Cre­ative Space

Mark Ja­son Hassler’s Satur­day art classes in Matthews, North Carolina, are help­ing kids ex­press them­selves through a mu­tual love of comic books

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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

The chil­dren are en­cour­aged to cre­ate their own comic char­ac­ters, aided by Mark’s hands-on guid­ance.

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