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Untitled Document
Info Bite
Featured Artists
Featured Artist:

Name:
Joanna Zhou
Nick: Scorpio
Age: 21
Ethnicity: Chinese
Nationality: Austrian
Location: United Kingdom
Studying: Graphic Design for Communication

Bio: I was born in China, grew up in Austria and I'm currently a final year student at University of the Arts London. I've always loved every aspect of visual communication so studying design and typography seemed a natural complement to my illustration work.

Inspiration: I'm highly influenced by japanese design, from magazines and packaging to toys and clothing. When I did have the chance to visit Tokyo, I fell in love with the amazing buzz you feel at places such as Shibuya and Harajuku. The combination of people, fashion, graphics and street culture is what I often try to recapture in my work.

Introducing Joanna Zhou.

We are very excited to introduce Joanna Zhou as a “TokyoToys.com featured artist”.

If you have been attending London Expo you may already know of her from the Sweatdrop Studios stand. Joanna’s most recent works include the mascot for Japan Ex London and tutorials in ImagineFX. Her manga Strange Harmony is featured in “Stardust”, Sweatdrop Studios latest anthology. She also won a university poster competition hosted by www.dontpanicmedia.com.

TokyoToys considers Joanna one of Sweatdrop Studios hottest artists. Her style is completely unique and unmistakably recognisable, best described as a fusion of western influence & manga style.

Joanna will be working closely with TokyoToys to produce a range of ‘Cute’ merchandise featuring characters from her mangas. She will also be creating comic strips featuring Coco & Kiki as guest characters especially for TokyoToys!

Under Joanna’s photo are links to her comic strips starring Carlos & Sakura, characters which will feature on T-shirts this September only available on our online store! TokyoToys would like to thank Ilya for permission to publish the strips. More Carlos & Sakura strips are featured in “Best New Manga”.

Joanna is extremely proud to announce that Carlos, Sakura and many of her other characters will be featuring in her latest manga published by Sweatdrop Studios. Entitled Harajuku Zoo, it’s a story about crazy little animals and will be sold for the very first time at Amecon!

If you enjoyed Carlos & Sakura comic strips you will love Harajuku Zoo as their characters are explored in more detail. Joanna’s story telling is very intelligent and we are sure TokoyToys customers will enjoy it as it is has a sprinkle of Japanese culture and Toys ^_^.

Joanna's Website
Joanna's Website
Chocolate Pixels

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Read Joanna’s
Comics!
Click to view!
Other works by
Joanna:

Harajuku Zoo
Available at
Amecon 11th July 2007
Sweatdrop Studios stall.
Feat. Coco! ^_^



Strange Harmony Stardust
Sweatdrop Studios


Counter Culture
A2 Poster
Don’tPanic

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Interview with Joanna.

Q1: How did your interest in manga start? When did you decide to take it as a career and what were the toughest obstacles?

I was born in China so I was exposed to manga and anime from a very young age. Even after I moved to Europe when I was 4 manga still felt like a “natural” style for me to draw in. I truly began drawing manga when I was 13 (not coincidentally, that was when manga really started taking off in the West so I was able to find more references and like-minded friends). It was fortunate that I lived in Austria throughout my teens so I was able to be part of the massive German scene (hehe, I fondly think of that time as “Manga Boot Camp” because the competition was unbelievably tough compared to the UK).

For a very long time manga was only a hobby…I never let it interfere with school or university since those were the “important things”! I only decided over the last 12 months that I want to draw manga for a living but soon discovered that working professionally to a client’s deadline is nothing like drawing as a hobby for myself! The biggest obstacle was by far the personal sacrifices I had to make in order to turn my dream career into reality. I regularly have to turn down meeting friends, missing holidays with my family and even forcing myself to work with fever and illness.

But I’m happy with my decision because based on my experience in the German and UK manga scenes, skill is only secondary to how hard you’re willing to work. This also involves treating the whole business with a sense of humour, almost like a game where you “gamble” your effort in hopes of winning but not taking it personally if you lose.

Q2: How did you go about studying manga at University?

If there’s one thing I learned the painful way, it’s never to mix manga with school or university! I know there are (lucky) exceptions but the vast majority of my experience has been unpleasant. It seems that especially in “established” visual culture in the West, people are prejudiced towards manga style. This must be especially bad for illustrators or animators who can’t help letting manga style creep into their work. I saved myself a lot of heartache by opting to study graphic design. I greatly enjoy the visual aspects such as layout and typography but it’s sufficiently far removed from manga so I don’t have to let the two mix.

Q3: How do you find inspiration for your comics?


A huge amount of my work is based on autobiographical experiences or anecdotes. I find that I can only effectively convey an idea if I can relate to it personally. The fun part is dramatizing the story so only I know what’s real and what’s fake. The events don’t necessarily have to be ‘real’…much of the concept and characters behind Harajuku Zoo is based on a long running joke I have with a friend. I do have certain themes that I like to return to such as urban fashion, cute animals or teenage issues.

Q4: Your style is very unique. One can spot your work instantly without needing to see the credits. Did you always draw like that or has it recently developed?

I’m pleased that you think so! It’s odd because I never consciously aimed to develop a style. For many years I simply copied artwork I admired (from Clamp to Lodoss War to official Zelda or Final Fantasy artwork). At some point I realised it was too time consuming to find references for everything so I had to start drawing “freestyle”. I guess my style became a fusion of the images I used to copy.

But even now, I still like to challenge myself with each new manga. Before each project I think of a specific goal (e.g. improving hair, using finer lines) and really concentrate on working on that area. I critically analyze each small change in style, making sure that they appear “improved” but still recognizable as my work. I often analyze other artists’ styles to find a new direction to take mine into. I feel that I make more progress this way than if I just drew mindlessly without thinking about what I’m doing.

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Thank you for your insightful replies. We are sure you will be a wonderful success. Very much looking forward to working with you bringing unique merchandise to TokyoToys.com!

Arigato!

Hideki
Manager

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