Are there any webtoons you are enjoying? Webtoons are one of the biggest fields in Korea now since they have different plus points such as accessibility compared to comic books. In addition, due to the nature of a webtoon, readers can feel livelier as they scroll through it. For this reason, many people love to read them and look forward to each new episode. Here is the artist Ladywatermelon, who created a webtoon that delivers warm but realistic stories about the daily life of someone in their 20s.
Before we begin the interview, please introduce yourself to Sookmyungians.
Hello, Sookmyungians. I'm Ladywatermelon. I work for Naver Webtoon, and now I'm writing a series called We Are Nines. The pen name "Ladywatermelon" is a transformation from my real name.
You majored in Western painting in university. It is recognized that Western paintings are somewhat different from the webtoons that we usually encounter. Why did you choose webtoons among various career paths in art?
Since I was young, I liked to draw and I felt I was talented in that area, so I naturally thought I should go to art school. After I entered university, I was trying to decide on my career in a fine art field by taking advantage of my major. However, I was not confident about continuing in this field because the road ahead felt dark. At that time, I took a storytelling class at my university and found out that I liked to write stories. I was thinking about how I could use both drawing and writing. Also, the author Toma's comic book, Cracker, which I encountered then, was so impressive that I decided to become a webtoon artist.
In the process of achieving your dream, there must have been difficulties that you have experienced. Please tell us about them and how you overcame them.
Webtoons is a genre that needs to be conveyed through drawing rather than writing. There are scenes that I want to draw, or that I have to draw to keep the story going, but my skills fell short although I had majored in fine art. Due to that, I practiced drawing every day. It was very hard to the point that I practiced drawing while crying sometimes. I was worried and nervous because I thought I was bad at drawing. During this time, continuously looking back and reflecting on myself helped me a lot. In addition, it wasn't easy to write a story. After many stories were scrapped, We Are Nines was born.
Leaving those disappeared stories behind, we are curious about the hidden story behind We Are Nines, which became your debut work.
I was 29 years old when I came up with We Are Nines. After turning 29, I had a lot on my mind. I was turning 30 the next year, but I didn't have any money, and I hadn't even started out as a webtoon writer. I had nothing then. My friends seemed to be getting jobs and living steady lives after graduating, and I used to feel small in comparison. Simultaneously, I thought I could write it well if I reflected on my situation in the story, so I added my own experiences rather than imaginary situations. That's where it came from.
Finally, you are publishing We Are Nines, a series of popular webtoons on Naver. It is drawing sympathy from the readers. How did you come up with this story?
At first, it started with a 29-year-old woman's life just like now. However, there weren't three main characters of We Are Nines in the beginning. I had only envisioned the character Bong Wo-ri and added her company life to it. As it is also a love story, I think I had to create her boyfriend. Also, I wanted Bong Wo-ri to make friends later, so I made them too. By doing that, my worldview has expanded.
There are three main characters in We Are Nines. We wonder how the three of them, Bong Wo-ri, Cha Woo-ri, and Kim Woo-ri, were created.
As mentioned earlier, there weren't three main characters in the beginning and I was only thinking about Bong Wo-ri. After I decided to have three main characters, I wanted to make them all different. I wanted to make a friend who has the opposite personality from Bong Wo-ri based on the original setting. That's how Cha Wo-ri was born. Also, both the two women have kind of cool personalities, so I made a timid friend and Kim Woo-ri came out. When I designed the work, the preparation for the civil official exam was feverish, so I added that setting to Kim Woo-ri.
Besides them, all of the characters in We Are Nines have different personalities and charms. So, who is your favorite character in your work?
My favorite character is "Jun" who is Bong Wo-ri's boyfriend. I think some of my readers do not understand that. However, there are so many things I want to say about this character. I get really excited when I express him or when the story revolves around him. Readers criticize him for his choices, but I love this character the most.
Most people think that you would spend a lot of time to complete a chapter perfectly. Please briefly explain your work process.
