I’m sitting here looking at a stack of how-to-draw-manga books, and I’m feeling very guilty.
These books were sent to me as review copies, and I feel it’s my duty to review them. They are thoughtfully designed and beautifully produced, and they aren’t cheap. People think being a reviewer is all beer and skittles and free comics, but those comics aren’t free; they carry a serious responsibility with them, and I’m afraid that in the case of these books, I have failed miserably.
The problem is that I don’t believe in the basic mission of these books. I say this as someone who once had aspirations to being a fine artist and who later edited art-instruction books. Let me explain.
When I was in college, I loved the idea of being an artist, but I lacked talent. That didn’t stop me from soldiering through school — I have a BFA and an MFA in studio art — but when I got out into the real world and started trying to make my way as an artist, I realized I lacked both the knack and the spark I needed to be successful.
Nonetheless, I went from being a terrible draftsman to a better-than-mediocre draftsman during that time, and I didn’t do it by reading books. I did it by drawing. So here’s the advice I have for all aspiring comics artists everywhere: Draw from life. You’re better off using those how-to books in an interesting still-life setup and drawing that than copying the illustrations you will find inside.
Who says you can’t learn anything during the summer? UK artist Neill Cameron, creator of the kids’ graphic novel Mo-Bot High, has put together a quick four-step guide to designing giant robots, and it’s available to view or download at his site. You don’t have to be a kid (but it helps to be a kid at heart) to enjoy learning how to convert humans and animals into giant killing machines.