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Fwd: The nature of art


From: mberlin600 (stardust606_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Thu Jun 05 2003 - 17:47:37 PDT

I belong to another list and this topic came up. I thought it was
worth posting to our list since it addresses both the pro and con
about the anime issue. I know we have addressed this before and the
individual who wrote it has given me permission to cross post. In fact
she hoped I would. I hope you all find this informative and thought

Since I got my degree in Fine Art, am still studying and have spent years
pondering what exactly constitutes "fine art," other than knowing the
people to schmooze, I offer this:

While it's not a good idea to dismiss anything out of hand (before anime
came along, kids were drawing Marvel superheroes and those old "rat fink"
hot rod cartoons with the bulging eyeballs which are now praised in snooty
graphics magazines), art educators should keep in mind what they intend to
accomplish with their students.

The advantage to anime/manga style is that it's cool, it's popular, and it
encourages kids to draw and to think art is fun. Some of it is good, while
some of it is total crap. I encourage teachers to open their minds to the
genre and discuss with students what makes anime special (I would pull
a few
of the greats like Otomo and Miyazaki). Try not to discourage these
kids, as
they're sensitive and discouragement from a teacher figure can cause
them to
shelve their art supplies for good.

On the other hand, if an art student pays attention to any particular kind
of cartoon style to the exclusion of all else, he or she misses out on a
much broader world. It's like looking at a beautiful sunset through a
cardboard toilet roll. And if the art student is at all serious about
pursuing a career in art, he or she needs to learn about as many styles,
techniques and purposes as the world has to offer. Only by studying and
taking in inspiration from many sources can an artist develop an
style. If an artist grows up drawing Sailor Moon or Gundam-style mechas,
then the artist becomes an expert at drawing Sailor Moon or Gundam-style
mechas and not much else. When the anime fad passes (and it will), the
artist is left in the dust.

Here's another problem: Traditional art is about rendering what you see,
which is extremely useful when you need to use visual reference. Anime,
manga and comics are a language of symbols. It's all too easy to learn to
communicate in this language of symbols to the exclusion of all else. Your
brain gets trained that a pointy L-shape is a nose, a jaggy line
equals hair
(with a jaggy strip of color equalling the shine in the hair), and a
figure's eyes take up fully one-third of the head. And this kind of
is Very Hard To Break. Case in point: I drew a realistic portrait of my
friend Takeru, who is a very accomplished manga artist, in exchange for a
portrait of me. She could only draw me manga-style because she knew no

One of the reasons I like Gatchaman's art style is that you can tell the
designers (Tatsuo Yoshida, Ippei Kuri and Sadao Miyamoto) had a degree of
formal art training. It shows in the realistic sketches of the characters.
Modern anime and manga artists have a near-impossible time reproducing
kind of work because they simply don't have the training. Would some of us
fans have been as interested in BotP if the art style had resembled
the more
popular anime styles of the seventies?

So yeah, anime belongs in the art classroom, but only as one form and one
possibility. Students should not be allowed to demonstrate "reverse
snobbery" against traditional art, and sadly, the burden lies on the
to demonstrate how traditional art is valuable. I can see where this would
lead to art educators' resentment of pop art.

And boy, I wish I'd known this in art school.

--- End forwarded message ---