So you (or your kid) loves anime and wants to be a professional artist. . .

So as I said in this previous post about anime, I am a former kid artist, and I know how it is. You want to draw what you want to draw, not what your teacher or your parents think you should draw. And I’m in total agreement that a kid should draw what they want. Otherwise, art—something they supposedly love—will become a chore, something tedious, and they’ll start to feel resentment. Towards those pressuring them to stop drawing what they want to draw, as well as towards the art itself.

But (there’s always a but!) things change once a kid says they want to go to art school and become a pro. And I don’t care what kind of artist they want to become—illustrator, animator, fine artist—whatever. If they are a big fan of anime and they are talking seriously about a career in art, there are some things that they should realize.

You can’t build a professional career on drawing anime alone (unless you live in Japan!).

There is probably some small, small, infinitesimally small exceptions to this, but that’s the gist of it. Don’t delude yourself otherwise. It’s all fine and good to love anime and love drawing manga and anime art, but once you say that art is what you want to do professionally, you must realize that you’re going to compete with other students who can do all sorts of art, not just anime.

Plus, you’re going to be in classes like figure drawing (drawing live nude models in a “realistic” style) and other classes where a grasp of drawing realistically (as you see it in real life) is a must. These are standard basic classes in most college art programs—they’re mostly unavoidable. How will a student who only does anime keep up, if they have no experience in this area and are unwilling to learn?


This article details how art schools are flooded with anime in student portfolios, and how tiresome that has become. So here’s the warning: Don’t become a cliché! Don’t add to the huge stack of Pokemon and other types of anime in student art portfolios.

An interesting challenge:

Another thing I saw brought up by an art teacher on one of the endless anime discussions I see online is this: If you only draw anime, it’s harder to adjust to drawing “realism.” But if you know how to draw “realism,” it’s easier to adjust to anime or any other stylized type of work. So I thought I’d put this to the test. My first (and only!) anime drawing.

A portrait of Sailor Moon, drawn by me. My first and last anime drawing. (Never again!) It took about 10-15 minutes to draw the face, then I tweaked and adjusted it in Photoshop. Drawn in pencil.

So this drawing I did of Sailor Moon is pretty . . . pathetic, let’s be honest. But it’s a first try, and I spent maybe 15 minutes on it (plus some tweaking and cleaning up in Photoshop). So there it is. My first and only attempt at anime.


So now the question is, how well would an artist who has only done anime do when they tried their first realism attempt? Could they make it look no less pathetic than I did with my first (and only!) attempt at anime? Why not try this challenge: copy the portrait of the man below. How long would it take and how good would it look?

realism portraitClick on the thumbnail to see the larger version.

Now I can just hear everyone saying, that’s no fair, hey wait a minute! They are thinking that I’m a more experienced artist, and so what if I can do a rather crummy sketch of Sailor Moon in a few minutes? This realism portrait of the man has a lot of detail and shading and if some of the proportions are off a little when someone copies the drawing, it’s gonna look pretty bad.

And that’s my point. Most “realism” subjects are going to be more demanding—in detail, in indicating light and shadow and form, in understanding anatomy and structure. If someone (like me, for instance) has been drawing in a “realism” style for a while, then it’s not usually so difficult to copy another style for a while, because I’m experienced in drawing what I see, whether it be a bird, a house, or a picture of Sailor Moon. So even though my Sailor Moon drawing is not all that fantastic, it’s still recognizable as her, and I don’t think is too terribly distorted or horrific-looking.

But with that said, if you (or your kid) can do a pretty fair copy of the portrait of the man I show above, and can do it without too much trial and error and aggravation (and without using drawing aids like tracing, grids or similar), then that’s fantastic. That means that there’s one less thing to worry about. Assuming, of course, that there’s no delusion going on, and they are able to sustain a high quality standard on any realism attempts that are made.

But, if it’s a struggle to make a fair approximation of the above portrait within a fair amount of time (not hours and hours), then that should tell you something. That there are skills that need to be worked on. (And that’s nothing to be ashamed of, everyone has to start somewhere.)

So what does this mean?

If you (or your kid) has difficulties doing realism, then the only solution is to draw realism. And not just now and then, but steadily. If you love love love anime, then don’t give up on it completely. That would take the fun out of art, and defeats the purpose of doing it in the first place. I’m not an art teacher (I’m just some woman with an art blog!) but I think that 50/50 (realism/anime) would be good. Or no less than 30% realism. If you do only a smattering of realism now and then, you’ll get nowhere. You have to discipline yourself and do enough of it to give you results within a decent amount of time. Otherwise, you’re just asking to be frustrated with your slow progress.

Caveat: (So I don’t get hate mail)

In no way am I saying that all anime is “easy,” or that the many brilliant professional anime artists in Japan are not highly skilled. It’s almost assured that these pros in Japan studied very hard to get good at their craft, and that includes studying realism.

4 thoughts on “So you (or your kid) loves anime and wants to be a professional artist. . .”

  1. Art lessons will help enhance your kid s imaginative side. Children who are subjected to the humanities at an early age have high self-esteem and incredibly expressive. The arts may help create their psychological and emotional development.*

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