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INTERVIEW: Tony Moy opens up about his struggles as an artist, upcoming projects

Tony Moy with his webcomic
Tony Moy with his webcomic "4Forty2nd - The Lost Battalion" (Supplied).
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19 Jul 2023 05:07:39 GMT9
19 Jul 2023 05:07:39 GMT9

Amin Abbas

Dubai: Watercolor comic artist Tony Moy sits down with Arab News Japan for an exclusive interview to dive deep into his inspiration and struggles as an artist, visiting the Middle East, and his exciting upcoming projects.

Tony Moy, a mixed media artist who focuses on watercolor, has published various art books from The X-Files to Dungeons and Dragons. With over a decade of teaching, he’s currently teaching illustration and design at the School of the Art Institute. He combines modern pop culture, anime, and fantasy with traditional and classical influences to create breathtaking comics using watercolors. 

He expresses that his love for comics and anime is what inspired him to become an artist. “The easiest way to be a part of those worlds (when I was younger) was to create them. I would draw my favorite comic characters, invent my own heroes, and become fully immersed in these worlds.”

“Comics, movies, anime, and manga have a way of bringing our favorite characters and stories to life in a way that helps us connect with those stories, and with other fans. The imagination and creativity that go into these stories have the power to shape what we believe and challenge us to think in new ways”. 

A watercolor drawing by Tony Moy (Supplied).

The 1998 animation movie “Grave of the Fireflies” and the 1996 manga series “Rurouni Kenshin” hold a special place in the artist’s heart. He cited them as his main source of inspiration; “These stories spoke to my heart and soul, and I will always treasure my childhood memories of them and they continue to influence me to this day,” he shares. 

Despite his profound love for art, he never thought he could be a full-time artist. “I wasn’t the most talented artist in school, but I enjoyed it. Even as I got older, I never saw myself becoming a professional artist. Art was just a hobby for me, a way to escape from the daily grind of staring at a computer screen from 9 to 5,” he shares. 

Moy started his career by seizing any opportunity he could get. He began by working on small independent comics until he landed a role to work on an X-Files comic and a Dungeons and Dragons illustration. Although he worked on some of the biggest comics, his work didn’t gain significant exposure until he started sharing it on social media. “Attending conventions and meeting people in person allowed me to put my artwork out there and build a following,” he shares.

Like most artists, Moy finds it difficult to have a work-life balance as an artist. He tells Arab News Japan that it was particularly challenging during his work on the comic “The Mainstream.” He shares, “I had a full-time 9-to-5 job and had to find time in my evenings and weekends to work on the comic…hitting deadlines while also trying to create my best work was difficult”. 

He adds, “I soon learned the importance of starting my day with a refreshed mind and would wake up earlier to draw and illustrate with a clear head. Communication with my art directors and writers was also key in ensuring that our visions stayed unified. All in all, finding that balance between my day job and my artistic passions was a journey in itself”.

Moy is mainly known for creating the watercolor webcomic “4Forty2nd – The Lost Battalion”, which discusses the journey of Japanese American soldiers as they face prejudice and discrimination.

The watercolor webcomic follows the remarkable journey of the 100th/442nd Regimental Combat Team, a group of Japanese American soldiers who fought against prejudice and discrimination to become the most decorated units of their size and duration in U.S. military history (Supplied).

He reveals that his main inspiration for the webcomic stemmed from the anti-Asian rhetoric that was flooding the news post-pandemic. “Around that time, I found myself using my art to express my thoughts and feelings about what was happening. As an artist, I feel like I have a responsibility to use my talent to share important messages and stories, especially when they resonate with me”.

He continues, “So, I started working on a series of portraits of notable Asian Americans throughout history, from Bruce Lee to Anna May Wong, the first Hollywood Asian American starlet. As I was doing research, I came across a documentary about the history of Asian Americans in the US, and something in it struck a chord with me”.

Moy’s fascination with learning about Asian American men and their families drove him to illustrate the webcomic to give a voice to the marginalized, “The documentary covered the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and how many of them fought in a unit called the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which became the most decorated unit in US military history. This was a piece of history that was new to me, and I couldn’t believe that I had never heard of it before”.

A watercolor drawing by Tony Moy (Supplied).

Once he was finished with the watercolor comic, Moy began posting it online for free on platforms, such as webtoons and tapas, promoting it further through conventions and interviews. The comic had an overwhelmingly positive response from the audience. 

Additionally, Moy visited the Middle East last year for the Middle East Film and Comic Convention as a guest and was met with extreme support, “It was truly a dream come true for me as an artist” he shares.

He states that visiting the Middle East was a dream come true, “ I always dreamed of traveling the world and having my art reach new audiences, but to have it happen so soon was beyond anything I ever could have hoped for… I hope to have the chance to return to the Middle East soon and share my art with even more people. It was an unforgettable experience that I will cherish forever”.

When asked about his upcoming projects, Moy shared his excitement to release his project “442 Last Battalion.” “(It’s) something I pour my heart and soul into, and I’m excited to share it with the world for free… I recently hit a milestone when the 442 Last Battalion received its first sponsorship from the popular video game World of Warships”.

Moy emphasises the importance of practice and stepping out of one’s comfort zone for upcoming artists. He shares “My old piano teacher taught me this during one of my last lessons with him, that no matter how good you are nothing takes the place of practice, but also about challenging yourself. .. to really improve, it’s important to step outside of your comfort zone and try new things.”

He believes in the importance of drawing everything, no matter what genre the artist is interested in, to practice and improve one’s skills. “Drawing is the foundation of all other mediums, so keep on drawing and don’t be afraid to push yourself” he adds.

A watercolor drawing by Tony Moy (Supplied).

Moy’s portfolio is available for free on his website, and his comics can be accessed for free on Webtoon and Tapas. He is currently taking commissions starting at ¥13,913.00.

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