Rant: If You Want To Draw Manga Take a Life Drawing Class

Posted by Michael Pinto on Apr 5, 2010 in Comic Books |

Gesture Drawings by the Don Low

Above: Gesture drawings by the illustrator Don Low.

I just took a look at a webcomic which almost had it all — slick photoshop coloring, a comic book font and an almost dead on faux anime style. Computers area great tool because with some talent you can make anything look pretty finished, but there’s always a stiff quality to aspiring comic book artists who haven’t taken a life drawing class. The reason is that in life drawing you start off with what are known as gesture drawings. The model warms up by changing poses quickly and the artists have to capture the essence of the model within seconds by drawing just a few lines. What’s brilliant about this technique is that it forces an artist to throw their style away and put all of their energy into representing a pose.

Ponyo Storyboards

Above: Look at these beautiful Ponyo storyboards — we usually think of anime as being such a tight style, but these drawings are so free and loose.

As an artist this technique follows you when you do more detailed illustrations that have a definitive style to them. So even if you’re an artist trying to capture the look and feel of anime, underneath that style you have to have the raw structure of drawing from life. So in other words: To be a great comic book artist you must first be a great artist. Or at the very least a half decent artist who understands anatomy, perspective, color theory and all of those other skills which amateurs dismiss as academic.

Gummy Eraser

So you have to think of style as something that you put on top of the structure of a drawing. For those of us starting out that means working not so much with a pencil but being best friends with our gummy eraser. The gummy eraser is in fact more important than your pencil because the ability to re-draw again and again is in fact what makes a drawing look good. Now i know many of you have seen video of old master illustrators draw amazing things by just taking their pen to paper — however what one forgets is that this magical ability only comes to artists after years and years of practicing their craft. Behind every master comic book artist is a landfill or two of tossed out artwork which wasn’t quite there.


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