I am Christine Nishiyama, an illustrator/author making + self-publishing picture books and comics. AMA about drawing, self-publishing, and the creative life!

Nov 14, 2017

Hey ya'll! I’ve been working independently as a freelancer under my studio, Might Could Studios for over 5 years. I’ve worked with over 50 companies, created over 15 courses, and taught over 40,000 students. I’ve grown a one-woman business into a community of makers and creatives that love to draw, make art, and make books.

I have multiple ventures: I just self-published my debut picture book, We Are Fungi, on Amazon and it currently has all 5-star reviews!

I run a group called Might Could Beta Books where I share my entire book making process from start to finish LIVE while I'm making them. I'm currently working on my second book in this group.

I teach courses on drawing and creativity!

And I write and send out free weekly resources for creatives (join here!)

Because I think anyone can and everyone should make a book. It's an extremely rewarding process, and everyone always tells me about their great book idea anyways. So let's stop just talking about it and dreaming about it, and let's all make books! :D

Ask me anything about illustration, writing, self-publishing, book making, and creativity!

Want to learn more? Get the list of all my favorite tools that I can't live without in my career as a full-time artist! All tools are linked so you can check them out for yourself!


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Do you travel alot?

Nov 21, 6:49AM EST0

How long did it take you to complete your first book?

Nov 15, 3:04PM EST0

Hi Paul! I worked on We Are Fungi—my first published book—for two years, with a bit of a break in the middle because I originally tried to publish it with a traditional publisher, and then ended up reillustrating the entire book and self-publishing it. 

But before that, I had worked on many other books that haven't seen the light of day! Some of them are terrible and were part of me learning how to make a book, and some have potential that I might explore in the future. So I guess all that should be included in the time that led up to We Are Fungi as well!

Nov 17, 8:00AM EST0

Self publishing vs Seeking a publisher.

I noticed you chose to self publish your first book instead of shopping it to a 'traditional' publisher.

What are your reasons for this and why?

Thanks and looking forward to hearing back from you.

Nov 15, 9:36AM EST0

I started out my book making journey trying for years to go the traditional route—pitching books to publishers, and even signing with an agent. But the publishing industry moves so slow and I was tired of waiting months and months to hear back from people considering my book, and waiting years for my books to be released. 

I think the book industry is going through a big upheaval right now (like most industries) and publishers are adapting and changing very slowly. I want to be at the forefront of whatever new is happening in the book world, and I think right now that involves self-publishing and selling online. I can't even remember the last time I bought a book in a bookstore, so why should I assume my readers are?

So I guess my short answer is: I tried to do it the traditional way, it was too slow and outdated, and now I'm going at it on my own to see what happens. :)

Nov 15, 12:09PM EST0

Thanks! I totally understand why you made those decisions (having worked in traditional publishing for years myself). 

Aside from being a published travel writer with Lonely Planet, I've written a couple of children's books and while I've had interest from a publisher, it helps to be the complete package (illustrator + writer) as opposed to only being a writer or an illustrator.

Glad to see you've made the plunge self-publishing and I hope you continue to keep producing creative work!

Last edited @ Nov 15, 4:47PM EST.
Nov 15, 4:44PM EST0

Which is your favorite work?

Nov 12, 10:59AM EST0

Hi Adrian! If you're asking what my favorite work of mine is, then it's definitely my debut book, We Are Fungi

If you want to know what my favorite work of someone else is... that's much harder to answer! I love anything by Miyazaki, Audrey Kawasaki, Isabelle Arsenault, Edward Gorey, and Quentin Blake to name a few!

Nov 14, 12:04PM EST0

What’s integral to the work of an artist?

Nov 10, 5:50AM EST0

I think the most integral thing is a self-awareness. An artist can't make the art that's truly unique and original to them if they aren't able to think introspectively and analyze their thoughts/emotions/experiences. Putting yourself into your work is what makes it feel like YOU! And to do that, you have to pay attention to who you are and what makes you, you!

Nov 14, 12:08PM EST0

What themes do you pursuit?

Nov 10, 5:34AM EST0

I tend to enjoy themes based in real life, whether that means a science based story (like my book on the fungi kingdom), a animal species book (like my current in-progress book), or comics about just living daily life. I'm really just trying to draw and write about the world we live in!

Nov 14, 12:11PM EST0

Who is your favorite Artist?

Nov 10, 2:39AM EST0

So many! I really love Hayao Miyazaki, Isabelle Arsenault, Edward Gorey, Quentin Blake, Bryan Briggs, Nimura Daisuke, Bryan Lee O'Malley, and Yasmeen Ismail! 

Usually though, I say Audrey Kawasaki is my favorite artist (I do have one of her pieces tattooed on my arm, so I guess that makes it solid!)

Nov 14, 12:16PM EST0

Where are you from?

