Thursday, December 05, 2019

How Do You Find Your Own Art Style

Recently, a wonderful young artist I'm mentoring via email posed an excellent question:

How did you find your own manga art style? Do you have any advice for me on how to find my own manga art style?

This isn't an uncommon question- it pops up a lot!  From kids to teens to adults, people want to know how to develop their own artstyle.

Don't stress about it too much- just practice drawing
The more you draw from reference, draw fanart, and draw your original characters, the more you're going to find elements that you want to use in your style.  Reading a wide variety of comics, watching animation, and consuming illustration will give you inspiration.

Think about art that inspires you, and works that you love
For finding your own artstyle, I think it's important for you to combine what inspires you with what you love.  For example, my style is a combination of the artists and studios that initially inspired me to draw (so Rumiko Takahashi, Adachi Mitsuru, Kiyohiko Azuma, Studio Ghibli, Disney Renaissance  artists like Glen Keane) and elements I think are cute (big hair, big eyes, big mouths, large ears, freckles, easily excited personalities, lots of animals, and flowers).  Your personal style will develop and change over time, but a great exercise for figuring out a base style that you like drawing in is to do style tests!

Consider what you're passionate about, and find ways to work it into your artstyle
This is going to vary from person to person, but what's important to me:

  • Reflecting real-life diversity
  • Creating characters that feel like people the reader knows
  • Reflecting American culture and physical appearances
  • Cartoony, expressive faces with fairly realistically proportioned bodies
  • Representing healthy body images
  • Art that feels like a relaxing escape to the reader
  • Depicting a variety of hair textures
  • Depicting a variety of facial features without diving into stereotypes
  • Taking traits from manga and anime and making it my own- transforming my inspiration into something personally important

While there may not be room in 7" Kara for all of these traits, I try to touch on them through various projects and challenges throughout the year, such as Inktober.

Emulate artists you admire through exploration and practice: 

Practice with Style Tests

Style tests involve drawing an original character (or yourself!) in the style of artists you admire- even if you think you're never going to draw in that type of style!  Carefully analyze WHY artists draw things a certain way- why they draw noses the way they draw noses, why they draw lips the way they draw lips, ect, and interpret your character in that art style.  This will help you figure out a shorthand for human facial features.  Once you've done about a dozen style tests, start combining elements you like from different styles!  Don't worry about copying- this is how all artists learn and find inspiration.  And once you have a base character style you like- draw a minicomic to put your character through their paces!  Doing expression studies is also a great way to figure out your style, and how your character's face moves.

Learn a System for Drawing
Example of simple head construction from Manga Madness
I personally really recommend constructive drawing!  This is the system that really made the difference for me, artwise.  It's a helpful method of breaking down and understanding the world, and it's particularly helpful for learning human anatomy and drawing figures!  It's also GREAT for breaking down the face's landmarks and memorizing them!

I love this system so much that I teach it in my 6 week comic classes, and offer it as in standalone classes!  You can sign up to my class mailing list to learn more about my classes, or you can join my Patreon and get access to the presentations: 
From Stick to Figure Presentation
Manga Madness Presentation

Practice Drawing Other's Characters in Your Style

Sakura (CCS), Mei and Satsuki (My Neighbor Totoro) 
 Tsukimi (Princess Jellyfish) and DeeDee (Dexter's Lab)

Kiki and Jiji (Kiki's Delivery Service) Laura Ingalls (Little House on the Prairie)

Ponyo (Ponyo), Kara (7" Kara)

Interpreting other characters, particularly those in drastically different styles from your own is a great way to problem solve issues that may come up while you're designing characters, is a great way to pay homage and explore your inspirations, and is a wonderful way to get some additional practice in.  Above are some of my Favorite Fictional Femmes, an Inktober exercise where I interpreted 31+ favorite fictional females in a b-style I was developing.

Its natural for your style to change over time

Your style will change and develop as you consume more media, follow more artists you admire, improve your technical skills, and develop muscle memory from drawing.  I recommend you don't stress yourself out by attempting to be consistent- see where your style and imagination takes you! 
It's ok not to have a specific style or to not draw consistently in the same style
Speaking of inconsistent styles- most artists have several different styles they utilize depending on the mood of the piece, or even the mood of the individual page.

Play around and find what you like!   The more you experiment, the faster you'll improve.  It's important to draw just for yourself, for the sake of study and improvement.

These are all the same character- Kara- drawn in a variety of different styles.  Even just changing the coloring style can change the feel of the piece!

Practice (and refinement!) make perfect!

Favorite resources:
Glen Vilppu Drawing Manual
Drawn to Life Volume 1&2
Naoki Urasawa's Manben
Concept art books:
Art of Studio Ghibli
Art of various Disney movies

Monday, December 02, 2019

Tips for Teaching Comics

"Do you have any tips for teaching classes/workshops?"

Mixed Media Marker Class- a hands on alcohol marker class taught through the Nashville Plaza Artist Materials (art supply store)

I get asked about this a lot- it's quite an open ended question that could get complicated quick, so I'm going to try to keep today's post pretty basic.  If you still have questions, please don't hesistate to email me, I'm happy to revisit this topic in the future!

I've talked about my experiences with teaching with NCE , why teachers should offer a comic craft module in their classes,  as well as my recommended reading lists (see sidebar of blog) and recommended materials for teaching classes , and methods you can use to promote your classes.

