HoraTora Studios’ Christie Shinn Discusses Her Inspiration, Art Style, and Thematic Elements

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    ComicWow! (CW): Where do you draw your inspiration from?

    Christie Shinn (CS): I draw inspiration on something that personally has fired me up in some way. It’s interesting as all the not-too pretty emotions that I have manifest themselves in different ways. I used to self-censor myself in terms of feeling like it might be “too much”. However, I realized the “too much” can be “quite enough” or simply resonating and breathtaking. I suppose the inspiration comes from a thought I have about a particular subject. It’s not necessarily the standard: political, artistic, emotional, etc. I guess I don’t have the standard way of thinking of things that a lot of other people do. I come to my own conclusions I suppose. In this realm of required instantaneous opinionated reaction, I’d rather think about it and see the many layers in a situation or society and think about how we as a whole react to it, how I’ve felt about looking at other people’s reactions and not agreeing with some of the ways of how people react, and feel in a way, that it seems to be the “same old thing.” Mind you, I don’t act contrary to be contrary; I’d rather not see it as how everyone sees it as I’m not everyone else.

    CW: A lot of your work has to do with the human condition/human psyche. Why do you choose to focus on these themes?

    CS: I think it came from my own journey. For me, I had read a lot of self-help books and was frustrated. I listened to everyone’s advice and was frustrated and confused. I saw how people BEHAVED and thought it was immensely silly as in a lot of the time we get caught up in the hamster wheel of the same thought process without stopping and thinking WHY we do what we do. Plus, it seemed to me that some people’s behavior in relationships, interactions, solutions to issues, and finally just TALKING to each other seemed rather automated: we do what we are doing because we don’t really have conscious thought as it was beaten into us emotionally, verbally, (sometimes physically) without really being mindful of what we really wanted and interacted for the end result we desired. We put ONE blanket solution on ONE type of interaction, rather than treating each one individually. I notice people like to put each other down about that. It’s fucking ridiculous. I wanted to explore REAL love, not the construct that I’ve seen in dating sites and how generally the public reacts towards each other. I wanted to explore REAL betrayal, not some facsimile that seems like “oh yeah, that’s betrayal,” and so on. It really challenged my idea on the idea of God, our morality (not in a subversive manner but the stupidity of what we consider “good” rather than simple and what feels resonates with us) and how we go from doormat martyrdom to complete self-absorbed narcissism to wallowing without really addressing and honoring our real feelings and issues. I have noticed the knee-jerk reaction is to discount how we feel and how “stupid” it is. Then we shove it down until it erupts in this nasty bile of just repressed frustration in rage. In my own experience, it’s perfectly fine feeling these horrible things to even ugly thoughts as long as our expression is not abusive or nasty to others – particularly ones that have not have any personal responsibility in your experience. To me that is “owning” your stuff. I have also noticed lately and one article I had resonated with me as it illustrated my thoughts perfectly. It seems like we generally have adopted this mentality that if I do not agree with you, I have to destroy you. It’s pretty messed up at how those two come hand-in-hand a majority of dialogue we have today.

    CW: Why contrast these heavily realistic themes with unrealistic and fictitious illustrations?

    CS: I think in some way, I’m expressing these themes with just things that go hand-in-hand. We may know something exists—either if it’s utterly horrible to utterly wonderful. However, when we meet up with the person that embodies these issues/feelings/ideas, we go, “You ACTUALLY exist?” with stark incredulity.

    CW: Who is your target audience? What do you try to convey to them?

    CS: I don’t know if I generally go to a target audience. Sometimes I seem to just aim for the right one that wants to read and listen to the stuff I actually talk about. I usually try to convey something relatable as it infuriates to me no end, crappy storytelling. What insults me is that lately the trend is that “let’s tick all the boxes of everything socially appropriate and trendy to talk about because we want to show like we care” without really caring about the individuals that have those traits (superficial in terms of their character or character buildup or their quality as an individual) and really, honestly, making them human and that you can interact with on some level. Would I want a character that you hate? That you feel empathy? Etc.? I’m going to my own levels of reaction and interaction that makes you know WHY they are something negative/positive. Why people give them a pass/no pass, etc.

    CW: What has been your favorite book to work on so far, and why?

    CS: It would be a toss-up between Personal Monsters and Sepulchre. In a sense they both beautifully illustrated what I went through and the journey to “get it” and to “get past it”. Plus, it showed me that I actually was pretty good at this stuff by being authentically me.

    CW: What can you tell us about HoraTora Studios? How did it come about? What are its goals?

    CS: HoraTora Studios started out because of a person I knew. I love the Zodiac, and my background is Korean. That person was a tiger and had Japanese ancestry. Plus, a lot of my work is influenced by manga and manhwa. However, I combined the first part of the Korean word for tiger as Horangi (Hora) and Tora is apparently a war cry and name for tiger in Japanese, so there you go. I always loved the tiger and the dragon—very strong things to have in your background so there you go. It’s a studio with a primal creative force and I’d love to see where that takes me.

    The goal is to publish as many of the things that come into my head and show it to the world. I love how people resonate with different aspects of my “personality” when they buy books that I’ve soley worked on or collaborated with others.

    CW: How would you describe your art style?

    CS: Calligraphic watercolor. Primal sketchiness of being. Stabbing and uncomfortable reality that you could possibly swallow with a bit of lye.

    CW: If you could work on any series out there, which would it be and why?

    CS: There are a few that come to mind immediately. I wouldn’t mind working on The Crow, Hellboy, Preacher, Love and Rockets, El Muerto, Prison Pit and the Sandman. I know some are finished, but those are the series that really captivated my fevered mind in that way. Also, there are some people that I know of that seem to have an irreverence or an especial aspect about their love of storytelling and illustration that cares me to work with them. Hell, if you talk about spooky crap, I’m into it too—disturbing things that are juxtaposed against things that shouldn’t be disturbing at all. Plus, I feel working with Neil Gaiman would also be entirely awesome.

    CW: What can we expect from you in the near future?

    CS: More books and drawings. I’ve gotten into the realm of 3D art, so you’ll see some pins for me. Enamel pins are the new drug, I swear. My goal is to finish the next volume of Sepulchre before San Diego Comic Con – but it might be later on in the year. I also have paintings and drawings at the Hive Gallery in Downtown Los Angeles, so you can see my evolution there.

    CW: Is there anything you’d like to add?

    CS: Come by and talk to me at my table! I love meeting new people. It’s really good to hear your story as you’re going to be the one to tell it the best to me. Here is my appearance link if you happen to be at these conventions.

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