The Path of an Artist
By Rio

ExampleYou've been drawing and practicing for some time now, when you wonder: when do I move on? When do I start creating my own characters? My own original drawings? When?

The answer: Whenever you want to.

If that's the case, you're asking, then why did I bother putting it here? Easy, there are some people out there who aren't sure what to do next or may "jump the gun" so to speak. I'm here to give you some advice... or at least let you know what to expect.

Look at the two pictures to the right. They look pretty much identical huh? The colored picture was drawn by Rui Araizumi, the artist of Slayers while the black and white one was drawn by me. This here is a very good indicator that if you can copy-draw a picture almost like the original, you're ready to move on.

From this stage is several paths you can take. The first path is not to move on anymore- happily content with just copy-drawing pictures. (What a waste, IMO!) 

The second is to draw original pictures of your favorite characters. When I say original- I mean a picture where you drew that character in a pose that you made up yourself, not by looking at a drawn picture as a source. Need an example, look to the left. This picture is of Misato, from Evangelion. Ever seen that background of the waterfall before? Maybe. Ever seen her in a pose like this? Unlikely. Ever seen her in that bathing suit she's wearing? Unless you've read my mind, you won't see this anywhere else. This here is an original picture. 

This will help you learn about creating your own ideas: poses, clothes, etc and utimately help you learn and observe spatial relationships when drawing the body. This is a gradual step that I would suggest to aspiring artists to follow first before going to the path that I'll talk about next.

The third path is to skip the path I just talked about and jump headlong into drawing your own characters. Many of you have probably done that already. At some point you may be disappointed at what you draw. Maybe the quality of the drawing isn't like you used to draw. Maybe your clothing ideas just doesn't look good. In effect, you may be all hyped into drawing your own characters that when you actually do it- it looks awful! You'll become depressed, bummed-out, disheartened... perfectly natural reaction. This is all part of the drawing experience but there are some out there who just... stop. Never pick up a pencil or other drawing material for weeks on end. What you need to know is: MOVE ON WITH IT! I know you just don't feel like drawing and when this happens, you should keep learning how to draw- just without drawing- until you want to draw again. Listed below are some things you can do to keep studying drawing without picking up a pencil:

1. Study art history. Watch videos and shows if you have to. Go through some of your favorite painters, drawers, sculptors, etcetera's biography.  Maybe even learn about art revolutions: Surrealism, Classical, Dadaism, Cubist, Impressionists, etc. Get some ideas and learn why the great masterpieces are called that.  Heck, learn about manga and comic book history too, while you're at it.

2. Pour through drawing books, web sites, magazines, etc. Get your hands on something that teaches you drawing techniques: Anatomy, dynamic poses, sceneries, animals, perspective, etc. If you can get your hands on a manga related drawing book, even better! Make sure you don't limit yourself to just manga books though, there are others that are not manga related but just as informative. 

3. Look back into your favorite manga's and comic books. Look at the story telling and the pacing of the panels. What makes the story interesting? What makes you keep reading from one page to the next? Look at panels themselves: why does one have a box enclosing the picture and another has no lines surrounding it? What does that difference make you feel? Analyze and learn from your comic books. 

4. Read up on how to write. There are different types of writing techniques for short stories and novels and even by genre's: fiction, fantasy, drama, mystery. Check up on them so you can write better stories for your manga and even in general. Don't skimp out on spelling either- sure you may have a spell check in your editor but it doesn't look good if an artist at a book signing or a convention doesn't know how to spell a word.

Those above are just a few suggestions for you as you go through your slump. Just make sure you don't stop learning- you'll never get back wasted time.

All in all, those are pretty much the paths you may take at your choice. Make sure you choose one that suits you... and good luck!