Manga Speed-Paints & a Peak at my Sketchbook

I opened Youtube to watch a video earlier in the week and saw that it had suggested a few speed-paint videos. I love watching artists go through a piece, and I’ve been looking for some inspiration to start a manga-like illustration, so I went for it and subscribed to these three artists. Even though they’re using digital methods, a lot of the color work translates pretty well to traditional media. Some of the drawings are even “sketched” beforehand and inked afterwards.

I was really interested in the way she shades fabric, especially the skirt and sleeves. I also really love the character’s eyes. Like an artist who flips a sketchbook around to draw something at a better angle, the canvas here is zoomed in, out, and flipped quite a bit.

This one goes from sketch to finished product. The artist here uses Paint Tool SAI to their full advantage, transforming and realigning shapes that manually you’d have to erase and re-draw.

Here the artist starts by inking a sketch and then blocking in some basic colors. There’s a really cool bit at around 7:35 where she creates her own brush of snowflakes. Rather than painstakingly draw snowflakes on the dress one at a time (and warping them around the fabric), she draws a few and then sort of “stamps” them on, editing them to fit the dresses curves as she goes. Really cool! Can’t do that in the traditional world though… Again, her eyes are really beautiful.

After looking to other artists and manga for ideas I started to do some sketches of my own, and it was evident that I needed some anatomy practice. I’ve been drawing a lot of animals over the past little while (foo dogs, owls, etc) and haven’t done much in terms of the human figure since those figure-drawing studios I did in the winter. Drawing faces and the figure feels a bit foreign, so I went over to Posemaniacs, loaded up some tunes and sat down for some sketching. I’d like to fill a few pages of sketches every night until I get comfortable with the idea of drawing poses again (and hopefully get better at it as well).

First sketch in the new place!

First sketch in the new place!

Page of hands.

Page of hands.

Gestures 1

Gestures 1

Gestures 2

Gestures 2

Gestures 3

Gestures 3

Experimenting with figures, shapes, more hands

Experimenting with figures, shapes, more hands

That’s not everything from the past few days, either. The sketchbook is filling up quickly! Drawing gestures is great and a good backup plan in case I don’t feel like working on anything original. It’s very relaxing to turn on some music and fill up some pages.

Hopefully the paint is mostly dry on my models painting, so I’ll be back into that pretty soon as well.

Ai Yazawa

During my teenage years, anime & manga had a huge impact on my developing art style. I enjoyed the mainstream favorites (Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, Escaflowne, Princess Mononoke and regrettably even Pokemon) and began exploring my local comic and basically judging books by their covers! Because of the wonderful art displayed, I was instantly drawn to Oh! My Goddess! and Magic Knight Rayearth, two manga with strong female characters with detail-heavy gorgeous artwork. Though I’m not as much of an otaku as I used to be, recently I’ve been completely taken in by Ai Yazawa’s works.

I started with Gokinjo Monogatari (aka Neighbourhood Story), about a group of coming-of-age high schoolers trying to make their way in the art world. In Japan, their high school is more of an equivalent to our colleges and many high schools require entrance exams. You can even begin specializing in a career at that age; the characters in this manga attend a local art school.  We mainly follow the story of Miwako and her adventures through Fashion Design as she contemplates her feelings for long-time best friend and neighbour, Tsutomu. The art is very bright and cheery while still containing a ton of intricate detail necessary to show off the fashion works of the main character.

Gokinjo Monogatari by Ai Yazawa (via myAnimeList)

Gokinjo Monogatari (the anime) by Ai Yazawa (via myAnimeList)

gokinjo monogatari by ai yazawa (via mangareader.net)

gokinjo monogatari by ai yazawa (via mangareader.net)

Though I followed that up by the manga Paradise Kiss, I’ve actually already seen the anime version prior to reading (there’s also an anime version of Neighbourhood Story but I haven’t been able to find it, subbed at least). The storyline is quite similar to Gokinjo, but instead of focusing on art school students we follow Yukari aka Caroline as she struggles to write entrance exams to a prestigious high school, all the while being swept up in a world of creativity inside herself she didn’t know existed. The art style here is comparatively matured to Gokinjo. Yazawa has eased off on the huge eyes and the body shapes are more pronounced and fleshed out. The story is a bit more mature as well with nudity and sexuality being fairly up-front in the storyline. The anime is only 12 episodes and the manga is 6 volumes, easily done in a weekend!

