League of Legends continues to be one of the most popular games over 10 years of its service, there are more than 130 Champions currently released. With each Champion having their own unique appeal, many creative minds have appeared within the last 10 years.
Among the many creative minds, Sonwooang is one of the most popular artists within the League of Legends community. While there may be many fan art that emphasizes the realistic side of the Champions, Sonwooang is a unique artist who emphasizes the comical side of the Champions themselves and various in-game scenarios to capture the hearts of many fans in the community. Such unique characteristics empathized with many fans around the world, to the point where his popularity garnered a bigger international following.
During this long off-season, as Inven Global continues to meet with various figures in this community, Inven Global had a chance to sit down for a conversation with Sonwooang. As the interviewing journalist is an art major himself, he identified with Sonwooang more and more as the conversation went on.
It’s very nice to meet you. Can you please introduce yourself?
My name is Sonwooang. I first started drawing fan art as a hobby, but the feedback has been much more positive than I thought, and I’m in the process of solidifying my place, so it’s become more of a career. I think I’m more popular with the overseas community than the domestic one, so I’m always grateful for my overseas fans.
Although it’s a hobby, you became one of the most well-known artists in the LoL community. How’d your artistic journey begin?
I grew up watching cartoons like “Powerpuff Girls” and “Courage the Cowardly Dog” on Cartoon Network, and I fell in love with the art style of those cartoons. The unique simplicity of the art is something that resonated with me on a deep level.
That’s why I thought, ‘I want to create art like this and show them to people’, and started drawing. At first, things were pretty hard due to various reasons. Then, I served my compulsory military service, graduated college, and a good opportunity came knocking, so I started drawing.
When did you decide to start creating LoL artwork?
I really like the Champion, Jinx. I first started playing LoL with Jinx as well, and since then, I’ve been in love with LoL. That’s why I started to draw LoL art with Jinx, and wanted to bring people laughter in my unique way.
There are artists who draw fan art because they love the outer appearance or the concept of the character, but you found the appeal by playing the game.
That’s right. From her in-game skills, her playstyle, her appearance and even her voice, I love every aspect of Jinx. Although I’m only in high Silver- low Gold, I at least know how to play the game, so that helped me capture the various in-game details and scenarios.
How do you rate Jinx as a Champion right now?
Not just Jinx, but all Marksman Champions need a buff (laughter).
Do you draw anything else other than LoL art?
I do, but not as much as I do with LoL. I’m practicing drawing in a Japanese animation style, and I’m also planning to create a Webtoon series. However, it’s not easy, so for now, I’m focusing on LoL art.
As much as you love Jinx, there’s one more Champion that you love, correct?
Yes, Rengar. I really love cats, and I really want to raise one. I think Rengar’s bushy characteristic is his main appeal. Although Rengar’s usually ferocious by nature, I took a completely different approach and made him fluffy, and I’m very happy with the result. I took the characteristics of a cat that I like and implemented it in my art. Also, I’ve been one-shot by the enemy Rengar as Jinx, and because of such times, I also fell in love with Rengar.
Other than those two Champions, are there any others that you personally like?
Jhin and Nami. There are a couple of Rioters in NA that love Jhin and Nami, and when I drew those two Champions for them out of good will, they absolutely loved it. That was the time that I also fell in love with Jhin and Nami.
In a way, your various takes on Champions might seem easy on the surface, but is quite sophisticated. Is there a unique characteristic in reinterpreting a Champion?
Rather than try to look at a Champion in a cute way, one thing that’s important for me is to emphasize the Champion’s unique characteristic. Although the eyes and the facial features are the same, I try to emphasize their unique features as a whole. I just draw it the way I see it, so rather than reinterpreting a Champion, the cuteness is just naturally added. I think Rengar and Yuumi are the two Champions that I intentionally drew to look cute.
Seeing how there’s so much work, you must be very fast with your hands.
If I know how I’m going to draw a Champion before I start, I can do it in two hours. If I really take my time, it takes about five hours. I don’t usually sketch by drawings before, so that’s why it takes me less time.
Out of the numerous artwork you created, which one is your favorite?
