Manga Drawing Vacation

2015-10-04 Black Clover

This time I didn’t go away on a vacation, but instead took a vacation from serious drawing efforts. I decided to copy manga. I’ve had a cold, I needed a break…

Now, I don’t know much about manga, so I chose one randomly, ending up with Yuuki Tabata’s Black Clover. The story doesn’t do much for me, but it is a shounen manga, which is intended for young boys (not middle-age women). Aside from the beautiful clear line style and the boldly designed shapes on some pages, I noticed Harry Potter-ish elements in the action. Aside from being a story about magic, I spotted a Dumbledore-like wizard and a Snape look-alike bad guy in the first chapter and broom-flying in the second chapter. Could the blonde challenger have been a Draco-clone? Possibly. I chose to draw a few of the HP elements. Yuno is way more of a bad-ass broom flyer than Harry though. Sorry, Potter. Better luck another time.

I really enjoyed laying out my page as I chose random images to sketch, but I have to take the blame for the color–this manga is entirely black and white. Just playing around. It was a lot of fun; I’m sure I’ll do more some day.

62 Books

  1. Sinclair Lewis, The Trail of the Hawk (1914)tree_of_knowledge_BW
  2. Sinclair Lewis, Main Street, (1920)
  3. Charles Dickens, Our Mutual Friend (1865)
  4. Sinclair Lewis, The Job (1915)
  5. Will Eisner, Comics and Sequential Art (1985)
  6. John Berger, About Looking (1990)
  7. Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here (1935)
  8. Sinclair Lewis, The Innocents (1917)
  9. Charles Dickens, Bleak House (1853)
  10. Sinclair Lewis, Free Air (1919)
  11. Margot Livesy, Eva Moves the Furniture (2001)
  12. Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1850)
  13. Walter Crane, Line and Form (1900)
  14. Ralph Adams Cram, Toward the Great Peace (1922)
  15. Ken Ilgunas, Walden on Wheels (2013)
  16. Mike Mignola, The Amazing Screw-On Head (2010)
  17. Patrick McCabe, The Butcher Boy (1992)
  18. Carol Armstrong, Cezanne in the Studio (2004)
  19. Ramiel Nagel, Cure Tooth Decay (2011)
  20. Richard Thomson, Edgard Degas: Waiting (1995)
  21. Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist (1839)
  22. Frederick Buechner, Brendan (1987)
  23. Michel Daguet, Portrait of Jeanne Kéfer (2004)
  24. Barry Unsworth, Morality Play (1995)
  25. Elizabeth Cropper, Pontormo: Portrait of a Halberdier (1997)
  26. Arthur Wesley Dow, Composition (1914)
  27. Masterpieces of the Getty, Illuminated Manuscripts (1997)
  28. Charles Dickens, Nicholas Nickelby (1839)
  29. Edmund Sullivan, Line: An Art Study (1922)
  30. Goldner and L. Hendrix, European Drawings 2 (1992)
  31. Bruce Perry, Fitness for Geeks (2012)
  32. M-M Gauthier and G. Francois, Medieval Enamels (1981)
  33. Patricia Anderson, Images of Charity, Conflict and Kingship (1981)
  34. Kristen Kimball, The Dirty Life (2010)
  35. Elizabeth Teviotdale, The Stammheim Missal (2001)
  36. Manga Study Society, How to Draw Manga, Vol. 3 (2000)
  37. J. Holmes, Notes on the Science of Picture-Making (1920)
  38. Charles Maginnis, Pen Drawing: An Illustrated Treatise (1903)
  39. John Crowley, Little, Big (1981)
  40. Andrew Loomis, The Eye of the Painter (1961)
  41. Paul Graham, Hackers and Painters (2004)
  42. Allie Brosh, Hyperbole and a Half (2013)
  43. Arthur Guptill, Why Architects Still Draw (2014)
  44. Paolo Belardi, Lectures on the Science of Human Life (1849)
  45. John Caspar Lavatar, Aphorisms on Man (1724)
  46. Veronika Sekules, Medieval Art (2001)
  47. JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (1998)
  48. JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (1999)
  49. Thomas Moore, Care of the Soul (1993)
  50. R. Poore, Pictorial Composition (1903)
  51. Rudyard Kipling, Stalky & Co. (1899)
  52. JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (1999)
  53. Henry James, Picture and Text (1893)
  54. Henry James, Washington Square (1880)
  55. James Hillman, The Soul’s Code (1996)
  56. Jay McInnerny, A Hedonist in the Cellar (2006)
  57. Anthony Bourdain, Kitchen Confidential (2000)
  58. MFK Fisher, Musings on Wine and Other Libations (2012)
  59. Kenneth Patchen, But Even So (1968)
  60. Theodule Ribot, Essay of the Creative Imagination (1906)
  61. MFK Fisher, A Cordiall Water (1961)
  62. Auberon Waugh, Will This Do? (1991)

Behold the prodigious reading of the past year… A few of these books I’ve written about already and I’m sure a few themes are obvious….drawing instruction books from the early 1900s… comics… art historical books (long ago college major)…six novels by Sinclair Lewis, five by Dickens…dabbled a bit more with Henry James (his novel What Maisie Knew, 1897, I read last year; it was a favorite)… and toward the end of the year, books on cooking and wine.

