Misako Rocks!

misako rocks Manga fans, sharpen your pencils! We were delighted to host Misako Takashima (popularly known as Misako Rocks!) at an intensive drawing workshop for 10-14 year-olds. Check out our interview with Misako at the end of the post!

misako's workThe workshop primarily focused on character development, as well as a little history on Japanese culture and manga. After a hilarious PowerPoint presentation about growing up in Japan and coming to America, Misako jumped right in to the art. Wielding a variety of markers, she demonstrated how to structure faces and make mouths, eyes, and even hair expressive.

easelsThe kids were loaded up with paper and pencils so they could sketch along with Misako.

kids working 2My favorite part, however, was when Misako would circulate among the young artists, commenting on their work, making suggestions, and giving mini-lessons to help improve their drawings.

kids working 3Another fabulous thing about the workshop? The kids’ art! In addition to some spur-of-the-moment sketches, many of them brought their portfolios with them. Here are just a few…

manga twinsblonde braidwolvescharactersyellow houseposterguitarred girl


In addition to publishing her own work, Misako has been featured in magazines and newspapers, including Elle Girl and the New York Times. The BBC and TV Asahi featured her in a documentary about her comic book life, and her Instagram flows with photos, sketches, and artistic exuberance.

misakoWhen did you first start drawing manga, and why did it intrigue you?

I started drawing when I was 8 or 9 just like any girls copied their favorite characters. But professionally I started drawing in 2004. It was my first dream that I wanted to become a puppeteer in Broadway (to work for Lion King musical!), but I gave up on myself.
Then I noticed that Japanese pop culture (anime and manga) was getting pretty popular around that time. I thought that I had to switch my career when this was pretty trendy! That’s how I started making my story and drawing.

Describe the steps you take to draw a single page in one of your books.

First I roughly draw panels and add lines to the characters. At this time I don’t draw backgrounds. Then I start polishing each page: 1 draw with blue pencil. 2 draw with calligraphy brush. I draw background separately. Scan everything and color with Photoshop.

What’s more difficult for you…writing the story, or drawing the art?

Writing the story is more difficult for me, because English is my second language. I am still learning! My study will never stop! But I do have so many ideas, so I don’t have any problems to come up with a theme!

Name some other artists you love!
Yukari Ichijo is my favorite manga artist, Klimt, and Charles Burns, the graphic novel artist of Black Hole. Art Spiegleman, the graphic novel artist of Maus might be my No1!

What’s one of the most unusual things you’ve received from a fan?

A photo of her tattoo…she used my illustration!!! I was blown away by it.

What’s your advice for young artists who want to draw manga?

In order to make stories, I always advise them to go outside and have fun! Because those days really help them to create interesting and exciting stories. Also give yourself 1 min sketch practice. I sat on a bench in a park to draw people sit in front of me for one minute! I kept doing a lot to develop my drawing skill.

What are you working on now?

I am working on my weekly web comic: BOUNCE BACK. The theme is a school bully, racism, friendship, finding identity etc, etc. But it has a fantasy character, so it’s still entertaining! I bet readers will feel related to my characters Lilico and Paige.

Also I am working on Japanese manga comic too. I go to Japan often to be on TV and radio show to talk about my projects. Sometimes I visit schools to give a motivational speech. This is very exciting!


Artist photo courtesy of Misako Takashima. 

A Fuse #8 Interview

fuse 8 setToday, I’m over on A Fuse #8 Production, a School Library Journal blog helmed by the amazing Betsy Bird! That’s her in the red dress, perched on a vintage Barbie Dream House chair. Alas, I didn’t have time to craft a house band, but Betsy assures me that if I did, they would be Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra.

Follow this link to the interview

Betsy has appeared on this blog as well! In 2014, I interviewed her about what it’s like to write and publish your first picture book. And, if you’d like to see the monstrously fun project I designed for her book, Giant Dance Party, twirl over here.

Pigs on Parade

pigs on paradeCue the marching music and rev up the float…it’s a pig parade! If, of course, the pigs cooperate. They might not, you know.

