On June 27, the Sylmar Branch Library will be hosting a free Anime Drawing Workshop hosted by local artist Carlos Nieto III.
As part of the branch’s Summer Reading program, participants will learn the basics of drawing anime-styled characters step-by-step and how each shape drawn can be used to create the body, facial expressions and poses needed to draw the characters from famous series, and even original characters of their own, laying the foundation for new artists young and old.
Nieto is an animation industry veteran, having worked on various television series including “The Simpsons,” and “King of the Hill,” as a background layout artist. He began teaching as a way to fill the gap in employment between seasons.
After he began teaching in libraries at the behest of a friend who was a librarian, his how-to-draw anime program became a fast hit in the community. Nieto’s drawing classes have been offered both in-person and on Zoom during and now post-pandemic.
“I think there’s not a lot of academic structure around anime drawing in America right now. So schools don’t really support any kind of curriculum that deals with anime. Word spread and other libraries around the area soon learned that I did these drawing programs and the most popular type of program that I taught was how to draw anime,” Neito explained.
“It inspired me to kind of really delve into my process for figuring out how to draw anime and learning how to break down a character to its basic shapes and then reconnecting those shapes and redrawing that character. So once I was comfortable doing that I can then teach that process to other people, I began to focus on that, and make that an actual step-by-step program,” he said.
Through his workshop, Nieto seeks to demystify art and feels the program would be easy for first-time artists to learn the basics, and for more advanced artists to have a way to pick up drawing hacks to increase the efficiency of their drawings.
Nieto has brought his workshop all across LA County and other parts of the state, including San Diego, Palm Springs and Northern California, teaching in libraries, schools, juvenile detention facilities and youth centers.
“I go into the prisons, even adult prisons, and I teach them the exact same thing,” he said. “I teach teenagers and they’re just as excited to learn.
“I’m an adult now, and growing up, I was into anime, so it’s something that’s been around for most of my life. So, teaching it to other adults now, I really see that connection with them and their childhood.”
Libraries have been a great venue for Nieto. Community conscious, he believes they provide an invaluable resource to local neighborhoods, giving free access to resources that may otherwise be unavailable.
Nieto’s program has given opportunities for families, teenagers and adults to explore the arts and their creativity.
Libraries have proven invaluable during the pandemic, for many school-age children in quarantine who were shut off from after-school or extracurricular services.
Anime and Manga Art Continues to Grow
The arts are often not prioritized in school curriculums, but the ease of access to countless anime and manga series online has allowed its popularity to explode with children and teens.
Currently, anime and manga have become a multi-billion dollar industry in the US alone, and it has been inspiring young artists in the United States for generations now. Anime and manga in particular have been extremely popular in Latino communities, as classic anime such as “Dragon Ball” and “Saint Seiya” have been cultural mainstays across Latin America for decades.
Nieto teaches people of every age. Sometimes parents come with their young children and they help them draw. He offers his program to libraries across the country and enjoys the travel but especially connects with kids and families in LA County and other areas where there are a lot of Latino families where he can also connect with them bilingually if they prefer speaking Spanish.
“I’m a Latino born in Los Angeles, and when adults attend my programs in Chinatown, and in Eden Park Library, they’re in the area that I grew up in,” Nieto said.
“It’s really exciting to visit those libraries that I went to when I was younger now visiting them again as their teaching artist.”
Nieto points out that anime is very popular in Latino culture right now and, although unknown to most, has been for years.
“I think it’s getting more and more popular every year. To be able to travel specifically [in Latino communities] and say, ‘Hey, it’s not only okay to draw this, but you could probably make a living at it too!’ means a lot to me,” Nieto said.
“I think the big thing is creative decision making, we know how to make decisions in life based on what our work is or what our school projects are. But when it comes to art, it is so mystified right now that we feel like you have to have a certain Hall Pass or some special invite to go and draw. But really, if you just started that journey, and it calls your attention, then it can be learned.”
Nieto draws inspiration from some of his favorite series while teaching as well, taking the lessons from the show’s story as well as the story of the artists behind them to inspire his students.
“I always use two examples, ‘South Park,’ and ‘One Punch Man.’ Those two examples are examples of characters that are not drawn that well. But these still tell a good story. And in that case, you could always use your character and not worry about your character’s look, but use the character as a vehicle to tell your story.”
“One Punch Man” is a manga currently serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump, one of the largest manga publications, and has a reader base in the millions. Though incredibly popular now, it began as a self-published webcomic by the Japanese artist “ONE” during his time in college.
ONE was not a professional artist at the time, and although his art was crude, ONE’s strong storytelling and characterization allowed it to get extremely popular and begin a professional career in the industry. Though the art of the original webcomic was unrefined, ONE’s paneling and layout served as the basis for the art redrawn by a collaborating manga artist in the version published in Shonen Jump.
“The story was really interesting because it was a superhero that was so powerful that he had no match, but dealt with everyday problems, like finding coupons for the grocery store to make sure that they got a really good deal,” Nieto said.
“So all those things played into the interest level in this manga, which the creator was not an artist. So the character originally did not look very sophisticated at all, it looked like a very crude drawing of a superhero. And eventually, the story stood out as different artists and studios got a hold of it. So I think that stood in as a metaphor for the longing to be able to be free enough to create what you want to be so good at it that you’re like the best at it.
“Art is a coping mechanism,” he continued. “I used to work at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles for almost 15 years, 16 years after I worked on ‘The Simpsons,’ and I worked there as a project coordinator for kids hitting the playroom, so I would be the artist in residence that would come up with a project every few weeks to do with the kids. And I provided at the very least distraction and at the very most some kind of therapeutic time.”
Nieto strives to offer his art program to give back and even fill a void and potentially inspire new artists.
“Seeing the kids that are the same type of kid I was, it’s important to have someone to come out and present what I would have wanted when I was a kid especially.”
The Anime Drawing Workshop With Carlos Nieto III will be hosted over Zoom on Monday, June 27, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. The workshop will be presented in English. Please email Dana Eklund at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information and the meeting link.