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.

Burlesque Manga Illustrations by Matsuo Hiromi

Manga-inspired illustration continues to impress and inspire me. Thanks to Tumblr, a great source for illustration from all around the globe, I was able to find Matsuo Hiromi.

by Matsuo Hiromi

by Matsuo Hiromi

Manga-heavy with a splash of Mucha and Art Nouveau, Hiromi’s art is classy, frilly, stunningly elegant. Though I’m fairly certain it’s digital , it has a very traditional feeling to it, through use of soft water-colors and textures.

by Matsuo Hiromi

by Matsuo Hiromi

I love that she’s taken extra time to focus on the little details in her clothing and jewelry. My eye is drawn to so many elements here; her whimsical curly hair with purple peacock feathers, the jeweled drop necklace, her layered lacey top, the delicate rings on her fingers, the criss-crossing lace on her leggings… everything was painstakingly thought out and beautifully rendered.

by Matsuo Hiromi

by Matsuo Hiromi

Hiromi’s sense of fashion and style is astounding. The dresses she comes up with are absolutely gorgeous and have amazing textures: silky, frilly, pleated, you name it. The accessories and hair on her subjects always complement their outfit. The background here is pretty as well, rendered in warm purples and yellows to bring out the soft greens in her corset and gloves.

by Matsuo Hiromi

by Matsuo Hiromi

All of her women have soft dewy eyes, windswept expressions drawing you further into their world. Her grasp of nature and architecture on top of fashion is really astounding. Having  the rigid structure behind her contrast with the flowing soft flowers provides a beautiful contrast and really shows off her skills.

by Matsuo Hiromi

by Matsuo Hiromi

The art nouveau elements in her style really help frame her characters and give a classy edge to the work. Just as much attention is given to clothing, furniture and backgrounds as is given to the girl here.

by Matsuo Hiromi

by Matsuo Hiromi

Her color palettes are soft, luscious, warm and inviting, reminiscent of spring and summer. They look slightly yellowed and vintage, as if the viewer is remembering a dream or a party from long ago. By using outlines in different colors than black, such as brown and pink, or by leaving them out all together, her dreamy colors are really able to shine.

by Matsuo Hiromi

by Matsuo Hiromi

Her work looks like it gets published a lot, both through books and products. I won’t lie; if I saw her illustration on a package of eyeshadow I would be strongly inclined to buy it! You’re welcome to visit her website, though it may be a bit tricky to navigate since it’s in japanese. Unfortunately, I’ve been unable to find an english source to purchase any of her work and it doesn’t seem to be available through amazon.com/ca, either. If you’d like to see more of her work, you can search for it through tumblr or visit a mirror of her work here.

Traditional Art Supply Wish List

For the past few weeks I’ve been very careful with my money so that I’ll have some cash to spend during our upcoming roadtrip. I’ve heard good things about the art stores in New York, and have been making a wish list in my mind of things I’d like to get my hands on. With any luck I’ll even be able to try out a few things. Ever since the Naoko Takeuchi post, I’ve been itching to do some awesome manga-inspired works with some cool traditional media, like brushes, pens, airbrushes, toner, etc. Here are some of the things on my latest wish list:

Neo Sable Watercolor Paint Brush (good precision watercolor brushes)

Niji Waterbrush (a brush that holds water instead of ink)

COPIC airbrush system (allows for smooth color over a large area)

DELETER screentones (used to shade manga pages, can also be used for patterns and backgrounds)

DELETER paper (paper for markers and inks)

Canson drawing paper (more paper for markers and inks, used by Naoko Takeuchi)

Poster color

Colored inks

I figure since I haven’t done any courses yet this year, it’d be nice to try something new. Thanks to youtube, I can search for tutorials on anything I’m not sure how to use!

This video shows an illustration done using a french french curve and lightbox, colored with a combination of inks, watercolors and an airbrush. I really admire the way the background was detailed here and the method of coloring the girl’s shirt; it looks like the entire shape of the shirt was first dampened with water, and then the red sort of “bleeds” into the shape once applied in the middle. Really cool.

Below, we see Francis Vallejo inking a piece three different ways: with a nib, a brush, and a combination of the two with grey washes. The tool chosen to ink with will make a huge impact on the final drawing.

Working with manga screentone is painstaking and could be done much quicker digitally, but there’s something about cutting and pasting and doing things by hand that makes it a much more personal experience, for me. Here’s an example of how you’d use screentone to shade an image (this one’s a bit long, roughly 10 minutes). More example’s of his screen-toned art can be found here.

