Manga is not the only Japanese art that has influenced America artists. Around 1880, Japanese ink drawings and wood block art greatly inspired European and North American artists. Western art had since the Renaissance emphasized accurate rendering of perspective (a means of giving a painting life-like depth) and using symmetrical balance. However, the Japanese art that the West was exposed to around the 1880’s was not very concerned with perspective drawing and used an elegant simplicity of technique, simple, flowing lines, that made many Western paintings look gauche. In the Japanese artwork, only as much of a figure was drawn as to suggest the whole. The detail that is given is important, not detail for detail’s sake. Further, the Japanese artwork did not use symmetrical balance; it used asymmetrical balance. In the Japanese art, negative space, the area of the artwork that was free of figures was as important to the composition as the positive space, the area that had the figure or figures. The use of asymmetrical balance and the compositional importance of the negative space gave the Japanese art a more natural and alive feel that the European and American artists wanted to capture in their own work. American artist John Singer Sargent used these Japanese techniques in his artwork. Check out the painting “The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit,” [see link below] and you will see how the little girls are asymmetrically arranged, placed as the children might really place themselves. There is a great simplicity in the setting of the figures with a lose brushwork that suggests rather than photographically details their qualities. At least half of the painting is shadowy, giving it an evocative mood.
In addition to inspiring individual artists like Sargent, Japanese ink drawings and wood block art inspired an entire Western art movement, the Art Nouveau movement which also happened in the 1880’s (1880-1910) [see the link below]. In Art Nouveau are the flowing, simple lines, asymmetrical balance, and the dramatic flair of color typical of Japanese art. All of these elements of Japanese art that inspired American artists in the 1880’s are the same aesthetic qualities that Americans find so attractive in Manga. If you look at the Art Nouveau works, you will see artwork that could belong to any Manga story.
Besides the professional American and Canadian artists creating Manga, there are some really talented amateurs creating Manga too. Just look at this picture “Breakaway” by reirei at actaku.com [see link below]. If the character in the picture were not so skinny, it would be a pure Art Nouveau piece.
One Manga artist who has caught my attention is Emica who is fifteen. Her work is posted at ratemydrawings.com a wonderful site where amateur artists post their work to be rated. There are some really good artists there! Emica’s characters show expression and her compositions are often super. Although some of her work is too cute for my tastes, much of Emica’s work is professional quality. Check out this one at deviantart.com:
This type of Manga that remains so true to the aesthetics of Japanese ink drawings and woodblock art is the sort of Manga I want for my graphic novel Noel the Vampire.