Tell me a little bit about yourself. (Introduce yourself and where you’re from).
I’m Gabriella Serrallés, and I’m a Puerto Rican story artist from Orlando. My family comes from Puerto Rico, but I was the first to be born in the States, in Colorado actually. But we moved to Orlando when I was a baby to be closer to family. I’m a huge nerd and always have been! I got into anime and manga in middle school, and that shaped the rest of my life pretty much. Went to SCAD in 2011, graduated a semester early in 2014 with a BA in Sequential Art. I love to cosplay, make props and punked out clothes, and I got into DnD this year and now I’m super into DnD.
Tell me something interesting about yourself, a fun fact!
I’m bilingual! That’s not a very fun fact, but I have always spoken Spanish at home and my mom taught me out to read and write it at home. Another fun fact is that I used to build robots and play with dinosaurs at Universal when I worked there. I’m also a runner up at the Fear Factor Live Show and I hope one day to be champion. 😂
Have you always been creative? What did you want to be when you were young?
Yeah, for as long as I can remember. I was mesmerized cartoons and animation as a toddler. In pre-school, I remember spending a lot of time drawing. But, when I was young I wanted to be three things: a professional soccer player, a veterinarian, and six feet tall. I didn’t know I could /be/ and artist until later when I came to understand that there were real people behind the animations and books I was consuming. My passion for art was sparked in Elementary school. My art teacher, Mr. Casey, encouraged and inspired me to keep pursuing art. I started coming up with my own stories and original characters by middle school, around the time I got into anime and manga. I played soccer throughout high school, and found I didn’t have the stomach for veterinary work. In case you’re wondering, I topped off at 5’4.”
How did you get into art and illustration?
I have relatives who are artists, so an appreciation of art had been instilled in me from a young age. When I started reading picture books and watching cartoons, I think it was a sort of monkey see, monkey do thing. I liked what I saw and I wanted to make it myself. Reading was a big part of my life growing up. My parents would read to me and I really loved it. I know I keep talking about my early youth but it’s hard for me to a remember a time I wasn’t into art and creativity. Because I had my family’s support, I was able to take classes outside of school and learn even more than what I got in school. I grew as an artist, they saw my passion, so they fostered it and I got curious as to whether or not I could make it my career. Then I realized I didn’t want to do anything else.
How did you get into manga and making graphic novels?
I got into manga, specifically, because while I loved reading Archie Comics, I was no longer satisfied with the kinds of stories and characters in them. I didn’t know what else to read besides superhero comics, and at the time I wasn’t interested in those stories because I couldn’t quite relate to them, and because they were behind a gate of long complicated histories and fanboys. A friend at school lent me volume 6 of Naruto to read. I was already sneaking out of my room late at night to watch anime on Adult Swim, so I wasn’t unfamiliar with it. Volume 6 is the volume where the main girl character, Sakura, gets some serious character growth and a story where she gets to be the tough badass. It blew my mind! I’d never seen anything like it. I was hooked because it was unlike anything I’d experienced before, and I found the stories and characters in them to be so well written and beautifully, excitingly rendered. Other fans of manga led me to the indie/non-superhero side of Western comics, too. I followed that passion straight to SCAD where I unlearned a lot of bad habits and picked up many better ones.
What is it you love most about it?
It’s hard to pick just one thing. I guess it’s like a lot of things that add up just how unique comics can be. There’s no wrong way to make them. The unique stories I can’t find anywhere else, the way people can push the artwork to tell a story without even adding text, and the fact that there such a universal appeal to them, despite the fact that each reader has a different relationship with the comic.