It would have to be the 10th anniversary of Lol art with every single Champion in it. Riot didn’t ask me to do this, but as a fan of LoL, I just drew it out of my own will.
As popularity goes up for people, they usually tend to think about making a profit off their popularity. Although you may have started out drawing out of love for the game, others usually try to make money by contracting with a company. How do you keep yourself drawing just out of pure love for the game?
At first, I did think about potentially making money out of this. However, I realized that such things will actually limit my art style and the natural reinterpretation of the Champions. After that, I do draw out of commission when needed, but I just draw art the way I want to. I’m a very laid back freelancer. However, I’m a fan of LoL, so if Riot wants to work with me, I’m always going to accept their offer (laughter).
Apart from your love for certain Champions, is there any other artwork you like, or perhaps an interesting behind the scenes story you can share with us?
There’s an artist that I really like. @suqling is an illustrator that works for Riot Games, and I retweet a lot of his work. At first, I wasn’t really active on social media, and only uploaded my artwork on my blog. When I first started Twitter and Instagram, it didn’t really go so well at first. Around that time, when I first saw the Star Guardian skins and drew a cartoon out of it, that’s when I first saw his work.
After seeing his Star Guardian art, I drew one as well, and he actually retweeted my work too! That’s how my name got out within the community, and after that, I started reinterpreting his art in my own way. So, that Star Guardian art is well etched into my memory.
Since you got so widely popular so fast, did you get scared at all?
Definitely. The number of followers grew abruptly, but I can’t speak English. A lot of fans overseas sent me a lot of DMs, but I feel bad that I couldn’t reply back to them.
I’m suddenly curious about what you think of my art. As ‘Mr. Jinx’, can you rate my own art? (I personally draw a lot of Jinx artwork as well)
I’ve seen them before, and I absolutely loved it (laughter). I didn’t think about Brand and Jinx as a combo, but it has a unique feel to it. I loved it so much that I drew the two in my own way.
In relations to LoL and Riot Games, is there anything else that you’d like to do?
I don’t know if this is big or not… Is it big? I don’t know. I want to create my own in-game icon. I think it’ll be really cool to use my own icon while playing the game. Truth be told, it’s hard to talk about potential projects like this. There are so many artists out there that draw a lot better than I do, but because of the sudden growth in my popularity, I feel really bad.
Can you tell us about your future plans?
I told my parents that I want to pursue a career in art, and told them about my various plans. The aforementioned project about creating my own in-game icon is one of them. Although I don’t have a detailed plan just yet, the plan is to create my own Webtoon and continue to create artwork. I want to continue drawing in whatever position I’m in, so I’m not drawing with the intent to find incredible success.
In a way, your goal is rather simple.
That’s right. Rather than expecting things in many different ways, I want to focus on what I want to do. That way, even if things don’t end up panning out the way I want to, I can challenge myself again with an undecorated mindset.
Your in-game knowledge is definitely there, so are you interested in LoL esports as well?
It hasn’t been long since I got into LoL esports, so at the moment, it’s hard for me to make it into art. I want to, but it’s hard to artistically express it. I don’t even know all the players yet. Gen.G and T1 are already huge, so I’m interested in those two teams. I like Fnatic from the LEC, and C9 and Team Liquid from the LCS.
This one time, I had an offer from TL about drawing one of their players, but since I don’t know their players too well, I’m not too happy with the result. I also had a fan of SK Gaming contact me for a drawing, and that fan actually gave the team my artwork. Later on, when I saw them streaming, I saw my drawing hanging on the wall of their practice room. The players loved it, and I thought, ‘Woah, really…!?’
There are people out there that love LoL, but are either struggling to find their unique style or are too scared to draw and publish fan art. As someone that’s in a unique position within the scene, what advice would you like to give to them?
When I draw LoL fan art, rather than wanting to draw what I want, I want to make sure that others enjoy my art. If you think about the people that will be looking at the fan art, it’ll help perfect the fan art.
Lastly, what would you like to say to the readers?
I’m incredibly grateful. Without all of you, I wouldn’t be where I am today. I have nothing but gratitude for all of you, and I’ll continue to draw lots of art, so please continue to enjoy my art.
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