While most teenagers would rather read comics than make comics, that is not the case with Paige Rohrick.
The 16-year-old from Port Moody recently launched an app called PaigeeDraw, which gives users step-by-step instructions on manga-style drawings. The app can be used on Apple's iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, and since its launch in late December, PaigeeDraw has taken the top spot on iTunes' "News and Noteworthy" educational apps. Not bad for a girl who found out about the Japanese comic book art only because people told her that she looked like a manga character.
"A lot people said that I looked like a character from an anime called Misa Amane, and after a while, I decided to watch that anime," Rohrick told the Straight by phone. "I started watching more animes and getting more into manga. From there, I started to draw in an anime style."
While Rohrick had been drawing since she could pick up a pencil, it took her a while to learn to draw manga, which not only differs considerably from Western styles of animation but also from anime. Although both types of drawings are Japanese styles, manga is exclusive to comics and is similar to graphic novels. Alternatively, anime is a type of animation found on TV and movies, and some mangas are developed into animes.
Rohrick had learned to draw both Western and Japanese styles of animation before she found herself gravitating towards manga.
"I liked both styles when I started drawing," she said. "I actually went back and forth between Western animation styles and Japanese animation styles, but after a while, I decided I preferred drawing manga and anime styles."
Her self-described style is a hybrid of Japanese and Western. Original characters are mainly wide-eyed and gangly but she also draws unexpectedly fashionable female characters. While the over-the-top caricature-like physical features on the characters are unmistakably manga-inspired, the clothes that they wear are straight out of Western fashion magazines. Well, Western, with a hint of Gothic Lolita style, a type of cheeky Japanese subculture dress exemplified by Rococo-inspired corsets, lace and ruffles, as well as crinoline-infused mini-dresses, and made famous by the Sunday parade of youth lining Tokyo's famous Harajuku district.
"I really like lace and I really like frills," Rohrick said enthusiastically. "It's one of the things that I really like drawing."
Rohrick's enthusiasm and perseverance to discover anime is what made her the manga artist that she is today, as learning material on the art form was few and far between. "I watched a lot of anime and read a lot of manga, and that showed me the style," she said. "So I got some books and I looked up online tutorials, but I noticed most online tutorials or books were all on digital art. When you get to coloring the pictures, it's just not the same and it's really difficult. Also, since books can't explain as much because they have a limit to what they can put in there, I felt like they skipped a lot of steps. It was something I kind of had to teach myself."
That's when Rohrick got the idea to develop a learning tool. She started creating the app, which breaks down how to draw characters into as many as 27 steps and provides instructions and tips from the artist, about a year ago. Rohrick created several drawings, while her father, Preston Rohrick, looked for a programmer. Then the father-daughter duo worked with a technical team to launch the app.
The app not only teaches users how to draw, but it also provides a one-stop shop for manga supplies such as specialty Copic markers, which Rohrick said were difficult for her to find in Vancouver.
"You don't have to use any specialty tools. All you need is a pencil and paper and just draw," she said. "But if you want to get into doing it more professionally, you either go into digital or traditional, and to do traditional art, you use Copic markers."
Rohrick plans on sticking to traditional art over digital, especially if she decides to build a career in manga. "I prefer traditional much more than digital because I like doing things by hand," she affirmed. "One of my options is to go to art school and continue with an art career; however, I'm also thinking of going into fashion."
Having already designed and sewn several Japanese-inspired costumes and clothing pieces, the budding designer is clearly inspired by the manga characters that she creates. "I love how it [Gothic Lolita clothing] looks so that really influences what types of clothes I'd like to wear," she said. "I would really like to create a fashion line based on Victorian Lolita or Gothic Lolita style; however, it's a little bit crazy at times, so I would try to mix it with Western fashion."
Rohrick will be releasing the love-themed PaigeeDraw Valentine's Day, an add-on to the existing apps—PaigeeDraw Free, PaigeeDraw Pro ($1.99), and PaigeeDraw Christmas ($0.99). International language versions, including PaigeeDraw Japan and PaigeeDraw Korea, are also in the works.
You can follow Michelle da Silva on Twitter at twitter.com/michdas.