Whether you’re a fan of manga who’s never tried drawing it yourself but would like to give it a shot, or you have some experience drawing characters but would like a great resource book that has plenty of examples to practice your technique with, Christopher Hart’s The Manga Artist's Workbook can be a valuable tool in your artistic arsenal. It contains a series of step-by-step lessons so that even a beginner who thinks that he or she has little or no artistic talent can soon get started on the road to creating unique manga characters. Learn to draw characters with proper proportions, to add details to your characters’ eyes to make them sparkle and shine, to develop manga types of hairstyles, and to create expressive and dynamic characters. Tracing, drawing and graph papers are included so that you can practice drawing from the moment you get the book in your hands and feel the urge.
Start off learning to draw manga heads of teen girls and boys from the front, from the profile, and in poses where the character is looking downwards and upwards. Guidelines aid you in figuring out where to place a character’s eyes, nose, and mouth in relationship to the hair and other features of the head, as well as how to add partial white ovals and shading to give eyes sparkle. My teen daughter told me she found the information and guidelines very useful; I tried my hand at doing some drawings, as well, and we were amazed at how well the results turned out.
When the intent is to draw manga characters versus realistic ones, just like with Archie comics characters or Disney ones, it’s interesting to start seeing characters from the viewpoint of the artists who imagine and create them. Just a line or two is enough to suggest a nose, and the nose is generally smaller based on the age of the character you’re trying to draw. The manga characters in this instruction guide, like Betty and Veronica and Disney princesses, have very tiny noses. It seems kind of strange that a small line can indicate a nose - but, if one just looks at the completed characters without insisting that a mere line can’t resemble a nose, then the character looks just right - the eye and the mind are fooled, in a way.
Besides learning to draw manga heads from various angles and making your characters’ eyes appear expressive, you’ll also learn to draw different hairstyles, arms, hands, legs, torsos, and the body from different perspectives, like a three-quarters front and even rear view. Often people make their figures too stiff when they’re just learning how to draw people, but the author provides examples of natural standing poses that are useful guides to practice from and experiment with. This relaxed appearance means you’ll also learn where and how to place wrinkles and bunches in shirts and pants to make them seem real, and natural-looking leg and foot placements for full body poses and poses where the hands are behind (or in front of) the body, and the knees are bent.
One of the most difficult body parts to draw is the hand. There are examples of hands from different angles to practice drawing, and with the fingers in different natural-looking positions, like partially folded in towards the palm, or with the index finger pointing, or the fingers made into a fist. If you can learn to draw a realistic-looking hand, that’s a big step to making your entire character appear realistic. Learning to draw better manga figures can be a big help to creating realistic sketches and drawings, also, or to trying to make manga-looking versions of your friends or family members.
You’ll also learn to draw other types of clothing, like school uniforms with pleated skirts, purses, bags, shoes, suits, ties, scarfs, etc. There are sections on how to draw what the author refers to as “Magical Girls,” “Teen Fighter Girls,” the “Classic Teen Hero” and a “Fantasy Fighter.” Christopher Hart’s The Manga Artist's Workbook is definitely a great teaching aid, and the tracing and graph paper will fire up any budding young artist’s imaginations and get their creative juices flowing. If you enjoy drawing and would like to improve your artistic skills, this book is a good introduction to get you headed in the right direction.