Little, Big was a book that came to me as a recommendation. The first part was some of the most pleasurable fiction I’ve ever read, fantastically imaginative in the way the first 200 pages of Helprin’s Winter’s Tale was; the middle painful, poignant, but perfect in its breath-stopping way; but the end was such a disappointment that I can’t in good faith recommend it. When it was right, it was as inevitably perfect as an elegant mathematical equation, but its failures felt like failures of vision, perhaps a desire in Crowley to make an end to the gigantic task he’d set out upon. Yet I will re-read it one day, hoping that the magic at the start is not tainted by my knowledge of the unconvincing end.

My choices were varied this year, drifting back as far as the 18th century and as contemporary as 2013’s Walden on Wheels by Ken Ilgunas and Allie Brosh’s very funny comics on depression Hyperbole and a Half. I truly, deeply loved the Ilgunas book, which would be no surprise to those who know me, fondly I hope, as a bit of a tightwad. Ilgunas was buying freedom with his frugality and so am I. A great read about a very determined (and smart) young man. Brosh is best when she writes about dogs; she also draws them exceptionally well, not so much in a da Vinci sort of way, but more that her pictures capture the souls of dogs. Her style can be pretty goofy, but effective just the same.The other smart man I was excited to discover was  Paul Graham. His essays are profoundly insightful: he has a way of finding a new perspective on controversial ideas and curious phenomena, leading you through his thought process in his lucidly constructed arguments. God, I love smart people! I now read everything he writes as soon as it’s posted.

The “bests” though were the early Sinclair Lewis novels, Trail of the Hawk being the favorite of the ones I read this year (Our Mr Wrenn, another favorite, I read late last year.) There’s something about the sense of life you find in the writing in the early 19th century that I can’t get enough of. It’s a picture of youth and optimism, of chasing dreams and holding onto ideals, and when it’s important, going your own way. Maybe it’s the belief in progress and limitless horizons, a conviction in the goodness of living, that seems so utterly alien to the world we live in now. Reading these books is a refreshing, hip-pocket vacation. But it was apparently no easier for these writers to hold to these values than it is for the rest of us. Past 1920, it’s gone from Lewis: I found Main Street a depressing inversion of his previous values, though oddly, for a dystopian-future novel, It Can’t Happen Here was not so bad. Same goes for James Branch Cabell, another favorite writer, but it took a bit longer for cynicism to overrun his work. I feel I have an essay in me about the writers of this period, but I’m not done ruminating on it yet. Meantime, these books will be part of my regular, re-reading rotation.

Reading is a real adventure for me. I don’t travel much or do much that’s daring, except in my head. I never know where I’ll end up when I start reading or even what sort of thing will appeal, and while I do try to complete certain programs of study, half the joy is the serendipity of finding a kindred spirit in the pages of the book. Some of the best people I’ve known live in them….and always will.


Week in Review

2014-12-17-18 sketches + DShelton 2014-12-18 sketches 2014-12-18-19 sketches DShelton  2014-12-20 Your Ministry Remains Strong  2014-12-19 sketches 2014-12-21 Rat Gone sm -Final

Quite a lot of little drawings this week, done sporadically. This week I enjoyed studying the sketchbook pages of David Shelton–he frequently posts pages from old sketchbooks along with his new work. He consistently seems to draw A LOT. I really enjoy his loose way of capturing gesture, expression and character. I feel that a little copying breaks me out of my ruts and frees me up. I don’t think my two color drawings from the weekend–both Harry Potter themes (Books 6 and 3)–resemble Shelton’s work at all, but without all the drawing I did thanks to his inspiration, I doubt they would have happened. They were really fun to do and even I like them. I’ve tried doing more realistic drawings of the Potter characters before but I think the more playful style better suits my best feelings about the books.

