Welcome to today's blog, TK here with a very special interview!
Though I am not a visual artist myself, I find great inspiration in the visual medium, particularly in the illustrative and animation fields. It was to this end that I discovered the work of Zeragii, a young artist whose body of work reaches thousands of readers a week with messages of love and encouragement through her fan-comic "DeeperDown." I was privileged to be able to interview her by email and gain some insight to how she works and how her faith impacts her art.
TK: When did you start drawing?
Zeragii: Hmmm. This is a good question. I can remember way back, when I was four or five years old, that I was given this draw Barbie kit that came with tracing paper. Basically it was a trace-to-make-Barbie-new-outfits deal, and I remember LOVING it. It wasn't until I was nine years old though that I really started to draw and realized that I liked it. I even remember where I was and what I drew. I was at our home school group, all of us kids down in a church basement playing together while the adults had a quick meeting. I'd had enough of the other activities and had set myself down at a table to draw in a sketchbook I had recently been given. Being in a church, I thought I'd draw Jesus. But, um. Let me tell you. While at the time I thought it was amazing, it stands, to this day, one of the ugliest things I have ever drawn. But it sparked what eventually became my passion!
TK: Who are your main influences?
Zeragii: There are a lot. A LOT. But I usually narrow it down to a few that I specifically admire and was inspired by. The first being Disney. Just any Disney movie or cartoon in general. Especially those made during the time when each frame was still being drawn by hand. It's just amazing to me, even now, how drawings can come to life. Don Bluth is another animator/studio that really got me into what I do now. He made movies like An American Tail and The Secret of Nimh. The colors and animation were absolutely GORGEOUS. Their movements so smooth and over-exaggerated, I loved it!
But the biggest influence by far has to be a man by the name of Jeff Smith. He was an animator for a while, in a few things, but he eventually dropped everything to sit down and write AND draw a graphic novel called BONE. It's huge. Thicker than...well, any other comic out there that I know of at least. It's an epic, in it's own right, about these lovable characters that end up in a very dangerous adventure. The style is very cartoony, but the story gets rather dark, something that inspired me as a writer as well as an artist. It totally got me hooked on graphic novels and comics; something I really hadn't given a second glance until then.
But I attribute my career so far, as well as my entire college education, to this one documentary on Jeff Smith that I got from the library. He said something along the lines of "Animation is the umbrella over all other arts. Because if you can draw a character to look alive while moving, then you can learn to make them look alive while they're standing still." Or something like that. It was then that I decided that I would go to college for animation, and I succeeded and got my Bachelor's degree about a year ago.
TK: What was your favorite cartoon growing up?
Zeragii: Oh, Looney Tunes, hands down. Not the Looney Tunes Show thing that came out in 2011, no no. The ORIGINAL Looney tunes cartoons. A lot of people find them...a bit violent, but they are comedy timing GOLD. Slapstick was huge back then, much less so than it is today. But most of their jokes were timed so perfectly that if they timed it even a second off, either too soon or too late, it wouldn't have been funny. I also loved the animation and the characters. Daffy was my favorite. The animation was so fluid, so much squash and stretch going on. All the stuff that animation today has strayed from in order to speed up production. It makes a lot of cartoons look the same to me nowadays. Not to say they're bad, heaven no! Bit they lose a little of that animation magic.
And again, Disney. Even to this day I have no shame going to the movies just to see the latest Disney or Pixar movie. I don't care if I'm in there with a bunch of kids, I'm going! While I do love the computer animation advances being made, I still love the old hand-drawn movies. One of my favorite old Disney movies to this day is The Great Mouse Detective, a severely underrated Disney take on Sherlock Holmes. It was also the first animated movie to integrate CGI with hand-drawn animation.
TK: What got you interested in "Undertale"?
Mm. It was actually a single fanart I came across by accident. (Here is the link to the artwork: https://www.deviantart.com/earthgwee/art/Colored-Sketch-Commission-Pacifist-Ending-593896996)
I saw this picture and I was like, "...Who are these characters???" I could tell at a glance that they were good, deep characters. Characters I could really get to know and love. I Googled Undertale and found out it was a video game, and not being a gamer as much then as I am now, I was a little bummed. But, I decided to look up the characters, and then got sucked into reading fanfiction. I think the first one I ever read was Flowey is Not a Good Life Coach. It was pretty good, and proved to me that these characters could really hold up to strong story telling - something I always look for in the characters I like. So that led to me searching for more art and fanfics, and I stumbled upon comics like Endertale and Insomnia. But then I started reading Handplates. I was so caught up in the story and art I just kinda...got carried away.
TK: How do you interact with the fandom?
Zeragii: Anyway I can! Most of my interaction takes place behind the scenes; readers send me private notes or emails. I also contact on occasion other, bigger Undertale artists like Zarla and TC-96. OR, rarely but on occasion, get contacted by a bigger artist, like Poetax! It gives me the opportunity to learn from artists who i see as better than myself, while also finding my own style. Writing fanfiction, as well as reading it, has also given me more opportunity to interact with the fandom. Mainly, again, through messages and comments. When Sans Comic TV (TK: An Undertale Youtube Channel) started contacting me about doing dubs, I was super excited, and they have brought me a lot of readers too. Another way I was able to become more well known and established in the Undertale fandom family.
TK: How does your faith influence your work?
