration from everywhere or everything that can transmit feelings to me! If I find a beautiful image on the web, or if I listen to an immersive music, an engaging movie, addictive video game, and so on.
SX: If you could go back in time, would you change anything?
CL: Yes. I’d attend art school, instead of what I attended, and I’d follow my passion right from the start, rather than dismiss it for years…
SX: Are there any warnings you’d like to give to prospective webcomic writers?
CL: I am not a comic writer, I am doing Sunken only as a side personal project as I am a freelance illustrator, so I actually don’t know anything about the world behind comics. I only can say: do not get discouraged from critiques, but consider them as an incentive to grow up and improve; and to be willing to work hard, to study a lot and do a lot of exercise.
Continue reading Sunken here or follow on FB. Cristina’s work previously appeared in cahoodaloodaling as part of our Relativity artists spotlight.
On a hot summer of 1980, in a small seaside town near to Rome, Italy, a chubby girl with curly and very dark hair was born… but Cristiana Leone soon proved to be a very strange creature… The more she grew up, the more she tended to fantasize, to create weird stories, to imagine worlds and magical creatures, capturing everything on paper with a pencil. Her parents hoped confident that, growing up, she would change, but they were wrong! Despite a bachelor degree in Oriental Studies with honors, and many different jobs in different and non-creative fields, such as administration and tourism, she has never stopped (and probably will never stop) drawing and daydreaming, trying to self-improve her skills with a lot of exercises and passion. Cristiana can be reached at email@example.com.