Six Books


  • MFK Fisher, A Cordiall Water (1961)
  • Auberon Waugh, Will This Do? (1991)
  • Jay McInerney, Bacchus & Me (2000)
  • Theodule Ribot, Essay on the Creative Imagination (1906)
  • Connie Zweig and Jeremiah Abrams (ed.), Meeting the Shadow (1991)
  • JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2003)

I’m always vaguely aware that I have a few books going at once, but I was a little surprised to discover how many I’m reading right now. Six. See, it’s all about the different reading circumstances: the bedside books, ones on my work table at home, things to read on the bus. It’s also a fact that I ordered way too many books from the library in a gout of bibliophilic enthusiasm, and when they—naturally—all came at once, I faced a task requiring disciplined, dedicated readership. I am very good at that; it is one of the few personally useful skills I picked up in grad school. Not to say I don’t enjoy it–I could read all day.

As you can see, there is a refreshing variety in my reading material. Fisher is warm and chatty, sharing her experiences and research into old “cures,” while Waugh’s biography is cynical and amusingly self-deprecating. Both would have been great dinner guests, full of humor and stories, quirks and preferences to keep conversation flowing across a long, leisurely meal. Or so I imagine it…

McInerney writes in such a boisterously poetic way about wine with metaphors that come alive for me. I’m too much of a novice to do much with apricot fruit, tar and leather undertones and long finishes, but when he described one wine as the Catherine Denueve to the other’s Baywatch blonde I knew what he meant precisely. Art, poetry, literature all are part of his metaphorical mix. I enjoy that he will describe the rare, “life-changing” treasures you’ll likely never taste while giving practical advice on where to find an exquisite experience for under $20 a bottle. I haven’t read his novels, but maybe I should; he seems to have a unique vision.

Ribot’s book is in the line of fin de siècle books on art and creativity I have been consuming this year. There is a particular flavor to the works of that time, of people meeting their lives and their work in clean open air, with the sun about to rise and nothing to stop them from joy and achievement. I intend, one day, to write an essay about this sense of life—to steal a term from Ayn Rand, who, whatever you may think of her philosophy and politics, captured this sense of élan in her novels—especially as embodied in illustration, Frank Capra films, and the early writing of Sinclair Lewis. One day I will, definitely. Ribot is serious and scientific in that “we now know everything” way of the 19th century that makes Sherlock Holmes so much fun. One of my favorite things is tracking down his casual references to men of letters and science strewn throughout his book, men mostly long-forgotten. Without the Internet, it would be impossible…or really really frustrating.

The essays about confronting the Shadow elements of one’s personality was taken from my shelves during my dismally depressed summer, as was Harry Potter, who always cheers me up. (Though anymore, it’s mostly the fandom that makes me merry.) I’m still moving steadily through both works, though my mood is much improved. I’m sure they are both partially why it is much improved, though other elements, personal, cultural and bibliophilic, all have done their work.

I have a few more Fishers and McInerneys on the shelf to read and I am looking forward to getting my hands on Tom Spanbauer’s new book, I Loved You More. It’s been out since April! How in the world did I miss that fact? I’ll likely finish about half of these before year-end, bringing my total for 2014 to around 65 books. It seems like a lot until I realize how many things I still want to read….

Week(s) in Review

2014-09-29 girl 2014-10-30  tiny Trio tiny rescue

tiny RHr 2014-10-18 etctiny Stephen2   tiny Stephen laughs tiny Stephen 2014-10-23 2014-11-02

It’s been a while. Here is a selection of the better things I’ve done over the last few weeks. I’m feeling the work is a bit sloppy still, but I’m trying to bring it back.

Week in Review

2014-08-28 HG age 11 2014-08-28 RW age 11 rev 2014-08-29 RW 2014-08-29 SF

A bit late this week and light on the work…I think burnout is catching up with me. Still moving though, and that’s all that matters now. Keep the momentum, no matter how feebly. I’ve been re-reading some old stories of mine…typically they start off strong and then get muddled with all manner of weirdness until I don’t know how to end them. Still, there were good moments. Also, reading the Harry Potter books again along with some of my favorite LJ groups, catching up on the pre-2009 posts (before I joined) along with whatever I missed since 2012, when my involvement dropped off. Its my version of a mental vacation as the seasons change and I add another birthday to the roster.

Week in Review

2014-05-05 Debating the point sm 2014-05-06 Omni Wm Penn 2014-05-07 many studies 2014-05-07 3 bald men2014-05-10 HP_select

Tough week for drawing for some reason; continuing dental problems, severe arthritis pain and an unpleasant day in jury duty seem to have distracted me. The life studies on my lunch breaks started off strong, then tapered off, interrupted by talky oddities and security guards suspicious of my work. The weekend was not productive, either–except for Harry Potter drawings–though the weather was beautiful and I got tons of gardening done…not that that helps with the drawing at all. But summer looms, with its life-consuming yardwork and its vitality sapping heat and humidity. The way I complain about winter cold and summer heat, maybe I need to move to Tasmania. Here’s to hoping for a better working week ahead.