Paradise Kiss (the anime) by Ai Yazawa, via AnimeHere.com

Paradise Kiss (the anime) by Ai Yazawa, via AnimeHere.com

Paradise Kiss by Ai Yazawa (via anymanga.com)

Paradise Kiss by Ai Yazawa (via anymanga.com)

Yazawa’s most popular manga by far is known as Nana and has a first season in anime form to match. This manga follows two lead characters, both named Nana, as they follow their dreams, whether it’s to find a husband or be a rockstar. The “find a husband” bit may sound a bit sad and I’ll be honest, Nana #1 (aka Hachiko) is easy to hate at first. She makes a lot of bad decisions and is generally very whiny and hesitant to grow up. But at a gargantuan 20 volumes this manga has lots of space for character development and as tedious as she can be, it’s worth reading to watch her grow. The other Nana is much more head strong and ambitious with solid goals and a take-no-shit attitude, a very refreshing contrast to Hachiko. Is she willing to sacrifice her own love life to achieve her dreams of singing? This is the most mature of Yazawa’s manga that I’ve read so far due to the rockstar material (sex, drugs ‘n’ rock ‘n’ roll baby!) but is also the most deep. This is a story of ambition, dreams, and of learning how in life actions have consequences.

Nana by Ai Yazawa, via Blogspot

Nana by Ai Yazawa, via Blogspot

Nana the anime, by Ai Yazawa (via onlyhdwallpapers.com)

Nana the anime, by Ai Yazawa (via onlyhdwallpapers.com)

What attracted me to read more of Yazawa’s work is her attention to detail and wonderful creativity. It turns out that before she became a mangaka, she attended fashion school for awhile which is obvious in her work. I look forward to each page in her manga because each frame is another work of art, from the delicate expressions to the well-thought-out hairstyles and of course, the amazing outfits. All of the works I’ve read of hers have many characters and yet she has no trouble coming up with consistently beautiful costumes and outfits for all of them! Just talking about this makes me want to go back and re-read/watch all of it again. Her worlds are so full and rich that I find myself instantly immersed in them… especially the ones concerning art school.

In addition to all the manga she’s written (there are many more than what I’ve described here) she’s also released some art books with color illustrations. I’ve been unable to find them so far but would love to get my hands on them. Images from these books have been floating around online and can be found with good ol’ Google Image Search.

Probably the biggest selling point for me in these stories are the strong female leads, even if they don’t begin that way. Growing up I was used to a lot of male main characters with females being left as secondary or side characters. In these works the females are front and center and are, for the most part, strong-willed, creative and beautiful all in their own way. I think it would be difficult to read these and not want to chase after your own dreams. I recommend them all, though if you’re puzzled on where to start, Nana seems to be the most accessible.

A Cool New Look at an old Friend

Though it wasn’t the first anime I watched (that would be Samurai Pizza Cats if I remember correctly), Sailor Moon was one of the most influential cartoons for me growing up. I will always remember seeing it for the first time and thinking how different it was compared to the other cartoons I watched. The art style was more realistic than the cartoony/warped thing that Nickelodeon had going on at the time. It was so… well… pretty! It also focused on girls that were more than shopping and gossiping, girls that were intelligent and courageous.

It changed the way I looked at television & comics and drastically changed my art-style. I’d been leafing through a lot of how-to-draw-comics type books and sketching what I saw from them, going through the exercises they provided. What I drew felt very stiff and flat. When I started drawing more in an anime style to mimic Sailor Moon I was suddenly drawing flowing figures with big eyes and cute outfits. I’ll admit that during this time muscle structure and figure proportion were pretty much thrown out the window, but I had so much fun with it! It provided a much-needed change in direction and gave me a shot-in-the-arm I needed to really get going with art.

Because it inspired me to ramp up on the drawing and develop my own characters and stories, Sailor Moon (even the bastardized american dubbed version, but that’s an argument for another day) will always have a special place in my heart. So, seeing Abraham Cruz’s rendition of the Sailor Moon characters on my feed this afternoon brought a smile to my face. I especially like Sailor Moon and Sailor Jupiter:

Sailor Moon by Abraham Cruz

Sailor Moon by Abraham Cruz (via Trend Land)

Sailor Jupiter by Abraham Cruz

Sailor Jupiter by Abraham Cruz (via Trend Land)

Anime and Manga get a lot of hate in the fine art world, probably because many aspiring artists draw those styles and nothing else, neglecting any kind of formal study. For me studying from life and most recently, my figure drawing classes, makes me appreciate the beauty in anime and manga even more. (For the record, the anime & manga I refer to is not Pokemon, or Digimon, or Yugio, or pretty much any anime associated with a card game. Try Death Note or Full Metal Alchemist for some really interesting stuff.)

Alright, back to real life where there aren’t any beautiful transformation sequences and my cats don’t talk to me.