I believe God chose the style of manga for me.
I had a degree in graphic design and did freelance work when my kids were young. I learned how to draw the traditional way. Then I went into teaching because it was easy to work and take them with me. I did this for years and really loved it, but somehow my heart started to change as my kids got older. I began to sense that teaching was not my main passion. Although I was having a great year at work, I felt a sense of loss. I had missed art tremendously, and I had prayed earnestly for God to show me what to do. And then it happened…
After dinner one night, my oldest placed a comic book on the table. It was a manga and I looked at the cover. As we were talking, I took paper and started to draw, not having drawn for fun in about 5 years (true!). As I finished, I was amazed. My heart pounded and I knew at that moment I was supposed to draw this kind of art! It may seem ridiculous, but I said to myself without question, “I’m doing this for Jesus!”
As I continued to teach, I prayed earnestly for God to lead me and help me draw comics, and to give me a special style. I knew nothing about manga early on, there were no manga graphic novels in stores, and no Christian comic courses taught in America. I kept praying, but I felt stuck. I know God has a sense of humor because about 1 1/2 years later I actually taught at a Christian Comics Workshop that was given by the first website I found involving Christian comics!
I began to combine elements of typical Japanese and American comics. Shortly afterward, graphic novels began to grow in popularity. I loved the panels and design. I studied all I could about how to lay out pages and I continued to become more and more fascinated with the beautiful art style. I didn’t understand how great the need for positive manga really was but after I started posting pages (in prayer and fear!), many people, including moms, have written me with their hopes that I’d create more influential manga.
It took about two years for me to develop a style that I’m comfortable with. I persevered. I knew I wasn’t the best at creating pages but I felt that it was one of my assignments in life. That’s all I needed to keep going.
Since I grew up in America, my characters and pages have a heavy western look, but the Asian influence is definitely there. I’ve been told by people who don’t like manga in general that they really like this style, and that they love the male characters. I don’t stylize characters as many other artists do, but draw more realistic in body shape and proportion. I’m also very comfortable with the way I draw. I combine elements of both boy and girl manga (shonen and shojo) so it has a crossover appeal. I’m grateful for God’s help.
I plan to keep learning as an artist and story-teller. With the pursuit of more digital illustration, comic creating and divine help, I hope to someday get there.