by Evan Miller,
Well friends, all I can say is WOW. I was bowled over by the amount of comments I got in response to last week's intro! I have no idea where to begin with all of the responses. Amazing, simply amazing. I guess I'll respond to the first comment from last week in this intro: Why did we start this column? Well, ANN started this column to give a little exposure to the ever-growing art community in North America that produces manga and anime-inspired art. Neat idea, huh? Which reminds me:
Welcome to column number fifty! Spiffy!
My esteemed thanks go to the artists for putting up with my questions and to Zac for editing everything and providing invaluable advice. As for the rest of last week's responses, I'll get to those later. So many of them, you see.
My guest this week is a pencil and CG artist who lives in the USA and is part of the online community here, but also moonlights as a cover artist for novels in her native South Korea. Hailing from just outside Dallas, join me in welcoming...
Noir and Blanche
Born and raised in rural South Korea, Mee says that art was "the only thing I was interested in" from when she was only five. Although her parents wanted to support her skills, they could not afford to enroll Mee in art classes or find a tutor to help her improve her skills. Luckily, a school principal took note of her ability and granted her the chance to attend a small art institute so she could learn the basics of graphite drawing and painting with watercolors. Otherwise, she drew on her own, taking cues from manga and anime that she came across. "I really liked reading shōnen manga," says Mee, who started emulating the action scenes she saw in manga like Dragon Ball and other fantasy-oriented action titles in her own work. Her love for sports anime, like Honō no Tōkyūji Dodge Danpei, also reflected her addiction to action sequences, while Marimo Ragawa's Akachan to Boku manga inspired other elements of her work. Nearing the end of high school, just as she was beginning to ponder what life as a manga-ka might be like, Mee's life was turned upside-down with the sudden announcement that her family was relocating from Korea to Texas. Before she realized it, Mee was in the United States, forced to adjust to high school life, the concept of speaking English all the time, and a family that expected her to make it into University. "I didn't really want to go to University then," admits Mee, "but I had to do something, and in the end, I didn't regret it." She enrolled as a fine arts major, spending her days in class learning about classical painters that she had never had the chance to study before, such as Van Gogh, Monet, and Vermeer - her favorite. Even though she was among other artists, Mee kept her love for drawing manga a closely guarded secret, fearful that she might upset her expectant parents or the professors - who openly decried the style. As she worked her way through school, her family grew more tolerant of her hobby, and Mee was soon able to explore drawing manga and comics a bit more.
Mee's work has a distinctive flavor, one that is easy to recognize simply because her icon of choice - a tomato - adorns the corner of much of her work next to her signature. "I love red, so that just became my trademark over time," says Mee, whose work is also defined by her subtle attention to detail and rich shading. Her tool of choice is "a simple pencil, nothing fancy," she says, admitting that she usually gets a lot of mileage out of the tool that most people use just for line art. "I usually start with tiny thumbnails for composition purposes, and if I draw people, I try to imagine different dynamic poses," says Mee, referring back to the action-oriented style that first captivated her when she was young. Her love for action is also tied to how she defines her characters: "I like to draw people in a way that you can discern their nature just by looking at them, using their usual actions to convey feelings." Mee does her fair share of commissions, but admits that she prefers to work with original characters. One such character is Mika, a creation of her own that embodies her love for cute imagery mixed with an action-oriented flair. As you can see in the image here, the upper left corner shows that Mika is actually a cyborg. "I just wanted to make a strong character with a sweet, disarming appearance," says Mee, who usually works through the story behind Mika and other characters while designing illustrations and sequential pieces with friends.
Although Mee was able to work with manga and comics more near the end of college, it was the support of friends both in the United States and back in Korea that helped her finish transitioning from a life of artistic secrecy to a life where she was comfortable sharing her art with the world. Mee's friends and contacts in the art world were receptive to her pencil style, and they were eager to see her expand her audience. Subsequently, they pushed her to practice drawing digitally. "Digital work is still pretty new to me," says Mee, who realized that more opportunities would come her way if she learned how to use Photoshop. She admits that she still feels like a beginner when it comes to drawing digitally, but that hasn't stopped people from taking notice. A friend in South Korea got her in touch with a publisher, who was so impressed with Mee's work that they hired her to do a series of covers and illustrations for a novel ("I still haven't seen the finished product!" laments Mee, who is awaiting a copy of the book from the publisher). More cover art work awaits Mee, but back home in Texas, she's increasing the exposure of her work in a completely different way. Three years ago, friends told her about Deviant Art, which led to her posting her work online. Word of mouth spread about the new artist, and the number of views her work earned skyrocketed. The next logical step, of course, was visiting an anime convention. Mee took her first trip to a convention earlier this year, sharing a table at Anime Expo and visiting other artists at Fanime Con. "I never realized that so many people were that interested in selling their art," admits Mee, who describes the convention scene as an instance of culture shock that she won't soon forget. Still, she remains amazed at the response her work has garnered from the public: "I never thought that I was the kind of person that could be part of something like this!"
