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Art Teachers vs. Anime-Style Drawings

Updated on April 19, 2017
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Has this ever happened to you?

Many people in high school and college art courses become frustrated when their art teachers give negative feedback on their projects just because they don't like anime-style art. There are horror stories about art teachers throwing students' work in the trash, making nasty, hurtful comments about it, and even saying things as ignorant as, "Manga isn't art." Why are they acting this way? Shouldn't teachers be supportive and encouraging, even if their students want to draw in an unconventional style? As someone who has taken many art courses, I can understand the teacher's perspective. But, I also know that some can be too judgmental, picky, and mean, which sends the wrong message by discouraging kids from trying to be artists.

Teachers, in my opinion, should not take this bullying, condescending stance of "I'm smart, and you're dumb, and everything I say is gold" because kids don't respond well to that kind of authoritarianism, and it doesn't belong in a field as subjective and emotional as art. Art teachers should encourage any positive change, even if the student does things a little differently than how the teacher was trained to in college. What I said in a YouTube video on this topic is, if everyone in your class becomes a butterfly, does it really matter if they all have different colored wings?

Why Art Teachers Dislike Anime Art:

Anime/Manga-style art is usually not very realistic. It stretches limbs, enlarges eyes, diminishes noses and mouths, tweaks human proportions, and does a lot of things for comedic or dramatic effect that aren't very realistic. Art class is about learning to draw based on sight. These skills can be the foundation of stylized work, but art teachers want you to learn how to draw what you see, developing that "muscle". They also teach principles of design, such as balance, symmetry, visual rhythm, focus, color theory, white space, etc. What they're teaching you are skills you can later apply to anime art if you want, but first you have to prove you know those skills. It's sort of like how in many P.E. classes, people have to do dribbling and shooting drills before they can play real games of basketball.

Another thing is, the art teachers who say "manga isn't art" and make other hateful or stupid statements are trashing it because they don't know anything about it. They're trained studying classical works of art and great historical artists, so they see contemporary pop culture as unworthy of imitation. These kinds of art teachers are simply elitist snobs, so it's not worth it to try to argue with them.

But there is another kind of art teacher who might say something like that.

Legitimate Reasons to Say "No Anime Drawings" in Art Class

Art classes have specific goals.

They have to get measurable outcomes, the goal being that by the end of the class, each student will show signs of improvement. In a math class, measuring the progress of each student is simple and straightforward. In art, however, art can be incredibly subjective. Sometimes, things that aren't made with any skill at all sell for millions. Sometimes, incredibly detailed artworks that took a lot of effort stay unsold in the gallery for too long, just because it doesn't match any patron's taste. A minimalist character design can make a bestselling webcomic, while an ornately styled webcomic can falter.

So, to get around this problem in teaching, teachers come up with rules and standards for art in their classroom, even if those rules don't apply to art created outside of it. This is necessary because it creates rational criteria by which art can be judged, and students can be compared to their classmates and graded. This usually involves showing knowledge of a design concept or mastery of a particular art-making technique. If you draw anime-style for these assignments, they would argue that you're not showing the competencies the assignments are designed to build. In figure drawing, you can't pass if you don't draw the model exactly how she looks, because the point of the class is to improve your mastery of the basics of drawing the human form as it is, not as it can be imagined.

Art class isn't really about free self-expression, creativity, or things like that.

People go into the class expecting that, only to be disappointed. It's really about two things: mastery of specific art-making skills, and development of knowledge of the principles of aesthetics and design. They expect that you will use these skills and knowledge for your own self-expression in your own time, or they might give you a few free assignments for extra credit. And you can use everything you learn to make the kind of art you enjoy making on your own.

Derivation and copyright are also issues.

If I were teaching a class and someone drew Micky Mouse or Hello Kitty, that work of art, even if it's great, could not actually sell in a gallery or work as part of an art show, because of potential copyright issues. And English is not the only field that worries about plagiarism and academic integrity. If someone draws anime, it's hard for a teacher to know if they came up with the idea themselves or simply copied it directly from a manga or "how to draw manga" book. That's another reason why art classes emphasize drawing from life rather than drawing from drawings, so they know the work the students do is original and their own, rather than merely copied. We have computers that can copy images. The job of the artist is to make new ones!

Another thing with high school specifically is, they know that they're trying to prepare their best art students for applying to and succeeding in art college, and then in a very competitive art market. They know what art gallery managers and art colleges want to see, and it's usually not furry art, fan art, comic book art, or anime art. I think what they fail to recognize though, is that all these much-maligned forms of art do garner commercial success to some people. The problem is they lack prestige in the "high art" world of galleries in big cities.

So, hopefully, I have cleared up for you why you might have had a teacher who told you not to do anime art in class. Not all of them are just being mean!

Tips:

So, what can you do if you find yourself in an art class with a stuffy teacher who doesn't like your anime drawings?

  1. Challenge their view of anime. Show them manga examples that exhibit the best the medium has to offer in terms of artistic skill. Show them how it's not just kiddie stuff. I'd suggest doing this in a private meeting after school though, not wasting class time arguing with them, which can get you sent to the office for being disruptive. Just say "I'd like to talk to you about this more after school" and go from there.
  2. Talk about how you can do what the assignment is trying to teach you, in an anime context. This may or may not be possible, depending on the rules of each assignment, but asking your teacher ahead of time if you can bend the rules is better than just breaking them and surprising them by turning in something that does not follow the assignment's instructions.
  3. Go with the flow. Try to challenge yourself to not just draw in an anime style. Like I said, you can apply what you learn when you draw more realistically to your anime art later, in your own time. Think about the point of the class. Is it really served by insisting on only drawing in anime style? Be more flexible.
  4. Ask if there will be a free drawing assignment. If it's an assignment where you can legitimately do anything, and then they go back on their word because you drew anime characters, that's wrong of the teacher. Most classes have free drawings as extra credit assignments you can use to supplement your grade.

Getting into a heated argument with your teacher during class is not productive. I would encourage you to ask the teacher to discuss it with you privately after school. If that fails, I would talk to the principal. Think about what they actually said. Sometimes, we can hear "hate" in negative comments that are actually very minor, because we're so passionate about our art. But learning to handle criticism like a grown-up is a crucial step in the high school/college experience. You might be mad, but try to control your reaction to what they say. Try to think about this from the teacher's perspective. And if you get one of those really horrible art teachers who you can't stand, try to see about dropping the class for another art class or a study hall or another elective. But I would encourage you to try to stick it out, because you can learn a lot from being forced to adapt and try new ways of drawing than how you might have learned to draw from copying manga or following "how to draw" books. Art class can open you up to a huge growth experience, but you have to be humble and open-minded for that to work.

Hang in there!

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    • Dbro profile image

      Dbro 7 months ago from Texas, USA

      This is a great article and great advice for young art students. I am a classically trained artist who teaches drawing to all age groups. I actually teach manga classes too. I agree with your advice to students to adhere to the teacher's guidance regarding a specific lesson on a given technique. I'd also advise teachers to realize there is "room at the table" for all at regardless of style, etc.