by Evan Miller,
As I write this, I am in the midst of moving out of an apartment for the third time this year. I'm wonder if this grants me membership to some kind of nomadic club or something. Perhaps some free chiropractor visits; I'm sure that lifting box after box of CDs and old anime VHS tapes is going to lead to some kind of back condition in the future. Ah, the things I do for my boxes of old, worn out purple tapes...
Stepping into the spotlight this week is an artist whose style stays close to her anime roots, but her day job involves a completely different spectrum of the comic world. Please welcome...
Emily's story starts in Jefferson City, the small, humble capitol city of Missouri - hardly a bastion of anime fandom by any stretch of the imagination. However, even before she took an interest in anime, Emily seemed destined for a life in art. Her mother liked to work with oil paintings as a hobby, and both of her grandparents also took up art as a hobby in their own lives. As a result, Emily was encouraged to draw what she liked in her younger years. It was only a matter of time before Emily found an art style she felt she could really relate to: Japanese anime, which she discovered through reruns of the Sailor Moon dub while she was in middle school. She was hooked instantly, and it wasn't long before she discovered the massive world of shōjo anime and manga that existed beyond Sailor Moon. "After I got into anime, I could tell that my work was becoming more stylized," says Emily, whose use of stylistic, fantasy-influenced elements surged again when she became a fan of the popular fantasy title Shōjo Kakumei Utena. She kept working with a shōjo style through her high school years, posting her drawings to online communities and eventually shifting her media of choice from pencils to digital drawings with a tablet and Photoshop. Her experience with the "anime style" was enough to convince Emily to enroll in art school. She enrolled in the Animation program at the Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago, where she was challenged to return to other media and practice other basics like life drawing and practice with perspectives. Although she admits that the training in character design and other fundamentals was helpful, Emily sends the credit for her artistic development elsewhere: "I think it was doing my own digital art - challenging myself to improve and learning from other artists - is what helped me improve the most." Along her way through school, Emily's sources of inspiration grew more diverse, as she became a fan of character designers like Nobu Hiroyuki, digital artists like Hyung-Tae Kim and classical nouveau artist Alphonse Mucha. She admits that her many influences and constant practice helped her improve her anatomy, and helped her get a bit farther from a purely "anime" style and into something with a more unique flavor. With more confidence and a larger body of work behind her, Emily started showcasing her work at Artist Alleys at anime conventions and, eventually, mainstream comic shows.
As the work on this page shows, Emily's current style isn't just a copy of stereotypical "anime" features. Her line work has a slightly more masculine feel in places, although it is clear that shōjo is still her forté of choice. Facial features are more than just triangles and lines; lips, muscles, and other elements have more body to them than a simple 2D sketch, and the gestures are expressive and add to their respective characters. "When I start a piece, I start with a quick gesture of the pose," says Emily, who also incorporates a back story into some of her works to inspire her towards a specific starting point: "I'll start with a quick gesture of the pose, a thumbnail perhaps - then the head, and then I'll either redraw it or blow it up in Photoshop and draw details over it." Emily's most recognizable expression of her artistic philosophy is Garnet, her original character that adorns her webpage and many of her other works. "I've always liked the anime fantasy style and 'cutesy' characters, so her outfits reflect that," says Emily, "but her facial features are more naturally proportioned." It seems only natural that Garnet also embodies Emily's work with her fellow digital artists, many of whom have contributed their own images of the character or collaborated with Emily on drawings featuring Garnet.
Although she didn't realize it at first, one of these fellow digital artists, Christina Strain (who helped with some of the images you see on this page), would be the person who helped Emily find her big break. After organizing her own Artist Alley tables at anime conventions like Anime Central, Emily was encouraged to attend the american comic-centric Wizard World Chicago, where Christina would help introduce her to some of the staff from Marvel Comics. After taking a look at her color work and giving Emily a few drawing and coloring tests, Marvel decided that Emily had the potential to help bring some of their work to life as a colorist for comic covers. "It was really crazy," says Emily, recalling the months-long email trail that eventually brought her work from Marvel. In the years that followed, Emily has helped with colors and shading on a host of Marvel covers, including Egg Hero Six, Secret Invasion, Ms. Marvel, and Dark Rain Young Avengers. Word of her skills got around, and soon other companies were also coming to Emily with colorist jobs. She did a series of covers for indie publishing house Jay Company Comics (which she admits were "cheesecake stuff"), and also did a few covers for Udon Entertainment. Udon also asked Emily to join many of her digital art peers to contribute to their art book for the Capcom series Darkstalkers. Despite having less and less room in her schedule for her own work, Emily has continued to attend conventions on the side, selling mini sketchbooks to con attendees along with commissions and other prints at conventions all over the country.
