A few days ago I was invited to the manga convention Manga Festival, which was hosted in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.*
* I’m living here for two months. The convention wasn’t huge, but it attracted lots of passionate people, including cosplayers of the same excellent caliber as you’d find at Comiket in Japan or JapanExpo in Paris.
I visited the stalls, and met a group of young artists who call themselves “The Rainbow Pig”, Heo Cầu Vồng in vietnamese. Each of them was busy drawing, some of them for a client (manga style portraits) and others for their own pleasure. All of them were very young and particularly talented at drawing manga, the majority of their creations and their portfolios were very professional. You couldn’t tell that this was actually a group of passionate amateurs.
I wondered at first if they had an instructor in common, but I was wrong. They were all self-taught and love to get together, motivate each other, and make progress as a group. Still, each showed a very distinct personal style.
Make your peers, your colleagues, and your art and design classmates into your allies. Don’t think of them as your “competitors”. Share, copy techniques, let your techniques be copied, and most of all, improve. The cooperation of multiple minds will generate thoughts and ideas that your mind couldn’t create on its own.* Thus, everyone can develop mutually and more quickly!
* People often say that artists jealously guard their secrets. Actually, the best artists are the most open. They take the “ knowledge sharing shortcut” while others solitarily attempt to reinvent the wheel.
For a long time I’ve admired the work of a particular watercolor artist. I’ve really envied her talent, and eventually that was the turning point! I noticed myself beginning to use watercolor techniques in my own designs. I was like a shonen manga hero who wants to “absorb their powers, in order to evolve and become more powerful!!”
The Rainbow Pig – A little girl, 2014
“Copy one people is plagiarism, copy many is research.”, Wilson Mizner
So I sat down with her and asked a ton of questions. She was kind enough to part with her knowledge, and gave me an impromptu lesson for on beginner’s level watercolors. A sheet of paper, a mechanical pencil, and a paintbrush in hand, I practiced on the edge of a table which was my improvised work space. It was uncomfortable, but I memorized everything she had to say.
The next day I went to an art supply store and bought a bare minimum of supplies for less than the equivalent of $10 USD.
For two days I amused myself with these, and the following is a quick overview of the results. I was clumsy and made a lot of mistakes.
The majority of the work lay in practicing and continuing to tap into the wealth new people and connections around me.
But the most important step had already been taken: to have and act on the idea that adding other people’s techniques to my skillset would make me better at what I do.
Chou-Tac Chung – Watercolor Adidas sneakers, 2014
Let me know in the comments if you’re interested in watercolours techniques, and I’ll share both my difficulties and my newfound tricks in a tutorial.