Shonen Art Studio

The companion book to last year’s Shoujo Art Studio is now available. Like that, this is a combination clip art CD and image catalog, with some additional information on how to use the provided templates.

Shonen Art Studio cover
Shonen Art Studio
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Shonen manga is defined here as “high-octane, humorous, and action-packed stories”. It’s “all about passion, integrity, friendship — and a character’s drive to be the best in the world at whatever it is that they do!” My cynical side wants to quibble with this — if we’re trying to instill integrity and doing one’s best, why are we encouraging aspiring artists to use pre-prepared images and take shortcuts?

But that gets into a bigger debate, the one about how valid learning from copying is. Many great artists used copying as one tool in their development. They moved on from that, though, and I want to make sure that part of the technique isn’t forgotten. You aren’t an artist if you can’t draw from scratch.

The first 60 pages of the book cover how to use the line art and layouts from the CD, including some basic Photoshop tutorials. The other 60 show what’s available on the included disc. There’s the male lead (unquestionably); the cute girl, also available in schoolgirl flavor; an old guy, tough guy, and other guy for supporting cast; and a woman with breasts as big as her head showing a LOT of cleavage, whether she’s wearing business suit or falling-off kimono.

On an irrelevant note, I found myself wondering at the use of all capital letters in the book. Some of the sections have their first paragraphs in all-caps, a decision I find odd from a professional publication, since it’s harder to read than mixed case. It makes it look, to me, like one of those click-through online legal statements where they put the important stuff in capital letters so you’re tempted to skim over it.

I also noticed an odd emphasis on energetic, sometimes painful action, from the introduction’s description of shonen as “packed with energy that blisters off the page and artwork that scorches the retinas of your readers!” to the directive to “pour your creativity into the raw resources supplied, and transfer that crazy energy straight onto your pages!” At times, the book sounds like a crazy, over-caffeinated teacher screaming at you.

“The best place to grow up as an artist is in public!”
“Your pictures will still look great regardless!”
“The brush and pencil tools will be your main allies in the battle to create awesome linework!”
“Shonen manga is all about action, action, action, flashing past the reader at a blistering pace!”

If you don’t like instructional books with lots of exclamation points, pass this by. Like its predecessor, this volume was originally assembled by Ilex Press, the UK publisher of reference books on digital art. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

2 Responses to “Shonen Art Studio”

  1. The Manga Critic » Blog Archive » Memorial Day Links, 5/31/10 Says:

    […] Other links of note: Brigid Alverson shows the rest of us tyros how it’s done with a smart, funny look at one of this week’s new releases, volume one of Toriko (VIZ)… Tangognat has the scoop on manga and manhwa at rock-bottom prices… and Johanna Draper Carlson critiques the latest draw-your-own-manga book, Shonen Art Studio: Everything You Need to Know to Create Your Own Shonen Manga Comics. […]

  2. Manga: Not dead yet « MangaBlog Says:

    […] Draper Carlson on vol. 1 of Saturn Apartments (Comics Worth Reading) Johanna Draper Carlson on Shonen Art Studio (Comics Worth Reading) Leroy Douresseaux on vol. 10 of Slam Dunk (The Comic Book Bin) Billy Aguiar […]




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