My drawing skills are limited to stick figures. Still, I look down at the circle I’ve drawn – the wonkiest the art world has witnessed, I’m sure – at the start of my class at Manga School Nakano International in Tokyo, Japan.
My teacher, professional manga artist Nao Yazawa, tells me, “Accurate circles are very hard to draw, even for a professional artist.” “But circles aren’t meant to have corners,” I protest. Yazawa assures me that I’m not the worst student she’s had.
The shy, bespectacled woman is one of Japan’s best-known female manga artists, responsible for illustrating popular manga series Wedding Peach. That is no small feat in a nation where comic books are an iconic element of pop culture. Believed to date back to the 12th century, manga hit the mainstream after World War II. The exaggerated features of its characters – huge eyes, tiny mouths, wild hair and almond-shaped faces – made the art form instantly recognisable.
My task of the day is simple: draw a female manga character from the shoulders up. First, I draw a grid, which acts as a guide for the dimensions of the head and face of my character, whom I’ve named Aiko. My initial attempts give her a lopsided cranium – it’s like she has suffered a serious head injury. Many attempts later, she looks healthy.
Her eyes are relatively easy to draw. The grid is helping and I see progress. But then I can’t work out how to draw her hair; even after the liberal use of the eraser, I leave her with a messy mane. All in all, I think I’ve just completed a reasonable sketch of a Japanese cartoon character, though I do want to apologise to Aiko. But that’s weird, so I say sorry to Yazawa instead. My teacher remarks, “Not everyone is meant to be a manga artist.”
More craft classes around the world
Mosaic making, Spain
Love Catalan artist Antoni Gaudi’s mosaic work on his architectural gems? Pick up the craft at Mosaiccos, a Barcelona art school run by a mosaic specialist.
At Kuala Lumpur’s Hobby N Coffee, visitors can spend an hour making a simple creation on a sewing machine or return day after day for a more complicated project.
Design and build your very own miniature garden, or terrarium, at the Miniature Garden Workshop conducted by experts at Plant Story.
– TEXT BY RONAN O’CONNELL
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.