I want to share something with you. www.ordoesitexplode.com/single… "[...W]hen students are told to make work in a style that isn’t compatible with their interests, they can often end up left in the dark, ending up with a product that they are not necessarily happy with, but felt they had to make solely for a grade. [...] As such, there are always students who end up feeling that their own work is being stifled by having to constantly create work that they may not be happy with, or may not even feel is their own product."
This is how I feel at University.
I am an artist, and while I do think practice in as many forms of art as possible are beneficial, and I do think the work I do for my courses are skilled and something to be proud of, they don't feel like "me." What feels like "me" is my anime/manga art.
I know however from doing this for years that the majority of professors do not want to see this. I can also tell you in 20+ years of trying every medium and style I could get my hands on and could refine, my anime/manga is still the only thing that feels like "me." There is a false belief that if you draw anime/manga, that it is not "original."
That you are replicating someone from somewhere, even if not directly copying a composition or character design. That there is no room for creativity and uniqueness because it is not your own "style."
This is why I strongly preach in my workshops that anime/manga is not a "style." It is a "canon." It is a set of rules or guidelines. How those are visually interpreted are a style.
For instance, one general rule for anime are unnaturally enlarged eyes (and heads to accommodate this).
by Tite Kubo, they are drawn very angular with thick hatched lines.
In Princess Tutu
by Mizuo Shinonome, the eyes are gently curved with thin lines.
Both are undeniably anime/manga eyes, but are stylistically very different.
This is true among the different genres of manga.
Trying to politely explain this to a professor however ended with me having a panic attack and becoming severely sick. (I loved seeing the look on his face a few months later though when, after telling me I'd never get a job with this, I told him I was requested to teach a recurring Workshop in transition to a course in it, haha.) There has been the rare lovely exceptions to this, and I love and respect them greatly for it. You see, every new -ism was shunned when it first emerged and grew in popularity. Humans naturally resist change, especially when the present is serving them well. It's natural and expected. I am of the firm belief however that art should be judged by its qualities as a piece, not by personal preference in an academic setting. If the work meets all the requirements and is not infringing on the rights nor safety of others, then accept it. You don't have to like it to grade it based on the criteria you would for any other piece.
But this is reality.
It is flawed, and sometimes we just have to bear with it.
I was okay with this, even enthusiastic, at first because whatever I learned in other styles (mainly realism) functioned to refine my anime art as well. Learning color theory, anatomy, refining my skills of observation, learning how to compose an image, discovering new techniques and mediums, etc. All these things translated into my anime art, as well as any other art I did. And this thrilled me.
However, in 2013, at the end of my first year in community college, I hit an all-time low. I gained severe to moderately severe depression
during this time due to events in my life and became suicidal.
Within two years, my anxiety
had worsened to a state that I realized was not normal and was inhibiting my day-to-day functions. I was then diagnosed with Post-Traumatic-Stress-Disorder.
What hit me hardest about the depression was not so much the constant want to expire, but that I felt I could no longer make my art.
I would try but the feeling of "me" was gone.
I also did not feel like the same person any more. I felt the person I was before those events, though I fully loved her, was gone and could never come back. If she were to come back, the naive and optimistic girl I was, then I was doomed to die again, but that time, I'd actually die- not transition into another person. I was dissociated with my own identity, and therefore dissociated with my art.
After a few months, I was able to draw again, but it would take far longer than before and would not bring me the joy it used to. Therapy tells us to continue doing the things we used to enjoy
, even if we can't feel the joy in it right now. It's part of our Self-Care. In time, as the depression gets better, we're supposed to be able to start to feel joy in it again, slowly. It may never feel as joyful as it was before, but any amount of joy is better, and it is good for you. (This was when I also transitioned away from drawing my persona, Nasika, as she represented the person I used to be whom I no longer felt I was, and to drawing new OCs. Mainly, I drew "Baby" and Rem. In an abstract way, I realize now that they represent two parts of me- the joyful child and a depressed adolescence. )
During my third and last year at community college, I gained a best friend who helped me turn my life around. She helped me experience real joy again and for the first time, I would look forward to living another day. I gained enthusiasm for art again, even if it was hard to make. I learned to balance working hard and having gentleness for myself
, particularly in understanding and having forgiveness when I would not be able to meet my goals. (I still struggle with meeting my goals though I still also try.) I launched my group Cute-in-a-Cup
as well, creating a space where I felt I had control and could create a positive environment, encouraging others and spreading love. That is something that I crave.