We read A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea, written by Michael Ian Black, and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes (Simon & Schuster, 2010). A pig parade might sound like fun, but this book will convince you otherwise. Pigs refuse to wear majorette uniforms, don’t care about floats (unless it’s a root beer float), prefer sad country music ballads to marching music, and can’t manage giant parade balloons. So let’s face it. A pig parade is a terrible idea. But a panda bear parade…well…! This book is hilarious and fun read-aloud. Hawkes’ illustrations are colorful and funny, detailing exactly what happens when a pig parade goes awry.

For the project, we made mini parade floats, adorned them with 3 pigs, and started marching to the beat of a kazoo. And wouldn’t you know it, those pigs cooperated very nicely. No problem with this pig parade!

finished floatYou’ll need:

  • 2 bamboo skewers
  • 2 drinking straws
  • 4 wheels (or wooden spools)
  • 2 small, flat boxes (mine were 1″ x 2.75″ x 2.75″  tape roll boxes)
  • 1 corrugated cardboard base (mine was a 9.75″ x 13.75″ cake pad)
  • 1 small craft stick
  • A piece of string or yarn (mine was 27″ long)
  • 1 large tissue box
  • Parade float decorating supplies (more on those later!)
  • 3 toilet paper tubes
  • Pink construction paper
  • 1 kazoo (optional)
  • Scissors, tape, and glue for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

We’ll begin with the parade float’s wheels! We used plastic wheels from Kelvin Educational (originally purchased for this Richard Scarry program). But wooden spools also work. Cut 2 bamboo skewers to approximately 6″ (they might need an inch or two longer if you use wooden spools). Next, cut 2 drinking straws a few inches shorter than the skewers (my straws were 4″). Thread the skewers into the drinking straws, and slide wheels on the ends of the skewers.

wheel assemblyAs you can see in the above image, the skewer is the axle, and the straw is what allows the axle to turn freely (you might need to wrap the ends of the skewers with masking tape to keep the wheels/spools from sliding off). Tape each drinking straw to a small, flat box. I found that leftover tape roll boxes were the perfect size. Hot glue the tape boxes to the bottom of a corrugated cardboard base.

attached wheelsKnot a piece of string around a small craft stick, and tape the stick to one end of the base. This is the pull string for your float.

attached pull stringFlip the base over, you’re ready to decorate! To get the juices flowing, we suggested a number of parade float “themes,” such as:

When Pigs Fly
Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?
I Loves You, Porky
Pigs in Space
The 3 Little Pigs
Green Eggs and Ham
Little Piggies Go To Market
Piggie Tales
Some Pig
Bad Piggies (from Angry Birds)
Mad Swine-tists
It’s Hammer Time!

It was easier for kids to decorate the tissue box and base separately. But before we embarked on decorating, I had them trace the outline of the tissue box onto the base. Then I asked them to keep the area inside the outline free of art supplies. Otherwise, they might not be able to hot glue the box to the base at the end of the project.

Decorating supplies included construction paper, crepe paper streamers, large gemstones, pipe cleaners, sparkle stems, pom-poms, embossed foil paper, patterned tape, mesh tubing, and craft ties. Flags were created by pushing a short piece of balloon stick into a wooden bead, and then hot gluing the bead to the base. I also had a few small boxes available in case someone wanted to add yet another level to their float. And don’t forget a fringe of construction paper around the bottom!

finished floatNow for your piggy passengers! Wrap 3 toilet paper tubes with pink construction paper, and use some scraps to make ears and arms. I offered eye stickers, and pink dot sticker noses, but if you don’t have any handy, just use markers.

pigYou can also use the decorating supplies to fancy up your pigs. Such as these “Rock n’ Roll” pigs. Love how the artist stuck jumbo pom-poms in the top to create hair!

rock and roll pigsWhen the floats were finished, I handed everyone a kazoo and we marched around the gallery. 18 kazoos at once was…pretty interesting. I bought the kazoos from the party supply section at Target. Buy extra, because some didn’t work!

kazooAnd speaking of music and marching, major props to Marissa for crafting the pig band that started off the post. You can really appreciate the detail in this shot:

pig marching bandSeriously amazing stuff Marissa!