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Feel Inspired: ‘Manga Art: Inspiration and Techniques from an Expert Illustrator’ Review

Having reviewed plenty of manga, it’s safe to say I’ve seen many different manga styles. Enter Mark Crilley. He hosts one of the most famous instructional drawing YouTube channels and he’s written a book specifically on manga art. If you want to learn about the craft, his work seems like a no brainer!

Manga Art: Inspiration and Techniques from an Expert Illustrator
Writer/artist: Mark Crilley
Publisher: Watson-Gupti



So what’s it about?

The official summary reads:

The world of manga (Japanese comics) has captured the imagination of artists, both aspiring and professional alike. Now best-selling artist and art instructor Mark Crilley presents the most complete look yet at the variety of creative options available in the world of manga. Crilley fills each chapter with gorgeous, original artwork created with a variety of tools (pencils, colored pencils, digital art, pen and ink, and more) and in a variety of manga-inspired styles. He pairs each piece with information on the materials used and the inspiration that led to its creation. Manga Art provides readers a one-of-a-kind chance to hear from one of the leading artists in the field of manga instruction, as he reveals the unlimited possibilities of manga and the creative secrets behind over 100 pieces of original, never-before-seen artwork.

Why does this book matter?

Organized in five chapters, Crilley’s book focuses on topics most likely to interest manga readers starting with characters, moving to Japan, science fiction, conceptual art and finally style play. The chapters range from specific elements that make manga a unique art form, to its roots in Japan, its strength in sci-fi, how to approach a conceptual design, and finally how to push the genre even further. Overall these topics cover a lot of ground and contain a lot of beautiful original art from Crilley.

Fine, you have my attention. What’s good about it?

Not all the art in this volume looks like manga, but that’s the point.
After reading through this book I’d wager it’s more of a coffee table book than a how-to guide. It certainly has tips and interesting factoids from Crilley’s career drawing, but it doesn’t necessarily break down how to draw what you see in this book. No, instead, it serves more as an inspiration to artists and a good example of how seeing art (and reading what the artist has to say) can lead other artists to discover new things. Given how many comic books and manga Crilley has made over his career he’s a great source of information when it comes to manga, especially since he has visited Japan so often. I for one have no drawing experience–I don’t even practice drawing–but after reading this book I felt inspired to pull out a pencil and see what I can do.

That’s partly because of Crilley’s voice, which is relaxed and easy going in the book. He approaches each work in an easy to follow way, usually with a specific purpose based on the art itself, and a general idea of why he drew the piece in the first place. Most pages contain one image with an occasional piece including a few roughs or images that show how he got to the final piece. These pieces of art are organized based on the chapter and have a good cohesiveness from beginning to end. Each chapter has two pages to set it up and give the reader an idea of why he chose the chapter itself. While Crilley supplies detail on what brushes he used or if he used Photoshop or not, you never get bombarded with the details, especially if you’re a layman.

The art itself is beautiful and one of the reasons why this would be a good coffee table book. Just opening it you can tell the book was made with a lot of care, from the fantastic photography that opens each chapter to the quality of the paper. There’s no doubt Crilley is a master artist and his skill seems to be limitless. There’s so much he can draw and so many ways he can draw it. By the end of the book you’ll feel like you got a great look at Crilley’s varying style and skills and the quality of the art represents that well.

Mark Crilley is insanely good at what he does.
It can’t be perfect can it?

I was a bit underwhelmed as far as how much detail there is in how to make these images. Overall this book feels like a lazy Sunday through Crilley’s favorite manga pieces. There are some inspirational captions to get the reader motivated, but overall you never get a good sense of how to draw or where to start. He does reference his YouTube channel quite a bit–maybe we’re getting a hint to go there to really learn–but that doesn’t serve those who may not want or have access to YouTube. Occasionally Crilley comes off as if he’s having a hard time filling the pages with words with redundant sounding paragraphs that read like filler rather than than helpful or interesting.

Speaking of referencing YouTube, there’s a lot of it in this book. So much so it becomes a bit annoying, as if he’s plugging his channel more than anything else. Maybe footnotes would have made it less obtrusive and still available to the reader who was interested, but the content sometimes feels more heavily tilted towards pushing us to his YouTube channel more than anything else.

Is It Good?

Manga Art: Inspiration and Techniques from an Expert Illustrator is a great work if you’re interested in checking out a master’s favorite art in the style of manga with a slight nudge to feel inspired. It may not teach you, but it certainly does a great job to make you appreciate art and want to make it.

Manga Art: Inspiration and Techniques from an Expert Illustrator
A lot of pretty images and a nudge or two to make you want to make art yourself. Sounds like a win to me!
The chapters feel cohesive and the book as a whole feels quite complete
A lot of beautiful art that shows manga doesn't have to be one set style
The book inspires you to want to make art
A more laid back approach means less how-to and sometimes not very interesting or informative paragraphs
Feels like it plugs the author's YouTube channel quite a bit

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