I have to get it out of my system.
Drawing in “manga” or “anime” style does not make you a worse artist.
Disregarding proper learning of art basics, anatomy, doing realistic studies “because I draw in manga/anime” style does make you a bad artist. But it doesn’t make you you a worse artist because you choose to draw in this style (whatever it might mean); if you don’t learn and practice basics of doing art you’re a bad artist - that means you also fail as manga/anime artist you aspire to be.
Learning basics is important whether you choose to draw/pain photorealism, cartoon, anime, Disney - style. Many people don’t realize this and try to learn while copying favorite artwork, with no judgment whether it’s good or has serious mistakes.
As there is a lot of fanart of manga and anime characters, somehow the opinion has appeared that drawings in style described as manga/anime are mostly crappy OR that drawing in the style is “easy”.
I’ve seen many artists that had very good grasp on realism try to draw something in “manga” style - whether to make fun of something or as a job for some advertisement aimed at young people - and in most cases the results looked very similar: the same simplified, generic style with no real manga feeling. People who made their living drawing different, “difficult” kinds of art could not draw “simple manga” character on a level that would be different from and average early-teen beginner.
Let me once for all make it clear: drawing a crappy, beginner manga IS slightly easier than drawing crappy beginner realism; partly because crappy manga will be recognised as crappy manga while crappy realism will be just a crappy drawing in unidentified style.
At the same time, drawing a good manga is as difficult as drawing in any other style. There is no shortcut, no magical means of avoiding learning drawing basics. I have no idea where this double-standard comes from.
And I should know when I say “double standard”.
Last year I finally gathered the courage to get my art into the world. I mean, REAL WORLD. And there was a situation I encountered quite a couple of times. People looked at my prints and went “Oh, right, manga” and then they stumbled upon the one when they reacted “Wow.. it was really you who did this?”. This particular picture was a digital painting, a opposed to others that were done in slightly enhanced cell-shading. It was more realistic then others..
Only it wasn’t.
I used the same proportions in all of the pictures. Oh, there were slight variations to some details, as I tend to shift my style slightly when doing fanart to get a feeling of the original author’s style. But proportions were the same; which is most important here because of the eyes. Even though I aim to get to quite high levels of realism in my paintings I decided not to aim at photorealism because of the eyes - I like them slightly bigger. This painting wasn’t an exception; I even left more of the stylization that I would for original character, as I wanted the character to be recognizable.
So the only difference between the pictures that got reaction “meh, manga” and “wow~!” was the fact that the first were drawn in lineart and cell-shaded (and I tend to do my cell-shading quite realistic and detailed - and hate myself for it; I bet I could use it as base for painting easily) and the latter was painted. And the way I ink eyes.
Ironically, it left me quite flustered and confused.
I never planned to get into cell-shaded illustration, to be honest; the only reason I did this was that I was stuck with two terrible monitors and I thought that this way it will be easier to adjust the overall balance/contrast between colours even if palette will turn out to be slightly shifted from what I worked on (this turned out to be true). The skills I used to colour those pictures was just application of toning and painting skills. I cut no slack on shading details and the work took not that much less time than if I used some kind of fast painting technique. Actually, the painted picture took less time than it would if I drew the same thing in lineart/cellshading style, as I redid some parts a lot of time and it’s much harder to redo lineart. AND the hair was a screwup in that one.
Yet still, the painted one was “better”.
Now, I associate a lot of things with manga but, unless we talk about big-eyed shoujo style, it’s dynamics, forshortenings and stuff like that. None of my illustration had this, partly because I only ever finish boring pictures (self-confidence issues; the more ambitious ones, whether drawings or paintings, end up as eternal sketches or WIPS never seen by any other living human because I’m afraid to screw them up). I play with my style between stylized and more realistic. But what classifies my style, in the eye of a statistic viewer, are not proportions, not details, not composition but the way I decided to ink eyes. I could do them realistic, I could do the more Disney-like or cartoony. I draw eyes in different styles everywhere, on loose sheets of papers, on margins, on shopping lists, on the cover of my desk at my workplace. And throughout the years all those tests helped me develop a style of drawing eyes I like, style consisting of some of the elements I liked in other artists’ eyes and eye anatomy. Style that is quite manga-like.
Which makes me a bad artist who hasn’t moved forward since her teen anime-infatuation.
Now, there are a lot of things in my art I should be worried over more. Finishing stuff. Perspective. Finishing stuff. Composition. Architecture, Finishing stuff. Comic page narration. Finishing stuff. Dynamic figures. And did I mention finishing stuff?
But in the past couple of years I’ve been struggling with my identity as an artist. I’ve been hesitating to finish illustrations I cared about and post them online. Only for all the wrong reasons. I am not afraid to be criticized; actually I have some wonderful friends who know I want it and they’re so sharp they never overlook anything, even (or especially) things I overlooked on purpose because I was to lazy to work on them.
What I am afraid of is being judged as a person. I know it’s inevitable that when you go out in the public you WILL be judged. But it doesn’t mean I will accept labeling me and all the people who made a specific kind of stylistic decisions that make their art legible to be labeled as a specific “style” (which isn’t even a style, but that’s another story) as “too lazy to learn drawing properly”.
Because you know what?! We fucking aren’t!