Guidance Owl and Copic Techniques

Thanks to the lovely day off, I’ve been able to finish off my Guidance Owl drawing:

Guidance Owl by Jess Lingley

Guidance Owl by Jess Lingley

I enjoyed doing the sky the most, but doing the snake with little dots of color was great too. I employed that type of “stipling” technique a lot: with the snake, the grass, and the walls. The image is sort of split in half: light versus dark, day versus night, heaven versus hell, and the owl sits in the middle. I paid close attention to the nuances in color, which are visible in a higher-res version of the drawing at Deviantart (though it’s still a cellphone pic). I’m feeling good about this and am ready to tackle the third and final owl of the series!

After absorbing Naoko Takeuchi’s work I was inspired to start looking up traditional manga techniques. I think I’ll take a separate post to elaborate on what I found, but while I was doing my research I found a few youtube tutorials on COPIC coloring from an artist by the name of Ocean-chan. To blend, she start with a dark color, then goes in with a lighter color, then uses a mid-tone to blend the two. It’s different than what I do and very intriguing to watch. She also uses tons of layers, and I’m curious what kind of paper she uses since my COPIC paper only absorbs ~5 layers or so before looking blotchy. Anyway, take a look at the video below to watch her draw:

 

 

Have a good (and hopefully long weekend everyone! I’ll be posting again on Monday, for those with computer access during the holidays.

Naoko Takeuchi and Sailor Moon

I’ve mentioned Sailor Moon before on this blog, via an alternate look at her fashion and while discussing Ai Yazawa’s art & manga. Recently I decided to read the manga in full, as previously I’d only seen the anime (the american dub, at that). I enjoyed it much more than I thought possible and it brought back a lot of memories of my middle school and high school days.

drawn by Naoko Takeuchi, via MangaFox.me

drawn by Naoko Takeuchi, via MangaFox.me

I won’t elaborate too much on how it changed my style since I’ve done so in previous posts, but I distinctly remember the moment I first saw Sailor Moon (even the episode, the one where she was worried about her weight so she started dieting) and how much it changed me. I’d only been exposed to american comics up until that point which were fairly realistic in nature, sticking close to anatomic rules. Well… sticking close to the anatomy of the “ideal” man and women, at least.

drawn by Naoko Takeuchi (via Batezi)

drawn by Naoko Takeuchi (via Batezi)

drawn by Naoko Takeuchi (via OtakuPopBlog)

drawn by Naoko Takeuchi (via OtakuPopBlog)

The Sailor Moon manga took those rules and ran with them. The women have ridiculously long legs and full heads of flowing hair, never a piece out of place. Their eyes are huge and super reflective. They are all slender hour glass figures and even the children are elongated and wispy. All of this should be wrong, off balance and look terrible… but I don’t care. This manga takes the reader to a completely different universe chocked full of pretty soldiers fighting the forces of darkness. Ribbons, tiaras, skirts, wings, sparkles… the art is saturated with everything girly.

The story is typical of a shojo manga. A school girl obtains magical powers to save the universe with her friends and with the help of a mysteriously handsome boy. The plot doesn’t break the mold, but it doesn’t really need to. It’s fluff, plain and simple, and that’s okay with me. The manga spans 18 volumes, plus side stories, plus art books, so there is plenty to take in. It has recently started a reprint and is available pretty much anywhere you can find books.

drawn by Naoko Takeuchi

drawn by Naoko Takeuchi

drawn by Naoko Takeuchi

drawn by Naoko Takeuchi

The art books are the real find. Fortunately, they’ve all been scanned and are freely available on the internet. Normally this would be frowned upon, but the books are out of print and are very rare; I tried to hunt them down on Ebay and found one selling for over a thousand dollars! I’d love to own them (maybe if I win the lottery, someday…) because they’re a true showcase to Naoko’s art. At first, I figured that she probably used simple pens and watercolor, but was surprised to discover that she enjoyed mixing media, employing markers, pastels, pasting designer tissue and even gluing beads into some pieces. Her washes of color are breath-taking.

drawn by Naoko Takeuchi (via MangaStyle.net)

drawn by Naoko Takeuchi (via MangaStyle.net)

I remember this image fondly; in grade 7 I wanted to experiment with watercolor painting and chose this image as a study. The art room in that school is still clear in my mind, as well as the feeling of putting color on a page for the first time (with watercolors, at least). That euphoria hasn’t changed at all. I still get that when I mark the page or canvas with that first stroke of color. To know that after all this time, I still enjoy art as much as I used to, if not more, is invigorating. This is so much more than a silly girl story for me. It’s a confirmation of my life as an artist.

After reading through this manga, I have an intense desire to start working with tones, watercolor and even spray. Maybe it’s time for me to do some new fanart for a series that’s been such a heavy inspiration in my art. Sailor Moon is the definitive shojo manga and simply cannot be overlooked.

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.