How I develop my classes:
  • Decide what you want to teach, or what you're best suited to teach
  • Make an outline of what you want to cover in the time you have
  • Decide if you want to do a presentation, handouts, or pure demonstration
  • Spend the next week actively practicing and preparing your materials
  • Teach the class, and request feedback from students-actively pay attention to what they say, and where you lose them
  • Analyze how the class went after- what can be improved, what should be cut

Writing Comics- A class taught through St Charles Parish Library

The best advice my mother, a teacher of 25 years, has ever given me was:
Be flexible. 
And when teaching comics, flexibility and patience are huge assets.

From Stick to Figure- A drawing class taught through the St Charles Parish Library

Study how other teachers are teaching similar content.
My Artnerds on Patreon have access to all my class materials!  So if you'd like an in depth look at how I teach my classes, want to check out my presentations and take a look at my handouts, you can join the Artnerd community now!  I even have a special teachers tier that allows you to use my materials, with my consent. Your support on Patreon allows me to continue to devote time to updating this blog, helping artists like you!  If you're not a fan of commitment, show your love by leaving me a tip on Ko-fi!

Try to focus on one topic per class session

For example, when I'm teaching a six week comic class, we cover:
  • Planning and Writing Your Comic
  • Layouts and Thumbnails
  • Roughs- Character Design and Human Anatomy
  • Roughs- Environments
  • Inking
  • Assembling Your Zines/ Exchange

But I also offer standalone classes sometimes, and then it's necessary to make sure the class is entirely self contained.  A few of the self contained classes I've offered:

  • Comics Bootcamp
  • DIY Zines and Comics
  • Manga Madness
  • From Stick to Figure
  • Introduction to  Alcohol Markers
  • Mixed Media Markers
Live demonstrations allow you to answer questions and keep the audience engaged

Know whether your employer is providing the materials or if you're responsible for providing materials
This makes a huge difference, because art supplies, especially enough for a class, gets expensive!  If they're providing the materials, try to find out what they're willing to offer so you can gain experience working with those tools ahead of time.  If they're willing to buy and you need to prepare a materials list, its important to know what stores they're willing to buy from when you make your list.

Are you being paid hourly (that's class hours, usually) or per head?  Budget your time and materials accordingly, or be willing to absorb the cost.

I will say that getting paid an hourly rate has been more fair for me, as a teacher, than getting paid per head, as PPH puts the onus of promotion on me.  In the past, working with employers who pay per head, I've found that they usually do very little in terms of promotion, and I'm expected to do all the work, which is not factored into the per head cost.

Who's handling the printing?
Printing may seem like a small cost, but when you're printing handouts, drawing templates, and handling zine and minicomic printing, it gets expensive fast.

Give yourself ample prep time.
If it's a new class, I recommend spending the week before the class prepping.  If it's a class you've taught before, I recommend dedicating a couple hours to revising

Know your teaching style
I teach with a LOT of energy and kindness, which leaves me absolutely wiped out after class.  This means on days before I teach or days after I teach, it's best if I conserve my energy or recovery, because burnout is a real issue.

Who's responsible for filling the class?
I touched on this earlier, but it bears repeating.  Who's handling promoting the class and pushing enrollment?  While self promoting a class may not feel like a big deal, it can quickly become exhausting and may overwhelm your followers on social media.

If they are:  How do they plan on promoting the class?

If you are:  What methods are you going to use to promote the class in the local area?

Is this for a grade or is it for fun?
If it's fun, the class is going to be really reliant on you and your attitude for motivation, so it's important to be encouraging and positive.  Building trust with your students is an important component of getting them to actually do the work.

Take notes after each class on what went well and what went wrong.
Be open to students' suggestions and critique- they can provide invaluable insight that will allow you to improve future classes.

Good time management is a must
If this is a weakpoint for you now, it's going to get worse as you're handling student work, designing classes, collecting and maintaining materials, and driving to and from class.

Don't be afraid to say "I don't know, but I know how to find out!"
This is what Google is for!

Bringing snacks 
This is usually out of your own pocket, and will vary based on location, but bringing snacks helps students stay focused and helps develop trust and goodwill

Plan breaks
People need time to process information- breaks give students a chance to stretch their legs, get some water, have a snack, and ask questions.  It also gives YOU a chance to take a break- so if you need to go to the bathroom or get some water, don't allow your students to deter you from utilizing your break as well!

Student posing during figure drawing while I answer student questions

Bring hands on activities
Don't just lecture the whole time- give them a chance (and the materials) to explore their own ideas and projects.  At the very least, allow them to doodle while you talk (it helps many students stay focused!)

Encourage class participation/interaction as frequently as possible
Engaged students are more likely to retain information, so if you can, make the classes fun!
Get them to pose as models for figure drawing and gesture practice
Ask them questions frequently to check understanding

You can't always rely on technology like wi-fi and projectors
Even if they do have this technology, Murphy's Law says it'll be broken or go down mid presentation, so you have to be prepared to think on your feet.

Don't expect your students to keep up with emails
You can utilize it, and act like you expect it when talking to them, but they probably won't actually read all your emails or respond to emails, so don't take it personally.

Manga Madness, a drawing class taught through St Charles Parish Library

Great Resources:
Drawing Words and Writing Pictures
Drawing Comics Lab
Lynda Barry's Syllabus