Sunday, June 9, 2002

Manga School

A while back, I read a message by a man who participated in a manga school in Japan. He explained that manga schools exist to provide a very short, intensive course in drawing and the comic form, intended for those who want to become manga artists themselves. The emphasis here is on extremely rapid comprehension of the manga form.

The school’s method was simple and effective: It would offer an two-week course, eight hours a day, five days a week. Students spend the first day drawing circles, squares, and other simple geometric shapes. The second day would be spent drawing more complex shapes, and perhaps relating them to real-world objects, like drawing rectangular office buildings and geometric works of art. The students would then move on to a day of drawing heads — only heads — in the manga style, and so forth.

Imagine that, though: Spending eight hours drawing nothing but circles and squares. For eight solid hours. As the participant explained, students have a tendency to get frustrated with this after awhile, and begin to drop out. But that process serves to separate the posers from the students who really want to learn the form, and are willing to be bored or frustrated to learn it.

Also, imagine how well a person would be able to draw those simple shapes after such intense practice. Since every shape can be drawn as a combination of simpler shapes, the student’s basic ability to compose figures will be enhanced dramatically.

My mother’s father called this “improving your craftsmanship.” Sure, you can learn to draw, and you can develop your own style. But how well crafted are your drawings? How well can you simulate reality on paper?

So, I’ve enrolled myself in my own personal manga school. For the past two weeks weeks, my drawing practice has focused on drawing simple geometric shapes, like circles and squares. I haven’t set a threshhold for when I’ll move on to more complex shapes yet.

I have noticed that my ability to draw other shapes has improved noticeably. Now that I can draw a circle more precisely, I can draw eyes and other curves with much greater precision.


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