Candice Graham may be a familiar face to anyone who has recently visited Shofuso Japanese House and Garden – as a visitor services associate, she’s an energetic and knowledgeable guide to the many guests who visit the historic landmark. Candice is also a youth arts instructor at Moore College of Art’s Young Adult Workshop program. Since earning a BFA in Animation from the University of the Arts in 2012, she has taught classes in animation, manga illustration, graphic design, graphic novels, character design, and digital art. She also works as a freelance illustrator.
This summer, Candice joins Shofuso’s summer camp program as the arts instructor for Manga Immersion, a new day camp for youth ages 12-15. Campers will take inspiration from Shofuso, as well as their favorite anime and manga, to create original comic strips and short manga to share with friends and family.
Here’s a Q&A with Candice in which she shares her art influences, what to expect from Manga Immersion at Shofuso, and some of the most rewarding parts of being a youth arts instructor.
When it comes to teaching manga art and animation I always ask the students to ask themselves, what is the story that they are trying to tell?
What anime and manga were formative for you when you first became interested in illustration and animation?
Definitely Sailor Moon! That series was an eye opener for me. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I wanted to know where this series came from and was there more like it. I’ve always dabbled in drawing and doodling as far back as I can remember, but seeing Sailor Moon made me want to draw like Naoko Takeuchi, the creator of Sailor Moon, and tell my own stories. I’ve taken my love of drawing and illustration seriously ever since.
What are your favorite parts of manga and anime creation?
Figuring out the story and the characters in the story. There are so many genres of manga you are not confined to one type of story, and when you are creating a manga you have to ask yourself, what makes this story interesting? Who are my characters in this story? Why would an audience care about these characters? Figuring out the answers to these questions are my favorite in creating a manga.
What got you interested in becoming an art instructor? How do you approach teaching manga art and animation?
The thought that I could help guide students into making their ideas a reality, and how much I would have loved someone helping me when I was their age. When it comes to teaching manga art and animation I always ask the students to ask themselves, what is the story that they are trying to tell? As the student starts to illustrate and draw what they have in their mind, I’ll guide them into making their illustrations tell the story visually.
What are your favorite warm-up exercises when doing art?
Figure drawings. I open up a blank page in my sketchbook and draw figure after figure. I find that it loosens my drawing hand up for when I want to do a more finished illustration. And it helps me with creating poses.
What facets of manga art do you hope to cover in Manga Immersion at Shofuso?
Creating characters and their design, I’m going to go over storyboarding, paneling, and inking.
How do you introduce manga art and writing to students who are new to the medium?
I try to find some common ground with the students. If they are into a certain cartoon, film, or television show, I would start asking those students questions about what makes that piece of media appeal to them. Then I introduce the manga art form and start helping the students form their ideas and stories from there.
What are some projects students can expect to work on during Manga Immersion?
I definitely want to incorporate Shofuso because it is a beautiful space in Fairmount Park, I want the students to create a character and place them at Shofuso. Students are going to create yonkoma, which are four panel comics. There are going to be some exercises in character design, and of course the students are going to create a short manga that they will be able to share with family and friends.
I get joy from watching [students] beam with pride because what was once just in their imagination is now in front of them.
What textbooks, guides, or comics were formative for you when you learned manga art? What books and comics do you often recommend to your students?
Scott McCloud’s Understanding Comics, this book explains comics and panels in the form of a comic, anyone would be able to pick this book up and understand comics. The How to Draw Manga series is specific to the genre, and goes through in depth how to create manga. And the power of Google! There are many guides and tutorials online that can help you if you need some assistance.
How’d you find your own illustration style?
This is a question that a lot of students in the past has asked me. When I first started to get into drawing I drew like the creator of Sailor Moon, but over time I had other influences. I would study what it is about a particular style or artist that I enjoy. I would ask myself, why does this appeal to me? At the same time, I studied anatomy, proportions, and would observe from real life. It all came together, and something of my own came from it.
What are the most rewarding things about teaching illustration and animation?
The most rewarding thing has to be the students’ reaction to their work. I get joy from watching them beam with pride because what was once just in their imagination is now in front of them, and they can share it with the people in their lives.
For more of Candice’s art, please visit her Instagram.