I pray all is well. For today’s interview we have Arielle Namenyi who was born in San Diego county, CA, and currently lives there with her husband, Norbert Namenyi. Having a passion for creating stories and characters, she now creates graphic books for the A.N. Christian Comics series that combines beautiful artwork with captivating stories and memorable characters.
Arielle also works as a freelance illustrator/artist in addition to creating her Christian graphic novels. Now for the interview…
When did you first get into comics as a reader/fan? As a writer/artist/creator?
Strangely enough, I did not read comics until I started becoming interested in creating my own. Initially, I wanted to work in animation and was focusing more on working for an animation company. I once had to write a report for a school project about careers. Naturally, I chose animation. I rented a book from the library for my report, and the book had a small section with information about creating comic books. I never thought about creating comics until that point. It interested me because before I got into animation I wanted to be a writer, and comics are like a mixture of the two. I was about maybe 13 or 14 years old at the time.
Why comics? What do you like most about this medium?
In my eyes, when I create my comics, or, graphic novels, I imagine the whole story as a full-length animated feature. It’s almost like making my own animated cartoon with the freedom to create the characters and shape the story any way that I want. Creating comics helps me to be more flexible, free, and creative. I can truly work with passion, because I won’t create a graphic novel unless I love the story and enjoy drawing the characters. And by creating my own book, I can create stories to honor Christ instead of being pressured to work on projects that aren’t exactly honoring God. You can’t really get that same effect working for an animation company.
Say a little about the project(s) you have worked on in the past (if any), and what they were about?
I’ve worked on so many art projects in the past, but solely concerning comics, I first started creating a series called “AussieTracks” in 2004. The plot was about a dingo that is a secret agent. All the characters in the series were Australian animals. It was a great project and I got deep into it, but I decided to drop it. A lot of years and work went into the series, but God called me to create comics that would be Christian-based and honoring Him. “AussieTracks” wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t something that I could inspire others with spiritually. I created the first volume when I was 14 years old and had it published in 2007.
My first graphic novel I created after dropping Aussietracks was “The Pony Express”, a 118 page book that takes place during the actual history of The Pony Express is America. The main character is a Pony Express horse who gets separated from his rider. The core message of the book is based off of 1 Peter 3: 8-9. The book was published on October 13, 2014, and is available for sale on my website, as well as many other sites including Amazon.
For comics strips, I created and posted free short comics on my website and media pages that have a biblical message to them for anyone to read.
I’ve also created comics for our local church magazine called “The Seed Sower”, under the children’s section. These comics are short and are based off of accounts in the Bible. I also have these comics available to read on my website for free.
What project(s) are you currently working on?
Concerning comics, I am still working on the Seed Sower comics every quarter. I also randomly add new comic strips to my website under “FREE STUFF-COMICS” and my media pages.
Even though I work on a lot of different projects, my main ministry is my graphic novel books. I have ideas lined up for so many different ones, but the current one I am working on is about dinosaurs. The theme of this novel is that every decision we make has a consequence.
What format(s) do you prefer for telling your stories (e.g., on-going series, mini-series, one-shot, graphic novel, etc.) and why?
I prefer telling my stories in graphic novel format. As I have mentioned earlier, I imagine my stories as full-length animated features. Creating graphic novels is the closest I can get to creating my own feature. Graphic novels tend to have much longer stories than an actual comic book, and it usually is one story altogether and not a bunch of little individual ones.
What sources of information and inspiration have helped you along the way?
Art -style wise, for sure Disney cartoon characters. I would wake up early in the morning just to pause Disney cartoons and draw the scenes. My art style very heavily resembles those of the classic Disney animated features. I would also love to watch behind-the-scenes from Disney cartoons and learned a lot about the process of animation that I use when creating my comics today. One of my biggest inspirations is former Disney animator Glen Keane.
The beginning of my journey creating comics started with the animation book that I rented from the library for my report (although I don’t remember the name of it). The information about creating comics in that book was the first spark of my interest for comics.
Other artists continue to inspire me as well. Sometimes I browse other artists’ work on the internet just for the sole purpose of becoming inspired. Looking at other artists’ work is actually one of the biggest inspirations that have helped and continue to help me become a better artist.
Of course, the biggest help is prayer. Sometimes I don’t feel like working my projects, but I ask God to give me the desire and passion to work and to help me do the best I can. I ask Him to help me inspire others through my art and books. Prayer is so powerful and God is amazing!
Say a little about how you’ve been able to communicate your faith through your project(s)? What has that process been like? How has it evolved over the years?
My graphic novel stories are more like spiritual analogies. To some it might seem like a good fiction book, but those who know the Bible will be able to see the spiritual messages throughout. But to save my readers from guessing the intended message, I have a “Character Reflections” section at the end of each book, explaining the spiritual meaning of some of the characters and their purpose in the story.
It’s been a great experience so far. I have had so many people, children and adults alike, coming to me and telling me how much my book has positively affected them. The kind words and excitement of my readers/fans often encourages me to keep going, and helps me realize that my books actually are a blessing to others. It’s great!
What advice would you give to other Christians who are considering making comics?
Pray all the time, and always follow God’s leading. Put your faith in Him and allow Him to work through you. Making comics is very time consuming, a lot of work, risky, and isn’t always easy. But if creating Christian comics is something God has called you to do, take courage, keep going, and never give up. You never know who God can bless through your work.
Also, as it is in our Christian walk, NEVER think you have reached your best possible skill level, no matter how good you are. Always keep learning. As an artist and as a Christian, there is always more we can learn.
A fellow artist once told me (he is now an animator), “there will always be someone worse than you, but there will always be someone better than you.” Be encouraged to know you have a skill that not everyone is gifted with, but also be humbled to know that you are not the absolute best at it. Always remember to give the credit to God, because He is the one who gave us our individual gifts.
Are there any future projects you are working on, or would like to work on?
As many of my fellow artists can attest to, inspiration comes so many times during instances when we’re not actually working (like out doing errands, in the middle of the night, etc.). Since I have several ideas for other graphic novels to work on after I’m finished with the one I’m working on right now, I sometimes get random inspirations that will fit one of my future book ideas. I often write scenes or create characters for one of my future books even though I am not even finished with my current one. So far none have sequels, although I do have an idea for a sequel for my first graphic novel, “The Pony Express” (just an idea). I can’t really talk about my future projects for copyright purposes, but there are a bunch of ideas lined up.
The comic strips I do for the “Seed Sower” magazine is also an ongoing commitment. Right now I am continuing the story of Adam and Eve.
What is your take on the current state of Christian or Christian-themed comics? What, if anything, would you like to see more of in the future? What, if anything, would you like to see done differently?
Ironically, I haven’t read one Christian comic all the way through. I have read bits and pieces of some, but never a whole one. I’m not too into the Bible story comics, and I get put off by the kind that appear to be too preachy (even though I’m a Christian). I must admit that I’m stringent when it comes to artwork style, and my personal preference is art similar to Disney cartoons. I really don’t like manga art or the “Marvel style superhero” art. I think these artists are very talented, but I just don’t like the style. I have yet to find a Christian-based graphic novel that is exactly what I’m looking for. That’s another reason why I’m creating mine, because I can’t find any Christian material out there that meets my “picky” requirements to the “T.” It’d be great to see more stories out there that are more like parables.
What is the best way for people to contact you, and to read/purchase your work?
Through my website.
You can find all my available books there under my “BOOKS” page (there are some free ones too!). You can contact me through my contact page, and my website also contains tons of free activities, a blog for updates, and much more. I can also be reached through various social media outlets:
And that’s a wrap! I hope you enjoyed the interview, and stay tuned for the next one!