Axis and Rhys
Today, Emily admits that she has become a nomad of sorts. She currently finds herself in Los Angeles, working hard on colorist projects, covers, and other work she is contracted for. She admits that the gap between her own work and what she colors is hard to ignore, but says that she is often surprised at just how much crossover can exist between genres - even at Marvel. "Things are changing; there's even a Japanese artist working on Ms. Marvel at the moment," says Emily, who is currently working on an eight-page piece of her own in the hopes of getting away from strictly colorist work. Work as an artist has yet to leave Emily feeling jaded towards the split between fans of American comics and anime fans, although she does admit that American comics shows are usually more receptive to original art. Fittingly, one upcoming project she is working on with Christina Strain will parody the shōjo that initially set her on the path to where she is today. "It's a story of a magical girl team reuniting when they are older," says Emily, who says that the project is still a year or two from being done. Still, she's happy that the future brings the promise of more work - in more fields: "I just want to be able to keep drawing, perhaps publish my own artbook in the future." Although the life of a colorist may be tough, Emily Warren continues to walk her own path, and the day that her own work and professional work clash seems to be coming soon. Whether the work that results from that clash ends up shelved with Naruto or Batman, it is safe to assume that it, like all her work before it, will find a welcome audience.
Garnet (goth style)
ANN: Describe a typical cover coloring assignment for you. How much creative freedom are you given in the process, and how does the creative process differ from working on your own work?
Emily Warren: When coloring both covers and interiors, the colorist is actually given a lot of free reign. I get to pick the color scheme, the lighting, the mood, these are all things I must consider when coloring a scene. Sometimes in the script it might specify it's a night scene, or you'll need to keep to of course the colors of a character's costume, but those are the only real guidelines. Sometimes a penciller will have an idea for a color scheme in mind and I usually try to work with the penciller as best I can because you want to make them happy as well!
As far as it differentiating from my own colored works, I really don't feel like it's very different. The hardest part is coming up with new color schemes that I want to play with, but I attack it the same way as I would when coloring something I've drawn.
Emily: Well actually, that's a sad look in a MAN'S eyes. Yeah, it's two guys, haha, the one is just VERY feminine. Those are characters that will be included in the webcomic that Christina and I are in talks about doing, but I can tell you they do have quite a story. I think the best way to describe their relationship is that the crying one is a complete doormat, and the other is a pair of muddy boots. He's crying because he finally has the one thing he wanted.
I wanted to go a little Mucha on this piece mostly for the flowers. I had the image in my head that they were laying on bed sheets surrounded by flowers, I thought this would give the piece a very dreamy feel. The circular graphic around them is to just kind of hold the focus in around them, and I just find those types of elements really appealing.
Space Channel 5 fanart
ANN: You mentioned that Art school wasn't quite as beneficial for you as you had hoped. What do you think schools could do better to accommodate artists from a manga or anime-influenced background?
Emily: Even though I feel like I didn't learn as much at school as I had hoped, one of the great things about my school was that they weren't biased against style. My professors didn't hound me for drawing with an anime influence like I'd been hounded in high school and other fine arts classes I took on the side. This was part of the reason I chose this school. Having said that, this could also be detrimental to an artist because honestly it's very hard to find work in America if you have a straight up manga flare. Concept design, comics, they tend to lean toward a more American/realistic approach. My advice to artists who draw from manga-influences is to also try other things and other styles, this in the end has only helped me to improve my anime style. I think it's important to be diverse as an illustrator because its such a competitive field and you really need to sell yourself. Obviously there is a style I enjoy doing above all others but that isn't to say that I haven't experimented in other things as well.
I guess I really don't think schools should do more to accommodate manga and anime artists. I've run into a lot of biases while doing the style I like; I think the best thing is to be accepting of the style and to push them to try other things as well. In the end it's all about doing what you love.
ANN: As someone who is working in multiple corners of the comic industry, do you think that the divide between American, European and Japanese comics will continue to erode, or are divisions inevitable? And just for fun: if you were in charge of running the comic industry, what kind of changes would you make?
Hmm, if I were running it, I would definitely be pulling in more manga and Euro artists! I think more than anything the most interesting part of working in this industry is seeing how different people attack the same characters, how they stylize and how they perceive things. But since I am of course very partial to manga styles, I would love to see more, always. :D
To see more of Emily's work, be sure to visit her home page. You can also check out her work on Deviant Art.
Are you an aspiring manga artist looking for some extra page views? Do you have a friend or loved one who draws extremely good original manga but needs a boost? Don't just sit there! Submit two links to your work, including one original piece (no file attachments please! File attachments will be used to wallpaper my new apartment), to evan [at] animenewsnetwork dot com, and you could be featured in a future Gallery column!
All works © Emily Warren. Colors on Axis and Rhys, Garnet heart and goth versions, and Darkstalkers image by Christina Strain.
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