Manga - in simple terms - is story-telling by way of pictures: comics, if you like. Astonishingly, it's been around for over 800 years which knocks the 80-year-old Beano into a cocked hat. A series of works known as the 'Handscrolls of Frolicking Animals' was created around 1200 AD and is believed to represent the first example of manga art. The modern form of manga emerged during the 1920s and evolved into the hugely expressive form of graphic art that now enjoys worldwide popularity.
In recognition of its long and complex history, the British Museum is currently staging the largest exhibition of manga art outside of Japan, and if you fancy a visit, it's on until 26th August 2019.
In Japan, the word 'manga' just refers to any comic style of drawing, but in the West, it's used specifically for Japanese art of that type, or comic art in the Japanese style. In the west, graphic novels, while gaining in popularity rapidly, are still something of a niche interest, but in Japan, manga is hugely popular. Most anime (Japanese animation) starts life as manga, and anime in turn has a major impact on Western film and TV.
So what's the appeal of manga, and what are the 'rules'? What sets it aside from other forms of cartoon art? And (most importantly as far as we're concerned) what pens are best to use?! Well, we didn't know, so we asked somebody who does! Enter Inko…
Hello, I'm Inko, and I'm a manga artist! I was born and raised in Japan but now work in the UK where I have spent more than 10 years enjoying drawing, and freelancing as a manga artist and an illustrator. I come from an art background: I am a graduate of both Kyoto Zokei University of Art & Design and Central Saint Martin's College of Art & Design.
It's a Chimera monster of traditional Japanese art, modern manga, and western Graphic novels. Or to put it a different way, it's influenced by a mix of Hokusai (who created 'The Great Wave off Kanagawa'), the Japanese manga series Naruto and Sin City.
While Graphic novels mainly focus on drama, manga often focuses on emotions. It's a very good challenge to keep thinking of new ways to depict the right emotions for each scene. It never feels easy to do it. But it is very satisfying to see the end result, as I feel I get better and better with each page.
Manga style is often caricatured fairly simply, but it has got a certain reality to it. The simple lines tell so much, which works almost like magic. All lines have a reason to be there.
If I couldn't be an artist, I'd love to have trained as a dancer or choreographer. It's amazing what you can do by unifying your body with music!
Ghost stories, or action scenes! I'm always excited to express fear or a sense of speed or impact with my manga.
I love personifying objects. For example my web comic 'Go! Go! Metro Lines!' is a personification of London's Tube lines. I have so much fun imagining if the Metropolitan line was a human character and what he or she would be like. So inspiration comes from everywhere, it's all just about how you look around you.
Ghost stories (yes!) and Sci-Fi manga. The reference materials are almost covering my working area...
My (almost) daily 1 hour drawing challenge (you can see on my SNS) is obviously done in 60 minutes, but otherwise it takes me a few months to finish 100 pages - 1 to 3 pages of manga in a day.
Pilot FriXion pens, because you can remove the lines. I use them to sketch with. Usually you use the pen's eraser to rub out the lines, but I use a hair dryer!
As much as deadlines allow me, I do tweak artwork, especially as editors or clients may ask me for amendments. I don't tweak around a lot for my personal works though. When it's done, it's done!
The 'Underground Heroes' posters at Embankment station in London. It was a collaboration with artist David Blandy and Transport for London, turning children into super heroes. The children dreamt up their own superhero, based on their individual interests and aspirations, and I created manga posters of each as a short story. The 14 posters were displayed in 2009. The children's faces when they first looked at their own manga posters were priceless. You can still find the images on the TFL website. https://art.tfl.gov.uk/projects/underground-heroes/ I'm also very proud of probably the most gruesome scenes I've ever drawn in my life, an award-winning comic anthology 'Portrait of Violence'. I have no regrets, I did my best.
For those who want to be a manga artist:
Start with short stories! If you start with an epic long story, you may be put off from finishing it properly, which eventually stops you moving on to the next piece. If you're trapped creating a long story manga, leave it aside while you work on a short and well-known favourite story instead.
For general artists:
Try out tons of new things, and most of all, enjoy what you are doing. Take advice, and don't let harsh critics get you down, because failing is just a normal thing for every creator. Keep challenging yourself, and accept that failures are the best way to get better.
You can see more of Inko's work here:
Linked In: Inko Ai Takita-Lucas
17 June 2019