Art Director To Manga Artist: S’porean Woman Quits Corporate Job So She Can Illustrate Japanese Comics

Illustrator Rachta Lin Is Proof That Being A Manga Artist In Singapore Is Possible

Singapore-based illustrator Rachta Lin had what anyone would consider a successful career. She was an art director with a multinational company, having worked with high-profile clients such as UOB, Airasia, and Toyota.

But since she was young, there was only one thing she really, really wanted to do — become a manga artist.

Image courtesy of Rachta Lin

A huge fan of anime and manga, Rachta has always enjoyed sketching and drawing her favourite characters. But the need to be practical meant she was working a corporate job.

Finally, in 2015, Rachta took the leap and quit her job to become a full-time illustrator. Her art has gained her a legion of followers and commissions from various companies, including DC Comics and Blizzard.

Seven years on, after honing her abilities with a renowned Japanese manga publisher and submitting her work to various contests, Rachta is finally living her dream of publishing her very own manga series.

MS News sat down for a chat with Rachta to find out why she decided to leave her corporate job, how she makes a living through art, and how she ended up releasing a fully fleshed-out manga series — In English.

Discovered love for drawing through anime

Like many artists, Rachta, currently in her 30s, discovered her love for drawing when she was very young. It was while watching anime on television, specifically the magical girl series “Himitsu no Akko-chan” (The Secrets Of Akko-chan), that her love for drawing was really ignited.

As an anime and manga fan, Rachta’s favourites in her childhood included Sailor Moon, Cardcaptor Sakura, Gundam, Slam Dunk, and more.

Rachta’s artwork of Asuka from Neon Genesis Evangelion. Image courtesy of Rachta Lin

Her love for anime eventually led her to dream of becoming a manga artist, as impractical as it sounded for someone who wasn’t even living in Japan and didn’t speak the language.

Surprisingly, however, her father was very supportive from the beginning. “Somehow, he has always been very supportive,” she said, considering herself fortunate.

Regardless, people would tell her,

You’re not in Japan, what are you going to do here? How are you going to draw manga and make money?

The comments got to her and she eventually decided on a more practical career path.

Quit her corporate job after an epiphany

Despite graduating from a visual arts course at university, she took up a job in corporate graphic design, rising all the way to becoming an art director.

While conventionally successful and “pretty happy”, Rachta always had a nagging feeling in the back of her mind that something wasn’t quite right.

I remember sitting down and asking myself — if I had only one year left in my life, what would I do?

Her answer was clear — she would quit her job and draw for that remaining year, just to see how far she could go with it.

With that, she found this was what she truly wanted. After years of setting aside her dreams for practical reasons, she was finally ready to confront her life goal of becoming an artist — even if it meant losing the stability offered by her corporate career.

Life as a full-time illustrator consists of a lot of travelling

Though things were daunting at first, she had a supportive manager who suggested she attend conventions to put herself out there, as he was familiar with the events and conventions industry. Since he would handle all the logistics, Rachta was able to focus solely on drawing despite her fears and worries.

Will people like my art? Will I be able to feed myself? How many sacrifices would I have to make to follow my heart?

At these conventions, she could sell and even give away artworks, which has earned her a loyal fanbase over the years, many travelling miles just to meet her.

In between, she also fulfils client requests, and counts Blizzard, Wizards of the Coast – which publishes Magic: The Gathering, a card game Rachta avidly plays – and DC Comics as her clients over the years.

Rachta’s rendition of Harley Quinn from the DC Comics universe. Image courtesy of Rachta Lin

Since her first event, she’s been to over 70 exhibitions worldwide, traversing the United States, Canada, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore.

In the seven years since she took the leap of faith, she hasn’t looked back, and can now proudly say that she earns more now than she did before she left her last job.

Meeting a manga editor shortly before lockdowns, getting to work on manga

But when the Covid-19 pandemic hit and lockdowns took place in Apr 2020, it was initially an uncertain period for Rachta, as much of her travelling was curtailed and conventions were cancelled. Luckily, before lockdowns began, there was one place she got to visit in March: Japan.

And this time, she wasn’t attending a convention but would be meeting a manga editor at Shueisha, the giant publisher behind mega-hits like One Piece, Naruto, and Demon Slayer.

Despite a language barrier, the editor was happy and willing to work with Rachta, subsequently staying in contact. This was a huge milestone as the manga industry in Japan is extremely competitive, and it is not every day that an editor agrees to remain in contact.

And soon after her return from Japan, every country including Singapore would enter lockdown. She now had to think about how she could make money without travelling to conventions.

But through her manager, her loyal fanbase, who were looking forward to meeting her at the now-cancelled conventions, contacted her and requested commissions, which she is still grateful for.

Ishtar from Fate/Grand Order. Image courtesy of Rachta Lin

The pandemic months were also a time to take stock and finally set out to do what she’d been putting off for years: creating her own manga. Ever since she was young, Rachta had always kept a notebook filled with story ideas. But as someone who “can’t do more than one thing at a time”, she was never able to just write and draw manga while working.

Finally, without all the travelling she normally does, she could sit down and truly work at her craft, now armed with the help of a respected manga editor in Japan.

Heartbroken she didn’t win Shonen Jump’s manga contest

One of the things he told her was to work on a one-shot manga (a self-contained story). But Rachta, despite her earnest desire, would suffer one of the greatest heartbreaks in her career when she found out that the one-shot she toiled on for months did not win the Shonen Jump 100th Tezuka manga contest in 2020.

“I spent half a year creating a brand new one-shot for this contest,” she said. “It was countless sleepless nights revising, rewriting, and redrawing the manga hoping to perfect it.”

However, as it turned out, I didn’t win and in that moment, when the results were published, I felt truly heartbroken.

It was a price she paid for putting her heart and soul into her work. But after the setback, she could only get back up again and continue to perfect her craft. Ultimately, it was fuel to do even better next time.

And finally, this year, Rachta completed her first manga series titled The Wonderverse Saga, which is slated for publishing in Q4.

It won the Singapore Comic Con (SGCC) WIP Programme contest in 2021, and fans can look forward to a sneak peek of The Wonderverse Saga at her booth at SGCC 2022, to be held from 10 to 11 Dec.

For an idea of what it’ll be like, Rachta says Wonderverse Saga draws on her own favourite genres, including dark fantasy with psychological themes, as well as superhero comics.

While challenges and setbacks are inevitable, with the support of her friends, she’s been able to pull through. Even her brother, who is normally a harsh critic, praised her story, which fills Rachta with the hope that her manga will be well-received.

Love kept her going

The dream may be realised – somewhat – but drawing will always remain a part of Rachta’s life.

She’s committed to a life of endless illustrations as she plans to continue working on her manga series while travelling the world to attend conventions and complete commissions. And what keeps her drawing is simple — love.

“You should love what you do. Find out if you really love to do this,” she said as advice to anyone looking to follow in her footsteps.

She added that,

Every job has its own challenges and obstacles, artists included… I think what keeps me going is that I love it.

That love is going to have to fuel not just challenges, but also the need for “non-stop drawing”, as Rachta put it. It might be cliche, but the truth is that the more you do something, the better you will be at it.

Rachta is living proof that once a dream takes root, it can never be extinguished.

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Featured image courtesy of Rachta Lin.

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