Become a Better Manga Artist is the next step you should take after you master the manga drawing basics. Print this list, share it, bookmark it, or past it on your wall next to your desk. Whatever you do, make sure you cross them all out after you conquer them!
- Learn other drawing styles. Though your main goal is to become a better manga artist, learning and being able to draw other styles will broaden your skills and bring a new twist to your manga drawing. There are a lot of styles involved in the most successful mangas. Skip beat and One piece are just a few of them.
- Imitate at least one published mangaka. Imitating a published artist is important because it will teach you to draw in different styles. There is a beauty that can not be described when you are finally able to recreate a drawing done by someone who is already published in the industry. But this should be done for practicing purposes. I wouldn’t recommend you post or sale this drawing because, in the end, you are exploring. Only showcase what you feel confident to the world and what truly represents you as an artists. Anything else should be stored for your eyes only.
- Set yourself a deadline. This is fun and will keep you focus on your goal on becoming a better manga. Give yourself a month to come up and produce a one-shot story. Do this for at least three or four months. Then, push yourself to produce a one-shot story in three weeks now. Then in two. Then one. Repeat this over and over until you learn the fats and thins on what it takes to come up with a complete drawn and developed story. In a blink of months you will have a file full of finished stories. Who then, can turn and tell you you are not serious about drawing manga?
- Time yourself when you draw. Personally, I never thought about this. But in an interview I watched from Japan, a former mangaka said that when he is interviewing potential assistants, or when a publisher interviews a potential mangaka, two questions will be primarily asked: Show me some of your drawings and how long did it take you to draw each one of them.
This interview was a realization. I needed to start timing myself to know how long did it take me to draw. I don’t think publishers ask you because they are only looking for the faster artist. Speed is important, that’s for sure, but I think that the publisher’s main goal is to know how long does it take you to produce a drawing. This will let the publisher know when to expect your finish work, so don’t lie when you are asked these questions. But now you know, time yourself.
- Know how to structure a story. Set yourself a whole Saturday (or whatever off day you have) and take notes of how the stories are played out as you read manga. It’s not rocket science, but it is important. Once you study at least four of your favorite manga, summarize your findings and keep this on your desk or make this the cover of your notebook. Use this summary as a compass to drive your story to success.
- Have a business card! In Japan, it is a custom that anyone in any kind of business owns a business card with their name, contact information (company information if applicable) and a description of who they are. This is both professional and smart. Imagine you are visiting New York, or any other major city, and you find out the person sitting next to you is someone who could potentially further you in you manga drawing career? Wouldn’t you want to have a business card that had your website in it in case you and this person started chatting about drawing? I bet you would! So, whenever you can, get yourself a business card with the most important information. And if you want to be even on a safer side, find a way to get a Japanese business card written in Japanese. Of course, you wouldn’t want to buy five hundred Japanese business card, but do get yourself at least one hundred if you can.
- Draw at least 500 different pages. It could be the same story, it could be many stories. But if you are serious about becoming a manga artist, then you should spend a good time drawing. Coming up with 500 complete drawings should not be done in one month. This should be done as a learning process and you will realize how far you have come when you compare your first drawing to your 500th. Five hundred drawings seems crazy, but there are many benefits from doing this: Not only will you be able to come up with faster drawings, but you will also have a portfolio. Lines will become more natural, poses and buildings you never thought you could draw, will be second nature. Just set your 500 goal, and go for it. Make sure you draw the characters in different scenarios, different time periods, and so on. Take these 500 chances to practice to challenge yourself to draw what you thought impossible.
- Come up with a set of main characters. The author and artist of Skip Beat confessed that Kyoko, the main character in her Skip Beat Manga, was a character she thought of since her teen years. Over time, this character went through several transformations and now Kyoko sits in the front sections of the Shojo Manga shelf. You could have one, two, or even five main characters. Draw them, get to know them and stick with them. By the time you are ready to jump into a story, any of these main characters can be the hero or heroine of your story.
- Come up with something that makes your stories or drawings unique. Ikeyamada Go is a well known manga artist in Japan. But at least three of his most successful stories talk about second loves and how can a character find through love after experiencing the lost of the first one. Not only does Ikeyamada Go writes stories with similar themes, but he also makes some of his character look similar to previous works. It has gotten to the point that I don’t need to see Ikeyamada’s name in his book. With only a glimpse of his characters, I can tell it’s him.
You, too, should have something that makes your drawing unique. It could be a theme that means a lot to you, or a certain character you draw and redraw in similar ways over and over again. Whatever you decide, stick with it so when your readers find your work, then can recognize you even when they haven’t seen your name in the book yet.
- Believe in yourself. Though this is something you as an artist hear quite often, it’s almost impossible to remember how important this is. Belief in your skills, in your dreams and in your intuitions. I believe in Skip Beat, Inuyasha, Dragon Ball Z and many other mangas but only because at least one person believed in them first: their creators.