Darkness Doesn't Matter
It goes without saying that Mee is much happier with her current "double life" than the one she had before. She says that she's still trying to master the ins and outs of digital illustration, even though fans on her Deviant Art page have been asking her for digital drawing tutorials. She's currently collaborating with a friend in Texas on a story, which may or may not come to involve her Mika character. Otherwise, she still dabbles in online art sites based in both North America and Korea, where she does art as part of a few role playing communities. As for work, Mee currently spends her entire day working on freelance art - but considers herself to be in a transition period. "I feel lucky to be able to work for other people, and I want to keep doing Illustration work," says Mee, "but I'd also like to explore the idea of collaborating with other artists and writers too." She isn't quite sure if the future holds more work in the United States or in South Korea, but no matter where her pencil lands, her tomato-marked work will no doubt continue to captivate audiences as it has in the past.
Yooani: Actually, it was drawn for a contest which was held by an artist on Deviant Art. The theme was “steampunk fairytale.” The participants had to choose an existing fairytale and recreate a character (or more) in the steampunk style. As referred to in the title, the fairytale I chose was Hans Christian Andersen's The Red Shoes. I understood that the steampunk style was supposed to look antiquated; furthermore, it was supposed to refer to an old fairytale. I thought that the rough, free drawn lines and the minimal use of color would represent the feeling of the piece better. Also, I've never been a great colorist. I did not want to ruin the line art. As a result, after agonizing over the details for a while, red was my choice for the design.
Nabari no Ou fan art
ANN: You've drawn a lot of book covers for publications in Korea. If you had the chance to draw the cover for any book ever written - Dickens, Hemingway, anything - which book would you choose and why?
Yooani: I've only done a few covers so far, actually. I hope I become more skilled so I can get more opportunities like cover work on a regular basis. To answer the question, I dare say I would love to do book covers for Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn, because I think that those books could match the appeal of my art style well. If I am allowed to be covetous a little more, William Faulkner's novels would be an interesting challenge. It probably comes as no surprise that my dream book to work on would be Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.
Yooani: 1. Do several thumbnails on an extra paper for composition. They don't have to be big.
2. Place and arrange the shapes of characters and other stuff with very light lines after deciding what the composition will be like from the thumbnails.
3. Draw the outlines.
4. Block the shadows. Clarify where the light source comes from and where the highlights are.
5. Begin shading. Vary the method from smooth blending to cross hatching. Create some textures if needed.
6. Do more details and rhythms as needed. The end!
ANN: After going to Fanime Con and Anime Expo, what do you think is the biggest difference between "manga-style" artists in Korea and the United States? If you had to write a different "Mika" story for each country, what would you do differently with each version?
Yooani: I only have a shallow view on the matter, since I have never been at any conventions in Korea and I have not had many chances to read manga created by artists in the United States and other countries. That being said, I don't see a big difference between them. One thing that is obviously different is that Korean artists would rather make their own comics/manga - either fan doujinshi or original work. I rarely saw artists who were selling their own comics/manga at the conventions I went to in the states.
However, I don't think I'll ever have to make different stories for each country, because everyone enjoys the same manga/comics/manhwa/anime and so on nowadays. I believe that it wouldn't be too hard to understand the main theme, characters, histories, precepts, and such just because we live in different countries.
To see more of Yooani/Mee's work, hit up her tomato-flavored Deviant Art page.
As I was writing this week's column, Mee sent me a couple extra pencil sketches. Since this is the 50th column and all that jazz, I figured I would add them on as an extra bonus for you, the awesome reading public. First off, a little something for the Naruto fans out there:
...and another piece:
I could never rock a ponytail like that.
Many thanks to Mee for the extra artwork, and we'll see you all next week, when I'll be recovering from running all over the event hall at Comitia!
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... eaten), to evan [at] animenewsnetwork dot com, and you could be featured in a future Gallery column!
All works © Yooani.
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