Mark Jason Hassler’s Saturday art classes in Matthews, North Carolina, are helping kids express themselves through a mutual love of comic books
Matthews Manga Meetup.
Seeing a lack of classes teaching traditional art basics, comic books skills and manga illustration in Matthews, North Carolina, Mark Jason Hassler took the simple but deceptively bold step of setting one up himself.
His comic-geared classes attract a young audience and have become something of a social club for youths to meet other art-minded children. “Being really into anime and manga keeps them on the outside edges, socially, at school,” says Mark.
The class gives these young artists a comfortable, supportive environment to develop their skills and Mark encourages them to feel at ease with inclusive communal drawing and a democratic way of teaching. “Most of my students are somewhat shy,” says Mark. “The classes are grouped by age, each group decides on a character, and then we all draw the character together.”
He also breaks down complex art theory, such as perspective and anatomy, into bite-size steps. “When a student has said something like, ‘I can’t ever get so and so’s eyes right,’ I’ll go get an image of that character and we’ll draw it together.”
His hands-on teaching encourages his students’ love of comics and offers support they don’t get at school. Indeed, Mark says that, “Most art teachers at schools and such look down their noses at comics, manga, sci-fi and fantasy art.”
Mark takes on the role of big brother, sharing his own inspirations. “One of my students wants to draw comic books someday and I’ve pointed him to several artists and resources that resonated with me when I was young,” Mark says. “His mum got him a Marvel Comics book that I’d had growing up, which he’ll often bring to class and sometimes I draw examples right out of the book with him and the other students.” Mark’s How to Draw Well art classes are split into four twohour sessions for various age groups and run every Saturday at The McDowell Arts Center, Matthews, North Carolina. You can find out more at http://ifxm.ag/mattclass.
The children are encouraged to create their own comic characters, aided by Mark’s hands-on guidance.