Most artists and illustrators find their personal drawing style after a long time. I’ve tried manga, naturalism, still lives, portraits, and it took me more than 20 years to realize which kind of art, style and tools work best for me. Finding your own drawing style is an ongoing process you can only establish the more you try. In this and the next blog post, I will guide you through my milestones and stylistic changes. Let’s take a look in my very beginnings.
Drawing instead of kneading
Looking back, it’s important to try as many techniques and styles of art as possible. Don’t give up, if you don’t like to draw, because art has so many approaches and one of them may work for you. Drawing and sketching needs spatial imagination, whereas sculpturing needs haptic and perception.
I am happy that I have been able to try lots of different things in my school classes. I worked with papier mâché, charcoal, pastel chalk, clay, acrylic paint and textiles. After some years, I figured out, that I loved drawing and sketching whereas everything connected with kneading, tailoring and crafting was not my thing.
My first comic has been a manga
Inspired by anime and manga, I drew a manga at the age of 10. It’s a fan fiction comic consisting of 18 volumes à 30 DIN A4 pages. Stylistically I’d call it a shōnen manga, because it is for a rather male and young audience with strong heroes and lots of action. The plot was very unstructured, and the drawings were not my best, but my classmates enjoyed it very much. Drawing comics, I learned a lot about drawing the same characters in different positions.
Representative for all my whole comic, I show an illustration of Mei-Ling Li, a character from Cardcaptor Sakura (link goes to Wikipedia). As this comic has been a crossover, her outfit is inspired by Dragon Ball Z.
Developing an own style from fan fiction manga
2001 I drew another comic called Satoshi. It’s been 9 volumes with 30 DIN A4 pages. The protagonist Satoshi is a hen-pecked young man who gets to know real heroes. It is a multi universe fan fiction with lots of characters from other series. Copying them was really hard, because they were so many styles of drawing like shoujo manga, Marvel, DC Comics and even some European approaches. I figured out that I was not able to draw all of these, but I did not think about establishing a new style.
The more I drew, the less Satoshi played a role in this comic. My side characters were more interesting, and I invented new ones. Mixing manga-like soft shading but keeping realistic proportions, I found my own drawing style. You can still find these in today’s work.
I’d really love to show you this comic, but I am not able to scan these because the volumes are tied together. I found an illustration from the year 2002, where I drew Jack and Aqua, two original main characters, who were responsible for the mixing of the universes. Satoshi has been a milestone, because it is my first comic with a plot, and it opened my gate to find my own drawing style.
Why I never became a mangaka
In the early 2000s, everybody read or drew manga. Germany had a quite big community of mangaka (manga drawers), so I thought a lot about joining them and become an illustrator. In 2003, I started my own manga with own characters and plot. To increase my chances, I started this project in Japanese reading direction (right to left, top to bottom) and Japanese comic format. I bought some special drawing pens, good pencils, an art rubber and even screentones.
The main challenge has been setting up the panels in a reading direction I was not used to. Right after, I had troubles sticking to manga proportions, especially facial expressions. Even after two weeks of practise, I was not able to draw my main character by heart. I underestimated inking with real ink. The thinner the pen, the less control you have about the stroke. I loved harder pens, but they destroyed the paper. Too bad, I did not know about pigment ink, I may have tried it for a longer time.
After drawing, inking and screen toning four pages and two full coloured illustrations, I gave up my dream of becoming a mangaka. I did not go along well with this style and narration, so I jumped back. Finding your own drawing style can be a tough nut to crack.
In my next post, I will show you my milestones and ideas after 2004. Let read, how I came to digital drawing and why my drawing style does not have a name.