Actually, I don't have an exact work process. Usually, webtoon artists write the script first and then they draw. I often also write and draw pictures at the same time, but sometimes I write according to the scene because I suddenly think of the image I want to draw. Those scenes don't just come out of the blue in the story, so I write stories until something can come out for probability. I think the latter case is a good one and there was a time when readers liked that kind of method. In addition, when I write the key lines in the chapter, I don't write them right away formally. I just write what comes to mind on blank paper, and starting like this helps the story to develop. I develop it more when I make a drawing script. It is comfortable to fix the story, and letting the story happen naturally is better.
Despite the difficulties you have experienced, when have you felt rewarded since you made your name as a webtoon artist?
I read a lot of comments for every chapter, and I enjoy reading them. Also, thankfully, there aren't many malicious comments for my webtoon. When I read the comments, there are some that touch my heart. They are not skillfully written sentences, but they are honest and moving expressions. When I read comments like that, I often think that I should use this expression next time. I feel rewarded because many people sympathize with my work.
In your work We Are Nines, there are chapters that readers can sympathize with and help the progress of the main story. Where do you get inspiration for them?
Sometimes when I look at the comments, there are people who think that the situations in my work are all about me. But that's incorrect. It is true that I write stories from my experiences and feelings, but not all of them are mine. I usually produce variations based on my experience. For example, I reflect the hardships that I experienced while dealing with people when I was working as an instructor in the scenes where the main characters work. I don't have to live only that way to feel the same sentiment. If all artists organize their stories based only on their experience, I think they won't be able to write a series for a long time.
Along with the stories of your webtoons, there are cases where each character's fashion stands out. Is there anything you pay attention to when you draw your character's outfit?
I refer to real life a lot. I'm not very interested in clothes, but I like to observe people. I like to see people dressed nicely as they walk by, and I search carefully for some unique points. Above all, I am trying to dress the characters according to their personalities. I draw it thinking, "They'll wear this kind of clothes because this character has this kind of personality." I like this work the most. I create the fashion to match the personality of the character, but on the contrary, I draw the clothes to represent their personality and image. Clothes can be a device to visualize their characteristics.
It seems that you want to put special meaning into your webtoon. Could you tell us about the story you wanted to convey to your readers through We Are Nines?
To be honest, there's nothing special I want readers to realize from my webtoon. Actually, there is no correct answer in life in my work, since each reader thinks differently about the thoughts and actions of the character. Also, I think living with a set standard in life could be poison to oneself. The conflict that comes from not understanding another person is also caused by those standards because one might judge others based on one's own standards. In my work, I wanted to show that we need to acknowledge each other's diversity without distinguishing between good and evil. I think healing through my work is good, but I want to broaden readers' perspectives through various characters in We Are Nines.
Nowadays, you're preparing for a new volume of We Are Nines. We are curious about your plans after completing that series.
My goal now is to finish We Are Nines well. I just want to concentrate on a good ending as a goal. After the completion, I want to draw in my own style like now because I really love drawing cartoons. What's important is that I want to keep working for as long as possible. I hope to be a successful cartoonist for a long time.
As the webtoon market is going bigger as time goes by, there are many webtoon artists just starting out. Please give them some words of support or tips.
"If I did it, you also can do it!" I think you can do it if you practice and work hard. If you have the passion and will to achieve your dream, you can do that. However, the more important thing is after you have made it. What kind of cartoon you draw and the story is very important. I think this is all about webtoons. The technical part like the drawing skill is an additional element. I hope you try with confidence.
Lastly, please say something to Sookmyungians who are starting in their 20s and dreaming of their own path.
It's obvious, but you can do anything. As time goes by, I really feel that people can do anything, especially the young. I hope you don't have obsessive thoughts. You don't have to think of yourself as belonging to a fixed category like nationality, school, or gender. It is necessary to clearly determine whether your current dream and image are what society demands and what society thinks is good, or whether you really want it. If you have a pure desire for what you want to achieve without being bound by a framework, you can achieve any dream you want.
Serializing NAVER Webtoon We Are Nines (2019.03.01~)