The first rule I always throw out there to the audience when I lecture or teach on drawing in the anime and manga style is fairly simple: There is no right or wrong way to do it. I get very upset when I hear young people saying that American created manga isn't 'authentic' or 'real' because it wasn't made in Japan. That's ridiculous. Art is art, And I stand firm in that belief for a very simple reason.
When I was in freshman year of high school, my dream was to work in classic animation. I wanted to work for Warner or Disney so badly that I was already touring colleges and looking into moving to either Canada or California to study after graduation. We had a meeting with the head of the art department before my orientation, and had set out a path of about eight art courses to be completed over four years so that I had the training necessary to get into the art college of my choice.
I arrived my first day of school with such high hopes. When I wandered into my standard art 1.0 class, I was so excited that I probably looked like a hyperactive shaking Chihuahua. The class was to cover different aspects of art from watercolor painting to cartooning, photography to ink design and technique (we had an awesome art department in this district, being one of the most well funded in the state of Illinois). I sat down, pleased that I was the only freshman with a huge art locker, intent on kicking ass and taking names.
And that was when I learned that the teacher was a substitute for the year, and a P.E. teacher to boot.
Now normally I wouldn’t care, but here was the biggest problem. I learned over the weeks, that this teacher did not grade on technique. He graded the composition as a whole. Why is that a problem? Well, let me put it in simple terms. When you grade or judge an art piece on technique, you’re grading the skills used to put the piece together. Let’s say the teacher shows you how to do stipple shading or crosshatching with a simple ink pen, then tells you to create a drawing and shade it completely with stippling or crosshatching. Ninety percent of the teachers out there will grade you not on the picture itself (unless you are in a composition class), but on how well you got across that shading. They’re going to look at your stippling and see if you understand gradients, and make suggestions on how to tighten up the clean quality of the work next time. They’re going to correct the angles you chose when crosshatching and show you how to more effectively create a good piece with that technique in the future.
When a composition is graded on the whole, the art itself is being judged. And I’m sorry, but no one has the right to judge art. Art is just that. It’s ART. It’s beauty to one man and filth to another. It’s the artist’s heart and soul bleeding on a page, or even sometimes just making a statement. I know several people who hate the work of Picasso for being too odd, but does that make it any less of a masterpiece to others? I love the work of Degas, and always have thanks to a love affair with the Belle Époque of Paris in the late 1800, but I had a teacher who couldn’t stand Degas and basically ripped his work apart for ages.
It all boils down to the old saying one man’s passion is another man’s poison. If you strip away the true meaning of ‘art’, what’s left? Some will appreciate it, others will not. But that’s the way of things. That’s how it should be.
I ultimately failed that art class. The only thing he wound up giving me an A on was the cartooning section. I never had the knack for photography, so I deserved the bad marks on that, but the rest of his comments stuck with me for a long time and angered me. He gave me a D on my water coloring because he "just didn’t like the look of it” because it was “amateurish” (well duh, I’d never watercolored before). I remember finally boiling over and having a screaming match with him when he started ripping into my art because he "just didn’t like it". If he’d had something constructive to say about it, at least then I would have learned something.
I learned later that he wasn’t even meant to be there that year and it was an accident. Faculty had no choice but to stick him somewhere, or let him go for the year. And years later, I still thank him for teaching me at least one valuable lesson that I pass on to my students and lecture attendees. There really is no right or wrong way to do any of this. You do what you feel in your heart, and that's all that matters.
So the next time you take a look at someone’s work and have a snippy, nasty, or just downright mean comment on your tongue, hold it, please. Just because you don’t think it’s pretty, or ‘authentic’, doesn’t make it any less a labor of love to the artist. It doesn’t mean that it’s not art. It’s just one flavor of art.