Nov 9, 10:37AM EST0

I'm from North Carolina in the United States! I currently live in Atlanta, Georgia which is also in the south, but I'm moving next summer to Seattle, Washington, on the other side of the country! I've also lived in Texas for a few years, and Prague, Czech Republic for a few months. I love jumping around and seeing new places. :D

Last edited @ Nov 14, 12:17PM EST.
Nov 14, 12:17PM EST0

Are your comic books in stores in your country?

Nov 9, 9:29AM EST0

My books are only sold online right now, on Amazon. I've heard a bunch of statistics that 55% of all books are bought online, so I'm focusing on that market for now. 

My books are also self-published, and most book stores typically don't like self-published books.

Nov 14, 12:20PM EST0

Do you have other comics?

Nov 9, 5:45AM EST0

We Are Fungi is currently my only published book, but I'm already hard at work on my next, and have a list of book ideas to go through after that! I share all my book making process in my group, Might Could Beta Books.

Nov 14, 12:21PM EST0

How did you come up with the caracters?

Nov 9, 5:27AM EST0

As I'm writing the story, I have some sort of vision of the characters from the beginning, but it isn't until after I've figured out the plot of the story to really figure out what they look like! It definitely a process of trial and error, just drawing character after character with different varieties, keeping some traits, getting rid of others, until something clicks and it just feels right!

You can see more of my character development process for We Are Fungi here in this post: mightcouldstudios.teachable.com/courses/might-could-beta-books/lectures/2904621

Nov 14, 12:24PM EST0

What’s your background?

Nov 9, 1:54AM EST0

I graduated from North Carolina State University with a degree in Graphic Design, and worked as a designer in a marketing studio for about a year. Then I worked as a freelance designer for a year before I started transitioning into illustration. I worked for a while as an editorial illustrator, and then transitioned into making books and teaching online courses, which is what I spend all my time on now!

Nov 14, 12:27PM EST0

Are comic books easy to find at convienience stores?

Nov 9, 1:11AM EST0

No, I would say you have to go to a book store, comic store, or online to find comic books, as least in the places where I've lived.

Nov 14, 12:27PM EST0

Are you going to sell your comics on line?

Nov 8, 2:48PM EST0

Yep! That's my whole plan. I'm not worried about getting my books into book stores, and am focusing on online distribution only. For now, I'm on Amazon, and have had a great experience there so far. I'm thinking about offering special limited edition hardcover books on my site in the future, but that's down the road. :)

Nov 14, 12:28PM EST0

What themes do you pursue?

Nov 8, 12:36PM EST0

Here's my answer from a similar question above: 

I tend to enjoy themes based in real life, whether that means a science based story (like my book on the fungi kingdom), a animal species book (like my current in-progress book), or comics about just living daily life. I'm really just trying to draw and write about the world we live in!

Nov 14, 12:29PM EST0

How old were you when you started writing?

Nov 8, 12:20PM EST0

Hmm... well I had to write whatever homework was required in school growing up. But I didn't really enjoy that, and I honestly didn't start writing seriously enjoy writing until a few years ago. But now I love it! Both writing stories and essays about art!

Nov 14, 12:30PM EST0

How long have you worked with comic books?

Nov 8, 11:20AM EST0

I have been making books (and learning how to make books) for the past 4 years. I started out making terrible books that no one should ever see, and have now thankfully started to find my groove. I worked on my debut book, We Are Fungi, for 2 years, with a bit of a break in the middle where I worked on other projects and then came back to it. With my current book, I'm working at a much quicker clip. :)

Nov 14, 12:32PM EST0

Do you think young generations are interested in comic books?

Nov 8, 11:06AM EST0

Yes! When I was really young there weren't that many comics that weren't super hero comics (which I wasn't interested in). Now there are so many, and the graphic novel has lured more people into the comics world as well by making it more like a book. When I go to school libraries now, they have whole sections dedicated to graphic novels!

Nov 14, 12:34PM EST0

What do you think is the key to comic book success?

Nov 8, 10:03AM EST0

Eek! Haha, I don't know if I've achieved comic book success, or that I'll ever feel like I totally have. For me, success means getting to do what I want every day and having a job I love. And I get to make books, talk about art, draw, and write every day, so... maybe I have achieved success? 

As far as what makes a comic book successful, it's impossible to have any control over how well your book sells or whether it becomes popular or not. You can market it extremely well, but you still need good timing and some luck to get a bestseller. I try to make my definition of success more internally based (as I talked about above), or more on the happiness of the individual readers who do read it, rather than the number of readers. I'd rather have 5 happy readers than 100 neutral readers.

Nov 14, 12:37PM EST0

What role does the artist have in society?

Nov 8, 3:26AM EST0

Oh, nice! I think art making is such an important part of human life. Drawing, writing, or whatever medium we choose is an amazing de-stressor, communicator, way to think about ourselves and our experiences, a great way to connect with other humans, and share our thoughts and beliefs. So I think the role of artists in our society is to communicate and encourage discussion about what it means to live as humans.

Nov 14, 12:39PM EST0
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