Book Review: Manga Art

Manga Art:  Illustration And Techniques From An Expert Illustrator, by Mark Crilley

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by Blogging For Books/Watson-Guptill Publications.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

Despite my own rather critical comments about my own art [1], I tend to be quite fond of art and manga art is definitely something I appreciate [2].  A few of my friends are quite talented at drawing manga art, and this book would definitely be of use for them, especially as it springs from the experience of someone who can rightly call himself an expert illustrator.  Even those who do not consider themselves particularly proficient artists, though, can use this book as a way to appreciate good manga art and even draw some conclusions about how the techniques the author uses can be adapted to other media where one may be more skilled.  It should be noted that the cover gives a good picture of the sort of materials that are to be found, in that there is a sketch of an adorable chibi girl, a picture of a lovely young woman on a Vespa bike as well as another sketch drawing of a man with dramatic wind-blown hair.

In terms of its contents, this short book of just over 150 pages is divided into several chapters based on the material included in it.  First the author focuses on characters, whether or not they have a story involved, showing subcultures and an attention to mood and the imagining of a story as well as the repurposing of the author’s other works.  After that the author has a chapter on Japan in which he explores some of the cultural elements of Japanese traditional clothing as well as some of the more amusing tropes of manga art, like the schoolkid in a hurry with toast in his or her mouth rushing off to class.  The author then turns to science fiction, showing drawings that help with the worldbuilding of science fiction in which one’s drawing can play a part.  Here again the author shows himself to be able to make fresh drawings from his existing body of work, and interested in unusual elements of science fiction that are distinctive.  The author then turns to conceptual art after this, playing with color and shade and looking at neglected areas within manga like 1950’s America and looking at weddings and readers of books, which many people can identify with.  The last chapter is one on styleplay, in which the author shows himself very willing and able to work with other styles and create art that blends manga with other genres, including impressionistic art and the use of unfamiliar media.  After this there is a short conclusion and index.

This book is especially useful in demonstrating how artists develop their art.  For one, even the creation of isolated works themselves can prompt questions of what story these small pieces could be a part of, which could then lead to inspiration of further works.  Likewise, if one has already invested a great deal of time or attention in worldbuilding, one can find great opportunities for making new niches within that existing world where one has already done a lot of work already and does not have to reinvent the wheel. Likewise, playing with thought experiments of various kind, including working with unfamiliar media or doing works after the style of other artists, can help one to get out of a rut and to have more artistic solutions to questions of narrative as well as possible commissions.  Above all things, the author shows himself to be an expert illustrator because of his willingness to explore the unfamiliar and expand his own repertoire of stories and styles and areas of interest, which make one’s life and work far more interesting to oneself and to others.  Even for those of only modest artistic talent, these are techniques that are of use for artists in general.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/04/05/a-horse-is-a-horse-of-course-of-course/

[2] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/03/10/book-review-and-musing-on-strawberry-panic/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2011/08/11/the-rain-in-mae-rim-stays-mainly-in-the-plain/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/02/19/book-review-plene-idiota-vortaro/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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