There’s been some interesting conversations happening on Twitter recently about artistic influences. Something I noticed though, is that some people are ashamed or shy to admit that anime has inspired them to be an artist.
And worse, there are a LOT of people who say that anime or anime-inspired art is not “real art.”
As someone who has a college degree in art, I took a lot – A LOT – of class time discussing what made something “art” and “not art.”
Add on top of that the fact that I took African Art History, which to some people may be considered a joke because some people don’t think African cultures can make “real art.”
“Real art,” in this case, refers to the Western canon of art (usually paintings) made between the 1500s (during the Renaissance) and the Post Impressionist period in the 1880s to the early 1900s.
Or if you’re really pretentious, “real art” encompasses only the period from the Post-Impressionists to the Post-Modern era (which can be argued is still going on to today).
So, it’s a very narrow view, and it leaves out the commercial arts. Like illustrations. And comics.
But the way I look at it – as an artist with a Bachelor’s degree in the field – Art is something that is made by the artist for the purpose of expressing an idea.
So, with that definition, classic Renaissance paintings are art. So are Archie comics, Disney movies, Dogon mask dances, and yes, even anime.
So, the stigma attached to anime can’t just be the issue of if it’s “real art” or not.
So I took a look at some of the how-to-draw manga books on store shelves.
Now I see why the stigma is there.
Granted, there ARE good books on the subject out there (I’ll talk about them at the end of this post), but…OW.
That anatomy is totally off, amd the faces are crooked, and the colors are all flat!
Ok, so when someone mentions that they’re artistically inspired by anime, this stuff is probably the first thing the critic is thinking of. And that hurts.
Because anime, when done well, can be beautiful.
The problem, though, is that some folks here in the west treat anime as a genre – like Westerns, science fiction, and romantic comedies are genres.
So, in keeping with the idea of anime as a genre, these how-to books teach you how to draw “cute” characters, use Japanese visual short-hands like snot bubbles for sleeping characters, and to intermingle out of context Japanese jargon like “kawaii!”
….OW. In more ways than one.
Anime is not a genre. That’s narrow-minded, like saying that “Warner Brothers Animation” is a genre.
Let’s look at some Warner Brothers movies: The Iron Giant, a sci fi work; The Swan Princess, a musical fantasy fairy tale; and Wakko’s Wish, a comedy.
None of these three films fit in the same genre, but they come from a style of art: animation.
Now let’s look at anime:
Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood is an action adventure story. Dragonball is a martial arts parody. Paradise Kiss is a romantic drama. Paranoia Agent is a psychological thriller. And Princess Mononoke is a fantasy epic set in feudal Japan.
But they are all anime, which is just the Japanese word for “animated feature.”
And anime can be great art. Just look at some of these:
(Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood‘s fourth season opening sequence).
(A fight between a magical girl and a witch from Puella Magi Madoka Magica, which has a unique artistic direction throughout the whole show).
(The opening sequence of Paranoia Agent, the aforementioned psychological thriller).
These are the result of groups of people who got an idea and chose to express it through anime.
If you’re inspired by anime, awesome! If you’re not, that’s ok. But don’t say that one is more legitimate than the other.
Because the way I see it, however you choose to express your ideas, you’re making art.
If you want to get better at making anime-inspired art, though, I sorted through the crap and found these little gems:
Shoujo Wonder Manga Art School.
This is a must if you want to color with Copic markers, which are some of the finest art markers you can work with. This book also has tips on lighting (including how warm and cool lights affect mood and your subjects), character design, and basic costume design.
Mastering Manga with Mark Crilley, volumes 1 and 2.
While I don’t agree with his tips on anatomy or foreshortening a lot, Mark Crilley DOES know how to work page layouts for comics, how to render backgrounds, and how to illustrate different surface textures in ink. That knowledge is worth the price.
Shoujo Fashion Manga Art School.
This book can also be called “Costumes for Comics 101.” This book covers all your bases, from fabric folds to shoes. It even teaches you how to render umbrellas and how to design a costume that fits your characters.
I hope thesebooks help you. If you have any suggestions, leave a comment below!
Thank you for reading, and I will see you on Tuesday.
P.S. You’re probably saying, “Wait, no Monday update?”
Well, I stopped updating this blog on Mondays.
However! I have started a new (free) weekly newsletter. It features comic updates, blog posts, new artists, new books, and more cool stuff. You can sign up to join the newsletter using the form below.