What is your process like? (Take me through your creative process)
I start with a script, either something I’ve written or something someone else wrote. I’ll print it out and start breaking down the writing into pages by drawing little rough thumbnails on the margins of the script. This also helps me plan for where dialogue and text will go. Then I redraw the roughs a little bigger. Here I make revisions to the layout and the details start to appear. Then I’ll scan these and do my right pencils in Clip Studio Paint or Procreate. I really like Procreate, so mostly that. Then more tweaks to the layout and compositions as needed as I finish the pencils. I kinda make tweaks as I go so the inks might deviate a little from the pencils. Then comes colors or grey tones and black placement, then finally text. My process is pretty straight forward and I use shortcuts where I can, avoid them where I can’t. Being able to meet deadlines is important, so I’ve had to force myself to leave the perfectionism at the door. Readers don’t spend nearly as much time looking at a panel as you do, they won’t notice if the line weight isn’t just right on that sleeve.
Does being Hispanic influence your art or illustration at all? If so, how?
It doesn’t so much influence the content of my work, so much as my approach to it. I’m extremely passionate and I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, and my work reflects that. I put much of myself into every piece, even commercial pieces. I feel like if you really put your love and passion into your work, your audience will respond to that. It’s that sincerity that I feel is so Puerto Rican. We are a passionate, good-hearted people, which I feel is true for all hispanic and latine people. As an artist, especially a story artist, you’re really putting yourself out there with every piece, and that takes courage, which the hispanic and latine communties have in spades.
Who/what has inspired you the most in what you do?
Honestly, I think my teachers at first. The incredible Mrs. Forster put me on track in high school, and that trajectory brought me to where I am now, and I’m eternally grateful for her. Now that I’ve been out of school, my greatest inspirations have been my friends and music, specifically punk music. My friends are all really creative people who spark my own creativity. They’re also my editors and support system. Music is another creative way to express a story and it makes you move as it moves you, and when I listen to music I tend to see stories playing out in my head. I love translating that to art, and it’s so cool when people say they can almost hear my work. I just happen to be a punk so it’s usually inspired by that, but definitely not exclusively.
What have you done that you’re most proud of?
Currently, I’m most proud of my latest comic: “Punk Rock Girl.” As I grow, my most proud work tends to change. But, yeah, because of, like, all of 2020 and honestly the years previous, I was struggling to make comics, just constantly second guessing myself. Imposter syndrome is real, y’all. Comictober came by and gave me the excuse I needed to finally finish this idea I’d had for a while. It was a challenge for myself, and making it was very much about me. I had to push through drawing things I avoided, learned a lot about myself and my proceeds, and how I liked to make comic versus how I thought I should or how I was supposed to make them. The result is a comic that came out almost exactly as I visualized it when I listened to the song. I’m extremely proud of it and I’m proud of myself, too.
Favorite artist or illustrator?
Ahh, this is tricky. I really love Kohei Horikoshi, and Tite Kubo and Mitsuba Takanashi have been big influences on my work. I’m a huge fan of Rebecca Sugar, Steve Ahn, Noelle Stevenson, Pearl Low, and Lisa Villella. Can’t just have one favorite because I love them all for different reasons.
What is your dream collaboration?
Ahhh, man I don’t even know! Anyone listed above for sure Steve Orlando and Vita Ayala. Weird pick: I’d love to collaborate with the band The Interruptors and do a song comic with them.
Any words of wisdom for young artists? Tips?
Words of wisdom: It’s okay if you aren’t perfect, the best, or even that good. No one can make what you make the way you’ll make it. Art is for everyone. Art is an intrinsically human pursuit that everyone in the world enjoys one way or another, whether they know it or not. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t or that art is silly and unimportant. If it matters to you, it matters. Full stop. Your art will be unique to you no matter the skill level, so don’t worry about what other people are doing.
Tips: Use reference!! It’s not cheating! If you aren’t sure how to draw something, look it up or ask for help (but be polite when you do.) Keep practicing! artist growth is more like a staircase than an upward slope. You’ll plateau sometimes, but that’s okay. Just keep going. Take care of your body! Stretch your drawing arm, back, shoulders, and be mindful of your posture to avoid straining yourself. Take breaks!! This is so important, you must take breaks!! Think of it as charging your batteries. You’ll be better off with a good charge instead of running on fumes.