Week in Review

2014-04-28 Connie listens sm  2014-04-30 Lunch miscellany2014-04-29 sketches  2014-04-30 Babies Three figures 2014-05-02 Reader2014-05-03 HP characters_0001 2014-05-02 Three tones 2014-05-04 comics sm

A new week of drawings… quite a few successful and interesting drawings from life and just as much fun doing drawings from photos, like the babies… studies from old masters and looking at comics…even a look back at Harry Potter! I had a lot of fun with that and took a lot of pleasure in my lunch break sketch at One Oxford this week. I should be content… but am I ever?

Quidditch reveals all…or does it?

towards-the-great-peace Harry_Potter_and_the_Philosopher's_Stone_Book_Cover

Reading: Ralph Adams Cram, Towards the Great Peace (1922)

“The only thing that is left in the line of emotional stimulus is competitive athletics, and for this reason I sometimes think it one of the most valuable factors in public education. It has, however, another function, and that is the coordination of training and life; it is in a sense an école d’application, and through it the student, for once in a way, tries out his acquired mental equipment and his expanding character—as well as his physical prowess—against the circumstances of active vitality. It is just this sort of thing that for so long made the “public schools” of England, however limited or defective may have been the curriculum, a vital force in the development of British character.”

That’s Cram discoursing on one of the few things he likes about public education in America and Britain, c. 1922. Believe me, he didn’t like much; and interestingly, in the intervening 92 years, schools are still bad in a lot of the same ways they were then. Cram was a religious-minded architect who built Gothic-style churches and university buildings in the first years of the 20th century, and I came to his writings while researching a restoration project that had come to an architectural firm I was working for at the time. He is extremely insightful in his diagnosis of the ills of his (and our) era, and well worth reading for that, though I can’t say his solutions were too practical, but I think he knew it. As I read this comment though, the Harry Potter books sprang to mind, but then, a lot of things remind me of Harry Potter. Just wait till I start talking about David Copperfield!

Harry Potter gains popularity early on in the series when he takes up Quidditch, a sort of irrational, flying rugby on broomsticks, for which he has a natural gift. The books have been criticized for the centrality of this goofy sport in the lives of the entire wizarding world from student to the highest levels of govenment, but those critics must never have lived where the fortunes and failures of the local football heroes provided the social and emotional core of a community. Or maybe they wished they didn’t… Even Rowling supposedly rued the day she injected Quidditch into the books, primarily because she found it tedious to try to conjure exciting action for each match that she wrote, but sport was always a part of the boarding school book tradition from which Harry Potter sprang, so there had to be a wizard equivalent. QED Quidditch.

So how do the characters in Harry Potter demonstrate Cram’s ideas? Most of the characters played Quidditch; it was a huge social factor in the school. Excellence in studies… less so. Sic erat scriptum Hermione. I was the same. Harry Potter, our erstwhile hero, came from obscurity to discover he had the makings of an athletic superstar. In Cram’s terms, this was a literary sign of his character and potential, and the books proved this out. His parents had risked their lives to save others and he grows up to become the same sort of man. Harry’s nemesis, Draco Malfoy, was also a skilled player, but his lack of character was made plain in his cheating, lying and generally underhanded methods of manipulating the game. His father, acting in the world of politics, operated in the same way. Harry’s buddy, Ron Weasley, had enormous potential when his self-doubt didn’t cripple him, which it mostly did. That was the view of the world his parents had taught him to see–poverty standing in the way of active participation and serving as an excuse for weakness and shortcuts. Exposed to stronger personalities like Harry, Hermione and Neville, Ron has a chance to grow, but his path is often an unhappy one. The only character that stands apart form this paradigm is Neville Longbottom: an orphaned loner who struggles for success in everything he attempts, Neville never played the sport, but nonetheless became a hero of the same stature as Harry. And with less outsized praise and more dignity, for my money.

Me, I was never very good at school athletics; I was not encouraged in it at home–and how many girls were, back in the day?–but I wanted to be a part of it, I wanted to get better, but mainly it was just the catalyst of anxiety attacks. Small wonder that Ron Weasley was my favorite from the books. But since athletics was not going to be the way for me, and surely cannot be anymore, perhaps I ought to study the Path of Neville. Own my differences, judge for myself, enjoy the victories of my friends. Maybe we all should.



It’s the little things

George handed the hairpin to Ron and, a moment later, Hedwig soared joyfully out of the window to glide along side them like a ghost.

Being a critic is easy.It can even be productive if it deepens our ability to appreciate fiction or sends us off to write stories of our own. But once you know the story as well as many of us do, I think there’s fresh joy in finding the thousand brief moments like this. One by one, they add up to make a rich fictional world and a plot that has a feeling of inevitability.

I’m loving Harry Potter all over again.