My History as an Artist Part 1: My First Inspiration

Drawing is my life.

A parody of the famous image "The Ascent of Man" in which four caricatures become increasingly sophisticated from the left of the page to the right.
The Ascent of Ben 1/3

There’s no way around it. But that’s been true in different ways throughout my life. Now it’s how I make my living, but once upon a time, it was all-consuming.

Yes, that sounds dramatic but indulge me. Because it all started with a little boy with a monkey tail…

My First Influence

I’d always drawn characters like The Hulk and various Pokémon and Digimon, but everything changed when the fire nation attacked when I was around 6 years old. That was when I discovered a man who would become my greatest artistic influence for the decade to come…

Smiling photo of Japanese manga author, Akira Toriyama. Creator of Dragon Ball.
Akira Toriyama, author of Dragon Ball.

A Pivotal Moment

Back then not many people had cable. It was channels 1-5 and that was it (god, I’m old). So, it was only when my mum took me to a holiday resort called Center Parcs that I discovered something that would change my life.

I can picture the scene perfectly, even now. My mum and I were sitting in the front room of a chalet. The décor reminded me of somewhere a woodcutter might live, high up in the mountains of Norway or Canada. My mum got up, picked up her bag and we were about to go for a swim when I flicked the channel over to Cartoon Network.

What I saw was beyond bizarre. A muscular man with messy black hair was holding his hands to the sky while an androgynous lizard dude punched him…

I was instantly captivated.

Goku vs Frieza
An older (but less mature) me might read something into this scene.

The Fallout

Eventually I would learn that this was Dragon Ball Z. The messy haired man was Son Goku. And the lizard dude was Frieza.

It would be another 2/3 years before I even saw another episode of Dragon Ball Z. Back then we didn’t have streaming (god, I’m so old), or if we did it was probably only available at NASA. Even so I spent hours on Google Images seeking out these crazy characters and copying them like a medieval monk copying holy writings.

Crudely drawn Vegeta from Dragon Ball Z
It uh, it wasn’t great. But it was the start of something.

At the time my art teachers begged me to stop drawing these muscular men with square eyes but I refused.

If I’d listened there’s a good chance I’d be well beyond my current ability. But who cares?

I did things how I wanted to do them and progressed naturally.  It worked for me. In fact…

How it Shaped my Path

Toriyama’s unique drawing style was the basis of my understanding of human anatomy. And a bit of body dysmorphia. But hey, no show is perfect.

Legendary Super Saiyan Kale from Dragon Ball Super. An extremely muscular women with no pupils and excessively spiky green hair.
Maybe ten thousand push-ups between each paragraph will get me halfway to that physique…

A few years later we would return to Center Parcs and I would attend an animation workshop (yes, at about 8 years old) that would change my life yet again…

Next Time…

Come back next Saturday when I’ll be delving into digital!

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