Zeragii: It influences it a LOT. For a number of reasons. First of all, DeeperDown is brimming with little messages based on my own experiences as well as my faith. Not a bash-you-on-the-head kind of messages, but things that I saw in Undertale that matched up with things I truly believed or could make for interesting discussions. One of the largest underlying themes of DeeperDown is forgiveness. Sans is trying to forgive himself and is in the process of forgiving Frisk; Toriel is having trouble forgiving Asgore; Asgore and Alphys are struggling to forgive their past mistakes; and so on and so on. Another big theme is facing your fears, especially in regards to Sans in DeeperDown. About seeing past the things that scare and have hurt you the most, to see the better you, and the better future, on the other side. Again, a lot of these are influenced by my own life experience, and they often spark a lot of private conversations I have with readers behind the scenes. Everything from 'mom and dad divorced, what should i do' to 'i tried to commit suicide and this comic voices how i've felt'. And that kind of conversation happens a LOT. I don't even think I could name the number of times people have reached out, either to comfort me or be comforted. It's amazing! And it's also terrifying.
I tend to think of my work, DeeperDown especially, as a ministry of sorts. I would have given up a long time ago and moved on to other things if people were just saying it was a good read and left it at that. It's because I have people coming to me with things like depression, and fears, and honest to goodness hard times that I CONTINUE. Because I realized, 'my lord...this is actually making a difference to people?!' Is this normal?? I have no idea. Maybe it is. But either way that's made a huge impact on me, and the story in general. My heart literally aches sometimes, because I don't know if i can help, or ever do enough. So I keep drawing, and I keep answering messages. It's all I can do. And even if it helps one person, just one, every second is worth it.
Now, staying true to my faith in this fandom also comes with its less enjoyable aspects. There are certain beliefs of my religion that don't line up with how the world thinks. And while I'm perfectly fine with that, a lot of people feel the need to inform me that I'm wrong, or that I need to change my 'hateful' views. Fair enough. I will admit there are certain aspects of my faith that would be more socially correct and modern if I just threw them away and rewrote them to today's standard. But what kind of faith is that? A faith and belief system that i can write and rewrite at will? Just because it isn't popular? I can't do that. It's like me saying, 'God, you're not good enough; let me rewrite some of your commands for the sake of human culture'. If someone is going to make me choose between modern time correctness and my God, I'm sorry but I'm going to stick with God.
And I don't make that choice lightly. It hurts when I get accused of certain things, or of being hateful. Because I know these people feel hurt by my views, and I don't want that! It makes me feel like I'm failing them somehow. I sometimes cry for hours because just one person sent me a single negative comment, out of hundreds of positive ones. My boyfriend can attest to this. I've always been someone who wanted to please everyone. But the truth is you just can't. The world doesn't understand the difference between hate and belief differences. They see that I'm a Christian, know that I therefore follow certain beliefs, and assume that means I hate anyone who disagrees. There might be some Christians out there who are like that, I don't know, but I am not one of them. I love people so much it hurts. It doesn't mean I agree with their beliefs, or ideas, or lifestyles, but they are just as free to choose their life path as I am. Or as free to choose as I SHOULD be. I never push my beliefs on someone else, or even really voice our differences much unless someone asks or a situation arises where I feel I should, especially nowadays. But, that's harder to do online. Because once news gets out what you are, it doesn't go away. Some will accept you for who you are, and others won't. I'm getting to the point where, for my own mental health, I have to just ignore the negativity, otherwise my soul starts to get weighed down by it to the point I just want to give up on what I do. If a person is genuinely interested in talking about stuff, absolutely! But if they're just looking for a fight, or someone to pin with the hate other 'Christians', as they might argue, exude - well, no thank you. I'm done falling into that bully trap. I'll just focus on the good, and on God.
TK: Do you have any words of encouragement for other young or just-beginning artists who might be reading this?
Zeragii: Sure! I mean, the easiest thing to encourage is practice. Practice what you love, and you'll just keep improving. I'm STILL improving. Looking back through DeeperDown I can really see it. My art was AWFUL in the beginning. I personally still think it needs work, but that's why I keep going! I always loved art because it's a skill that doesn't have a top level. You just keep going and going, learning new things and getting better in your own style and own skill.
Don't compare yourself to others. It's gonna happen of course, and I certainly do it from time to time, but it usually only discourages us. Be INSPIRED by the work you admire. Instead of saying 'ugh, i wish i could draw like that!', say 'oh! i like that! let's see what i can learn from it and incorporate it into my own work!'. It'll take time, and work, but being inspired goes a lot further than just thinking someone's work is better than your own.
Do what you love. There are a LOT of artists out there, and they all have special areas of art they're good in. For me, I do cartoons. My sister is a fantastic realistic portrait artist. If she draws cartoons they tend too look wonky, and if I try to draw realistic portraits...Ugh. They are so ugly, I can't even describe their hideousness. My point being, we both have different areas of expertise. I seem to remember an artist I learned about in college whose name sadly escapes me at the moment, but he was known for painting one thing and one thing only: goldfish. But MAN, they were the most beautiful, realistic goldfish I have ever seen in my life. So! Find what you love to draw, what comes most natural, and practice it until you're the best at it you can be!
So, yeah! Practice, never give up, don't compare yourself to others but be inspired, and draw what you love.
We want to thank Zeragii for "stopping in" to talk to us today and for sharing from her heart.
You can find Zeragii at her DeviantArt page:
And you can read DeeperDown here:
All art used in this blog post belongs to Zeragii and Undertale creator Toby Fox.
**Opinions expressed on blogs about which I write are the opinion of the blog authors and DO NOT necessarily reflect my own opinion.