Artist's profile - Li Chen


Image (c) Li Chen 2014 - reproduced with permission of the artist

Hi Li, can you briefly tell us a little about yourself and your artistic background?

My name is Li, I was born in Beijing, China, and moved to New Zealand with my parents when I was five. I've always loved drawing and after high school I went on to study Architecture at University. It wasn't until after university that I started making comics and discovered that I really enjoyed the combination of art and story-telling. 

What's the central idea behind Extra Ordinary Comics?

Hmm that's a hard question! I think it's about appreciating small moments and finding surprise and humour in normal day-to-day life. 

You use yourself as a character in the comic, what led you to this approach?

The comics I wanted to write were inspired by my own life and so it seemed natural to have me, my partner (Jordan), and my cat (Shoelace) as the comic characters. I never thought that exocomics would become so widely read, as I mainly drew them to share jokes with Jordan. Over the years comic-Li has really developed into her own character so I often think of us as two different entities. 

Drawing a weekly comic sounds like a lot of work, what goes in to drawing each one?

Yeah it's definitely a lot harder than I thought it would be. I used to write two comics a week but it was just too much pressure so now I only make one a week. I really admire people who make daily strips because I could never do that. A comic usually starts out as a doodle in my sketchbook that I'll find funny, then I'll try to develop the sketch into a four panel comic. That can be hard because humour is such a intangible, delicate thing and sometimes you can lose that spark in the process. I'll then draw a rough sketch of the comic and show Jordan and if he likes it, I'll make the final version. I draw all my comics by hand with pencil and paper, and then they're scanned and cleaned up digitally. The whole process takes a long time and usually I'll set aside a full day to make a comic. 

And you’ve just finished a kickstarter campaign to publish your 3rd book, can you tell us a little about that process?

In 2012 I ran my first Kickstarter project to publish Vol 1 and 2 of exocomics, with each book containing a hundred comics. It was a really successful campaign and I had a lot of fun designing and publishing my first books. Since then I've made another hundred comics so in April I ran my second Kickstarter project to publish Vol 3. 

The whole process of running a Kickstarter campaign involves a huge amount of work, not only in setting up the project, but also actually delivering the books at the end. It took Jordan and I about a month of planning and writing to make the Kickstarter page. It ran for thirty days, and thankfully we reached target again so now I'm in the process of making Vol 3. The project as a whole from creating the project all the way to shipping out the rewards takes about six months to complete. It's so exciting to see it all come together in the end!

You also sell prints via. your Facebook and Flickr account, how integral is print sales to the success of Exocomics?

Prints are the cheapest and easiest way for fans to own some of their favourite comics and drawings so they are quite popular. Each one is printed to order and signed so I try to make them as special as possible.

Why did you choose to print with The Print Room?

The print quality is awesome, and Helen is very knowledgeable and helpful. It's a great place to get good quality, small runs and they are always done in a very timely manner. It's great to be able to get high quality prints really quickly and easily. 

What do you think sets us aside makes from other printers?

I really appreciate Helen's attention to detail and commitment to getting the colours just right. It's hard to find other printers that care that much about the end result. 

To check out more of Li's work and daily comics, visit her website here.

Image (c) Li Chen 2014 - reproduced with permission of the artist

Image (c) Li Chen 2014 - reproduced with permission of the artist

Image (c) Li Chen 2014 - reproduced with permission of the artist

Image (c) Li Chen 2014 - reproduced with permission of the artist