I don’t want to write this blog, because it means that my time in Okamoto-sensei’s manga class is almost over. Out of all the events and opportunities provided by KCJS, nothing made me feel more valued as a member of the community than my Manga CIP. I have made real Japanese friends (not just hey-we-met-once-and-added-each-other-on-Facebook-but-actually-what’s-your-name-again “friends”), people I will keep in contact with and, when I come back to Japan, will go out of my way to meet again. Manga class has been the one piece of home in a time abroad.
The incredible thing about my manga class is that everyone is completely supportive of one another. Whenever I felt dejected and thought “I will never be as good as A-san so what’s the point,” everyone was quick to tell me that my art is my own style and no one can draw the way I do, because the pictures I draw are mine, are special. It sounds cliché now, but that encouragement has meant the world to me.
This may just be the artist talking, but sometimes I look at what I’ve drawn, and I think, “Wow, I haven’t improved at all.” It’s easy to think this when Okamoto-sensei always couches praise between criticism: 「この辺はいいけど、この辺はちょっと…」. However, recently, a girl who had previously attended the manga class but is now a published artist has been visiting. Whenever she is there, Okamoto-sensei talks about me as if I’m not there and praises my work minus the disclaimers. “This is her first time inking, and you can see she understands when to make thin lines and thick lines,” “You should have read her Cheesecake manga, the action scenes were well done,” “She’s very patient and doesn’t rush, that’s why her art is clean” – after hearing all of this (for the first time!), I couldn’t stop smiling the entire class.
Now I realize that Japanese people in general feel more comfortable showing praise indirectly. Because I was only ever told points I could improve on, I interpreted that as I wasn’t doing anything right. However, that’s not the case at all – the second another non-student was there to listen, Okamaoto-sensei said only good things about my work. Perhaps directly praising someone runs the risk of discouraging the other students, or maybe you don’t want the student to get too cocky, but either way this dynamic is different from what I experienced in American classrooms.
I will never forget Okamoto-sensei, the kind assistant Fujita-san, the always-drawing-male-love-scenes-that-make-the-sensei-shake-his-head student, the two high school girls that are always squealing 「すげー！！」about something probably Sonic related, and the boy who offered me his heat pack that he fished out of his back when I said my hands were cold when we went out to eat ramen after class. Until we meet again!
Your CIP seems amazing, and I remember seeing some of your work, which was hilarious, to say the least. I know from experience as a songwriter, I try to stay true to my own ideas, yet incorporate others’ suggestions, so I was wondering how much you consult other artists like your teacher or fellow students for your work. More generally, has the way you interact with the manga-drawing community changed at all during the time you’ve been at your CIP?
Asking all the difficult questions, Tori! Like you, I find what I draw completely unsatisfying unless it meets my own vision. That is why I really appreciate Okamoto-sensei, because he would not settle until I was happy with the final product. How to get to that point often involved tons of 「それがわかりますですが…」, but in the end I would say it was definitely 50-50. There were times where I really disagreed with his ideas, but after trying it I realized what he was trying to say, and had to remind myself that yes, there is a reason why he is the teacher, and I will get the most out of this situation if I keep myself open to new ideas.
As for the second question, most definitely. Before taking this manga class, I thought of other aspiring manga artists as competition, and did not like to share art or communicate about art with them. However, after seeing the mutually-supportive environment of the manga classroom, I now see that everyone sees one person`s win as a win for everyone. I think that is why the previous student comes back even though she is already published – to show the new students that there is a successful path open to them.
Augh, thanks for the thoughtful questions Tori but now I am going to miss my CIP even more!! D: