Artist interview with Garrett Ley

Hi all! Remember Garrett Ley, whose artwork I discussed back in January?  I hope you enjoyed reading that post as much as I enjoyed writing it. The artist was kind enough to answer some questions regarding his art and inspirations.


'The Baku Phenomenon'

‘The Baku Phenomenon’

1. When did you know you wanted to pursue art?

Since a very young age, I always gravitated towards artistic activities, but I always remember applying my interest in a way geared toward what I was being fed in the culture at the time. Shows exported by Japan, specifically anime, were always on TV when I was smaller so I was really interested in that. At the time, I was honestly ignorant to the fact that all of these things I liked had a common thread of being produced out of Japan. In the third grade, I picked up a “How to Draw Manga” book by Katie Coope and when I found out that what I loved all along had a name, that’s when I knew I wanted to pursue it and learn more about it.

2. Why markers and not, for example, digital art?

Drawing as a kid, it was always about immediate satisfaction! I always just drew on paper because that was what was available to me. I remember looking at a digital art tutorial in an old anime magazine and being completely dumbfounded by all the concepts, trying to create digital art with my family computer’s MS Paint. Of course, I was ten at the time. The technology just wasn’t available to me at the time when my desire was the strongest, so I learned the traditional trade! I found out about Copic markers, again from an anime magazine, and about how many professionals in the manga field used them and so I started hunting for them!


3. Is there any piece you are the most proud of? If so, which one?
In terms of concept, I’m always most proud of the piece I’m going to create next. I’m kind of a forward thinker as of right now. I love all my old work, but I always find my most recent work to only be second, in terms of pride, to the idea I’m about to execute.
4.  I personally think manga- inspired art is not taken seriously as an art form in itself, at least not yet. What is your view on this?
I completely agree. My view on the subject is just that. It’s not taken seriously as an art form off the bat, and I’ve made it my mission to bring the fine arts to manga, rather than bring manga to the fine arts (if that makes any sense). I see my work as being art-inspired manga rather than manga-inspired art. However, in terms of the style,  people either know too little about it, write it off to quickly, or think they know it better than they do because of the connotation anime has taken on with all of its stereotypes. I think it’s people like Hayao Miyazaki ( of Studio Ghibli), people that break the prejudice barriers and can take anime to an every day space, while making it relatable to everyone without sacrificing their own style. I think he, and people like him, can change things that way and I hope to do that as well.
5. Are there any artists you look up to and would like to collaborate with?
Very many! Fashion designer Jonathan Liang (, better known as Toosan ( in the anime realm has always been one of my main inspirations and it’s an honor to have already collaborated with him on Adorn Me (pictured below). Other than him though, I look up to and would love to collaborate with koyamori (, mibou (, godzilla23 (, etc. However, there are also those  gods such as Zemotion (photographer Zhang Jingna; ) and yuumei, as well as professional manga creators like CLAMP (xxxHolic, Cardcaptor Sakura), Takeshi Obata (Death Note), and Katsura Hoshino (D. Gray-man) that always provide inspiration. I’ll stop there for fear of rambling!
'Adorn Me' by Garrett Ley and Jonathan Liang

‘Adorn Me’ ,  collaboration with Paris-based fashion designer Jonathan Liang

6. What do you draw (teehee) inspiration from, aside from other visual artists’ work?
Very thankful for this question, as I could literally talk forever about this. I am very inspired by musicians as well as artists. Musicians like Evanescence, Lady GaGa, and M.I.A are some of my utmost inspirations. As of late, I have been very inspired by other cultures and technology’s effect on society, as well as darker concepts like the occult. I absolutely love browsing through articles on the Internet that explore unique ideas as well. I’m also very inspired by my own experiences in general.
7. What media do you use besides markers?
I used to use Canson marker paper to accompany my drawings, however I’ve recently switched to Manga paper, located here ( I normally use 0.5 mm mechanical pencils for sketching and a combination of Copic multiliners and Prismacolor liners for lineart. While coloring, I often use techniques associated with Copic Various Inks, the Copic Airbrush System, and Copic Opaque White as well.
8. What would you like to achieve with your art?
My dream is to become a mangaka, or manga creator. I suppose that if I could achieve anything with my art, it would be to change the scope on manga and to make it so the anime style isn’t even noticed anymore. I want to make it so that it’s just seamlessly thought of as a medium rather than a genre. I also hope nothing more than to inspire. I would like to be a positive part of peoples’ days and encourage art as a valid form of expression. I also hope it can take me places I could never imagine and allow me to meet and work with people I look up to. I guess there’s nothing more I want to do than create and to be involved with other creative people and endeavors, without the stress of wondering how to support myself with it! I think deep down, that’s every artist’s dream; just to create freely without worry.
9. You express some very interesting ideas and observations through your art. How and when do you decide if something is worth expressing?
Doing art is basically just a way for me to shut myself up. Something is usually worth expressing if it means that it if I express it, I can stop thinking about it. Creating is like an exorcism – a weird thing to compare it to. But when you’re done, it gives you that same fresh and clean feeling. However, it’s also a bit of a pride and originality thing when deciding whether or not I should express something. If I think that no one else has thought of my idea, I’ll push very hard for it, hoping that I am bringing something unique or never before thought to the forefront. It’s exhilarating creating something never before imagined and that’s what allows me to decide which idea is worth expressing!
'Psy Chic'

‘Psy Chic’

10. Any words of advice for aspiring artists?
This question is always a bit hard for me and causes me to think very deeply to try to find a little motivational gold-mine. My gut reaction is always to say to never stop and to never allow anything to stop you. Every artist starts out as an amateur and it’s truly worth going from that state to…less amateur. Do what feels comfortable for you and don’t try to be someone you’re not. Don’t get distracted. When you can literally see your life change because of something you worked hard at, it’s one of the most rewarding experiences ever and I can only hope just that for every artist in the world.
However, I recently heard Lana Del Rey say, “Find someone who has a life that you want and figure out how they got it. Read books, pick your role models wisely, and find out what they did and do it.” I think that is the perfect advice for any artist out there.


A big thank you to Garrett Ley for his time .