Illustrator Rachta Lin is proof that being a manga artist in Singapore is possible
Singapore-based illustrator Rachta Lin had what everyone would consider a successful career. She was artistic director of a multinational, having worked with prestigious clients such as UOB, Airasia and Toyota.
But ever since she was young, there was only one thing she really, really wanted to do: become a mangaka.
A huge fan of anime and manga, Rachta has always loved sketching and sketching her favorite characters. But the need to be practical meant that she worked in a company.
Finally, in 2015, Rachta took the plunge and quit her job to become a full-time illustrator. His art has earned him a legion of followers and commissions from various companies, including DC Comics and Blizzard.
Seven years later, after honing her skills with a renowned Japanese manga publisher and submitting her work to various competitions, Rachta is finally living her dream of publishing her own manga series.
MS News sat down to chat with Rachta about why she decided to quit her job at the company, how she makes a living through art, and how she ended up publishing a fully fleshed out manga series – in English.
Discovering a love for drawing through anime
Like many artists, Rachta, currently in her thirties, discovered her love for drawing at a very young age. It was while watching cartoons on TV, especially the magical girl series “Himitsu no Akko-chan” (Akko-chan’s Secrets), that her love for drawing really ignited.
As an anime and manga fan, Rachta’s childhood favorites included Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, Gundam, Slam Dunk, and more.
Her love for anime eventually led her to dream of becoming a manga artist, as impractical as that might seem for someone who didn’t even live in Japan and speak the language.
Surprisingly, however, her father was very supportive from the start. “One way or another, he’s always been very supportive,” she said, considering herself lucky.
Either way, people would tell him,
You’re not in Japan, what are you going to do here? How are you going to draw manga and earn money?
The feedback came to her and she finally decided on a more practical career path.
Leaving a corporate job after an epiphany
Although she graduated from a visual arts course in college, she took a job in corporate graphic design, eventually becoming an art director.
Although usually successful and “pretty happy,” Rachta still had a nagging feeling in the back of her mind that something was not quite right.
I remember sitting down and asking myself: if I only had one year left in my life, what would I do?
Her answer was clear – she would quit her job and draw for the remaining year, just to see how far she could go with it.
With that, she found out that was what she really wanted. After years of putting her dreams aside for practical reasons, she was finally ready to face her life goal of becoming an artist – even if it meant losing the stability offered by her corporate career.
The life of a full-time illustrator consists of many trips
Although things were daunting at first, she had a supportive manager who suggested she attend conventions to gain exposure, as he was well versed in the events and conventions industry. As he took care of all the logistics, Rachta was able to focus solely on the drawing despite her fears and worries.
Will people like my art? Will I be able to feed myself? How many sacrifices would I have to make to follow my heart?
At these conventions, she could sell and even give away artwork, earning her a loyal fan base over the years, many miles traveled just to meet her.
In between, she also responds to customer requests and counts Blizzard, Wizards of the Coast – which publishes Magic: The Gathering, a card game that Rachta plays avidly – and DC Comics as her customers over the years.
Since her first event, she has participated in more than 70 exhibitions around the world, crossing the United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.
In the seven years since she took the plunge, she hasn’t looked back and can now proudly say she earns more now than before she left her last job.
Meet a manga editor shortly before lockdowns, get to work on manga
But when the Covid-19 pandemic hit and lockdowns took place in April 2020, it was initially an uncertain time for Rachta as much of her travel was curtailed and conventions were cancelled. Luckily, before the lockdowns started, there was one place she was able to visit in March: Japan.
And this time, she wasn’t attending a convention but meeting a manga editor at Shueisha, the giant publisher behind mega-hits like One Piece, Naruto, and Demon Slayer.
Despite the language barrier, the editor was happy and eager to work with Rachta, staying in touch afterwards. This was an important step because the manga industry in Japan is extremely competitive and it’s not every day that a publisher agrees to keep in touch.
And soon after he returned from Japan, all countries including Singapore would go into lockdown. Now she had to think about how she could make money without going to conventions.
But through her manager, her loyal fanbase, who were eager to meet her at the now canceled conventions, contacted her and asked for commissions, which she is still grateful for.
The pandemic months were also an opportunity to take stock and finally embark on what she had been putting off for years: creating her own manga. Ever since she was young, Rachta had always kept a notebook full of story ideas. But as someone who “can’t do more than one thing at a time”, she’s never been able to write and draw manga while working.
Finally, without all the traveling she normally does, she was able to sit down and really work her craft, now armed with the help of a respected manga editor in Japan.
Heartbroken She Didn’t Win Shonen Jump Manga Contest
One of the things he told her was to work on a one-shot manga (a standalone story). But Rachta, despite her sincere desire, will suffer one of the biggest heartbreaks of her career when she finds out that the one-shot she’s been working on for months didn’t win the Shonen Jump 100th Tezuka manga contest in 2020.
“I spent six months creating a brand new one-shot for this contest,” she said. “It was countless sleepless nights revising, rewriting, and redrawing the manga in hopes of perfecting it.”
However, it turned out that I didn’t win and at that time when the results came out, I was truly heartbroken.
This is the price she paid for putting herself body and soul into her work. But after the failure, she could only pick herself up and continue to perfect her art. In the end, it was fuel to do even better next time.
And finally, this year, Rachta has completed her first manga series titled The Wonderverse Saga, which is scheduled for release in the fourth quarter.
It won the Singapore Comic Con (SGCC) WIP program competition in 2021, and fans can expect a glimpse of The Wonderverse Saga at its booth at SGCC 2022, which will be held from December 10-11.
To get an idea of what it will be like, Rachta says Wonderverse Saga draws inspiration from her own favorite genres, including dark fantasy with psychological themes, as well as superhero comics.
Although challenges and setbacks are inevitable, with the support of her friends, she managed to pull through. Even her brother, who is normally a harsh reviewer, praised her story, which fills Rachta with hope that her manga will be well received.
Love made it go on
The dream may come true – a little – but drawing will always remain a part of Rachta’s life.
She has embarked on a life of endless illustrations as she plans to continue working on her manga series while traveling the world attending conventions and fulfilling commissions. And what keeps her drawing together is simple – love.
“You should love what you do. Find out if you really like doing this,” she said as advice to anyone looking to follow in her footsteps.
She added that,
Every job has its own challenges and obstacles, including the artists… I think what keeps me going is that I love it.
This love is going to have to fuel not only the challenges, but also the need to “draw nonstop”, as Rachta put it. It may be cliché, but the truth is that the more you do something, the better you will get at it.
Rachta is living proof that once a dream takes hold, it can never be extinguished.
Do you know more inspiring people like Rachta? Contact us by email at [email protected]
Image courtesy of Rachta Lin.