How can we support student’s development in visual art when all they want to do is draw in a certain style?
That style is manga cartoons and for a long time as a young artist I was fascinated with them too. This is a matter I have encountered recently spending time at a school as an artist in residence. While moving around the class to check on their work I noticed two groups of students drawing manga characters. Their work was incredible, and they were supremely talented at drawing, but they were not interested enough in the class content to stop drawing their manga characters. I thought maybe that it was about my teaching style. I should be doing more to engage them, and I was at fault… but then I noticed it occurring in other visual art classes, regardless of the content being taught. These students just loved manga characters and all they wanted to do is draw them. As an art teacher it’s hard to tell students to stop drawing when they are being creative, but they still need to learn the curriculum content. So how can we encourage their drawing skills but still teach them the curriculum? I decided to research manga a bit more and see if I could come up with some ideas.
Manga is a rich cultural artform that originated in Japan. It is difficult to reveal its specific origins but the artform itself is noted to have been around since ancient times dating back to approximately 670 CE where, “caricatures of people and animals…were found on the backs of planks in the ceiling of the temple” (Ito 2005, p.3). This was uncovered while the Horyuji Temple was being repaired in 1935. The style has changed and progressed over centuries and no matter how far back we trace its origins it began to dramatically gain global popularity in the 1980s. Since then its popularity has only grown and today we can thank manga’s influence for large parts of our, “animation, video games, film, the music industry, ‘character goods’ and… the emoji we use every day on our smart phones” (Pasfield-Neofitou, Sell & Chan 2016, p.11). When you think about manga and everything it has influenced it makes sense that students would be fascinated by it. All over the world adolescents are still engaging with this art form and in Australia, “a recent survey of children’s programming …showed that three out of the six half-hour timeslots on one popular free-to-air channel were held by Japanese animations – Beyblade, Bakugan and Pokémon” (Pasfield-Neofitou, Sell & Chan 2016, p.6). This artform has been around for so long and influenced so much of our current technology and subcultures that it can not be ignored especially in a visual art classroom! We can find meaningful ways to encourage and include this content, “ by recognizing our students’ interests in pop culture products…teachers can identify techniques in form and content that complement and enhance the topics taught in their courses” (Seelow 2019, p.79).
I have compiled some ideas for art teachers who would
like to engage their students when they recognise their interest in manga. I
have included in my references two really helpful books for gaining a better
understanding of manga. I would also ask students who the characters are to
find out what tv shows, movies or graphic novels they come from. Always remember
that, “comics offer a
range of art learning possibilities, such as visual perception, drawing and
design, art history, and the aesthetic and cultural knowledge
associated with the
visual arts” (Seelow
2019, p.57). Try to find ways to embed this in your delivery of content. I have
included some ideas below.
- Ask students to bring in a
comic/graphic novel that influences them and If they are comfortable with it
share it with the class – bring sections of it up on the projector and analyse
it for its artistic elements
– Line work
– Characters emotions
- Show students examples of artists whose
work has been influenced by manga (Takashi Murakami, Roy Lichtenstein, Aya
Takano) – You could engage them in reverse chronology activities where they work
backwards to discover these artists influences
- Teach them skills that connect to their
interests (Human anatomy vs. Anatomy of an anime character)
There are endless unique ways you can work manga style into your teachings. These students are interested in drawing and their choice of style should not be discredited but encouraged. I think it is amazing to see students so passionate about art. If we can show them that we appreciate their interests, we can teach them skills that relate to them and still work within the curriculum!
Ito, K. (2005). A History of Manga in the Context of Japanese Culture and Society. Journal of Popular Culture, 38(3), 456–475. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.0022-3840.2005.00123.x
Pasfield-Neofitou, S., Sell, C., & Chan, Q. (2016). Manga vision : cultural and communicative perspectives . Clayton, Victoria: Monash University Publishing.
Seelow, D. (2019). Lessons drawn : essays on the pedagogy of comics and graphic novels. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.