At the end of community college though, that friendship turned on me and cost me almost everything. I was very suicidal again, and felt almost wholly alone. It scares me to admit howso.
The next day I was in a car accident on my way to the graduation ceremony. Because my body was still in shock, I was able to walk for the ceremony and went to emergency care afterward. The next day, I could not walk because it was too painful. I hurt my back and ankles badly. I still struggle with my ankles if I am using them too much and have to resort to braces and a cane. I still practice physical therapy at home. Not only was my depression worse, but my injuries kept me from being able to sit and work on art. Inevitably, that likewise worsened my depression.
I had a very difficult time my first semester of university due to not getting along with a professor and struggling with my PTSD. I don't think I would have gotten through it without the support of my newfound boyfriend (a friend from high school that got back into contact with the summer after the car accident) and my friend Sapphire (who transferred from the same community college as I, but did so before that best friendship went south and so was not persuaded against me). I'm incredibly grateful for the two of them keeping me together. I could never thank them enough.
At the end of my first year at university, I started to get itchy bumps on my skin. This worsened to the point of me becoming hospitalized in Intensive Care for a condition that still has no official diagnosis nor name. They believe it is an autoimmune disease where I am allergic to my own skin/hair. Sapphire was studying abroad at the time and my boyfriend is three towns away working full-time. He messaged me daily. I was heavily sedated so I would not scratch and could not leave my bed as I was a fall risk (I had lost consciousness three times, EKGs for heart pain, and daily breathing treatments).
When I was released from the hospital, I was told to remain home. I had almost no energy. I spent most of my time sleeping or slumped in a chair in front of the TV. I could not even shower myself. I was only able to leave my house within a few days before the new semester started.
After nearly dying from my skin in summer, surely, I thought, the new semester was optimistic. Instead, my favorite uncle died slowly and painfully. I did not take it well and dropped half my courses in the final weeks of the semester, mainly due to concentration and wakefulness difficulties from the two-pages of prescriptions I was taking post-hospitalization. The following semester, I only signed up for half-time to be able to focus on emotionally recovering. Part of that was doing my anime/manga art with the focus on rediscovering the fun rather than making a finished piece
. I even returned to my origins of Crayola brand colored pencils and markers. I felt it was working. . . Another uncle and aunt gone in the most shocking way possible. My father lost a severe amount of weight, how my favorite uncle started.
That was this passed semester.
Summer session started next week.
I have signed up half-time for summer, and full-time for Fall.
After that, I can graduate.
Because of financial constraints, this seems the best course of action.
I have already invested so much in my education, I want the degree to prove it even though, since starting uni, I've come to the realization that I'm really just paying for the degree. I feel that university is more about an institution making money and "buying" the degree after jumping through hoops, than actually about earning it with your skills
. If that were the case, I'd feel you could Challenge a course and actually receive credit for it, as you've shown you have the skills it would have otherwise taught you. In actuality, it excuses you from needing the course as a prerequisite to another class, but you still need to take it regardless if it is a degree requirement. In other words, you're total units for your degree is moreso a price-tag than an evaluation of skills. It's a lousy system for what would otherwise be a highly beneficial institute.
This is not to persuade people away from a formal education in art. This is just my personal experience and criticism of the system currently in place. The education is incredibly valuable, when it is actually benefiting the skills of the student.
Instead, at this point, I feel it takes me away from who I am and what fulfills me.
To this point, I plan, after graduation, to take one course back at my old community college to earn my Illustrator's Certificate, and in that time, focus on me. By that, I mean focus on the anime art that I have to neglect to finish my BA. I will focus on me.
Thank you for reading.