An Interview with Christopher Hart
Odds are that anyone who’s into how-to books on drawing manga knows the name Christopher Hart. But he doesn’t just publish books on manga art techniques. He’s published on all sorts of art styles, written his own manga, and even did some television work. His latest book, Manga for the Beginner: Chibis, hits bookshelves March 23. Hart spoke to GraphicNovelReporterabout his art, work, and why he doesn’t let one of his cousins out of the basement.
Let’s start with a little about the books you’ve published. Tell us a little bit about them.
Most of my books focus on art technique, specifically how to draw. I cover all of the popular arts, manga, cartoons, comics, animation, even anatomy and realistic animals. The books are all teeming with illustrations. I believe in showing people how to draw rather than having them read lots of text about it. If you want to learn how to draw, you also would like to be inspired by what you’re learning from. So all of the books are based on the latest styles of art, which translates into lessons with appealing characters and subject matter.
How did you get where you are today?
My publisher, Watson-Guptill, is, in my opinion, the premier publisher of art technique. They had done books on oil painting, watercolor, sculpture, and the like. But nothing on cartooning. Someone who worked there knew that I was a cartoonist and asked me to propose a book on the subject. We did it, and then I forgot about it and continued with my other work. Then I got a phone call from the editor. We went out to lunch and she told me that my book was doing very well, and she wanted another one from me. My books continued to sell well. And they decided to turn it into a series. And I’ve been working on these books ever since. In fact, that first book has sold over 200,00 copies.
What fiction have you written besides The Reformed?
I also wrote a couple of children’s books: Police Puppies and Merwin, Master of Disguise. But I’ve also done screenwriting and television writing when I lived out in California. I wrote for several NBC primetime television shows. And I wrote for 20th Century Fox, Paramount, MGM-Pathe, and the Showtime cable TV network.
Would you like to write more fiction?
Yes, it’s fun. And you don’t go through pencils as fast.
Why did you pick Anzu to illustrate The Reformed?
Actually, it was she who asked me. She had always wanted to do a graphic novel, and she asked me if I’d like to, and if I could come up with an idea. I liked the idea of writing a graphic novel that someone else would illustrate—illustrating 200 pages myself would have taken too much time away from my art technique books, and besides, her style was perfect for this book.
With the ending of The Reformed, do many people ask for a sequel?
Funny you should ask. I get emails all the time asking me if I’m going to do another. I’m afraid it was a one shot.
Before writing it, did you know much about vampires?
Yes. I have a second cousin who is a vampire. We keep him locked up in the basement.
What sort of a leading character does Giancarlo make?
An antihero. I like those best, because no matter how hard you try, you just can’t warm up to the protagonist—you have ambivalent feelings toward him. He’s one notch away from being a bad guy.
Art seems to come very easily to you. Is there anything you have trouble drawing?
Snakes are not my favorite animal to draw. But if you go kind of kooky with them, they can be fun.
What is your next published book?
Manga for the Beginner: Chibis. It’s ultra-cute; for anyone who loves cute-style manga, this is it.
Why chibis this time? How is it different and similar to your other works?
It’s a sequel to another chibi book I did, Manga Mania: Chibi and Furry Characters. The first one did so well that readers wanted to see more. This one has every type of chibi under the sun. And it’s perfect for beginners who are just developing their manga skills.
Did you already know enough about chibis, or did you have to research them?
Even if I know a lot about a subject, I always do more research.
What process did you go through to make the book?
In addition to my own work in the book, I selected some of the finest manga artists from Asia and worked with them to include the most cutting-edge styles of chibi art coming out of the East. It’s very cool, authentic manga
Do you have any favorite graphic novels or manga?
It all depends on the mood I’m in. Sometimes I’ll like a dark vampire story. Other times, I’ll admire how a shoujo story is illustrated. When I’m perusing a graphic novel, I’m usually observing how the art was drawn.
Is there anything you’d like our readers to know about you and your work?
They can take a look at any of my books, or drop me a line, by visiting my website at chrishartbooks.com.