The Problem with How To Draw Manga Books
Back when I lived in the Philippines, I remember discovering my first How to Draw Manga books. They were tucked in the arts section of my local bookstore next to the books on painting and architecture. I recall getting quite excited because I just discovered chinese-translated manga and wanted to learn how to make my own comics.
But even then, I knew they wouldn’t be able to help me completely. I didn’t like the house “style” they employed and preferred to use my own. I felt no need to learn how to draw manga eyes, face or hair the way they prescribe because I observed from watching countless anime, they were all drawn differently any way. Why would I want to draw what everyone else is drawing? I wanted to learn cool stuff like how to draw backgrounds or fighting poses and bought the corresponding books in the series for that. But you know what? I never did actually learn much from them.
I did learn more from drawing and experimenting with my own limitations. (Could I draw a horse? Hm, let’s find out. How about a leg? A sidewalk? etc. etc.) You can feel more comfortable drawing fight poses, not because you draw the same exact one over and over, but because you have the experience of drawing the human body from different angles. Drawing from life and practicing variations every day builds a visual vocabulary that enables you to draw poses with confidence.
You can get better at backgrounds by challenging yourself to come up with more complicated illustrations and try to exceed your own expectations. What happens when you actually sit down to compile references on a how a busy sidewalk looks like instead of copy it from the book? What happens when you infuse the scenery of your childhood in there?
I believe no one book can teach you to create unique, compelling manga. Beginning artists make the mistake of thinking there are “correct” ways to do it and step-by-step guides can make them fantastic artists. But such thinking limits the artist creatively. These books and any other books, tutorials or resources should just be a fraction of your creative education. It’s okay to buy them and it’s okay to have bought them in the past. They’re great (but limited) introductions to the techniques of creating comics.
But when you’re hungry for more and want more from yourself as an artist, leave the books on the shelf and start welcoming other influences. Unless you infuse your work with individuality, that visual oomph that creates a signature in people’s mind – your work is not going to stand out and be instantly recognizable.
Read other books, study from life, study your favorite artists’ work, experiment and have fun! Creativity thrives in the unknown.